By James Taylor
Good scientific research is always a bit of a gamble – it should be trying new things that may (or sometimes may not) work. It is also often a lottery trying to find the right team and the right skill sets to do the research. First, you have to find the right people, and then you have to persuade them not to be tempted by other (often more permanent) positions. Most research posts are short-term and tenuous, making the retention of high-quality non-permanent staff a priority, but also a difficulty. Regular (and observant) readers would have noticed that the project team has evolved over the past 3 years in all facets of the project. Unfortunately, this is a reality in a competitive environment.
The spatial data processing group is no different. While the intent at the start was to train two post-graduates in the area of precision viticulture, we have had both of the appointments leave their posts to pursue industry positions. Unfortunately, research is not for everyone, and the lure of a bigger salary is compelling. We were very sad to see Claudio leave towards the end of last year after doing so much groundwork for the project. I would like to thank him for all his efforts and wish him all the best in his career in ‘the city’.
I too have been tempted by brighter lights (in this case a position in a climate where the sun shines more brightly and more regularly). So while I started this project with Newcastle University (UK), I will be finishing it with Irstea (National Research Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Technologies) in Montpellier, France. I am not leaving research, and in fact, am moving mainly to allow for more research-oriented work (or rather much less teaching and admin than I had a Newcastle). Working with Irstea also provides access to the strong precision viticulture and precision agriculture group in Montpellier – an opportunity to cross-fertilize projects including Efficient Vineyard. It also provides an opportunity to restructure the work to date with an in-house software developer - Jean-Luc Lablee - and a Research Infomatician - Dr. Serge Guillaume. Both Jean-Luc and Serge will work on the Efficient Vineyard project for the next year to formalise the Spatial Decision Support System within a package that we have called ‘GeoVit’.
Initially, GeoVit will effectively be a module within another program called GeoFIS, which has been Serge’s baby for the past decade. GeoFIS is a unique piece of software that allows soft-computing to be done on spatial data. Soft-computing means that the analysis can be ‘fuzzy’ or uncertain and it can include expert knowledge and intuition as well as ‘hard and fast’ scientific data. Pretty cool once you get your head around the possibilities. While GeoFIS was Serge’s brainchild, it has been Jean-Luc who has given birth to (i.e. encoded) the program over the past decade.
GeoVIT will make use of GeoFIS existing infrastructure and easily allow the provision of a desk-top option to end-users. However, the GeoVIT functions (all those things that the US viticulture industry specifically needs) will also be built into a Web Interface. Again, we are not reinventing the wheel in regards to a web-based GIS, but using an existing system called Lizmap that is built by 3Liz, a small company in Montpellier. This will allow any user web access to the spatial data processing portal to generate those elusive crop load maps.
So welcome Jean-Luc and Serge and farewell Claudio and stay tuned for more GeoVit information.
PS – information on GeoFIS can be found in this paper (GeoFIS: An Open Source, Decision-Support Tool for Precision Agriculture Data) or on its homepage (https://www.geofis.org/en/)