University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
PublisherDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
Number of pages10
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008

Abstract

This project aimed to enhance the facilities available on the Assured Produce (AP) website (www.assuredproduce.co.uk) with the aim of making knowledge and information more easily available to farmers. Specifically the project involved redeveloping the AP website, including the development of a self-assessment audit (based on the AP protocols) and an integrated document library.

The project converted the AP protocols into an online database using the Certification Assessment and Standards Interface (CASI - www.everysite.co.uk/casi/) developed by TLR Ltd. By placing the standards in a database it has greatly enhanced the ease at which they can be updated and has increased the flexibility of the the format in which they are displayed. From the central CASI database the protocols can be produced in a PDF format, an HTML format or an HTML format with links to relevant documents. It also facilitated the development of a self-assessment audit. This is a online questionnaire that growers can use to check their conformance against the AP standard.

The second part of this project utilised the Agricultural Document Library (ADLib – www.adlib.ac.uk) developed and maintained by the Agriculture and Environment Research Unit (AERU) at the University of Hertfordshire. ADLib is an online resource that contains over 1600 documents including codes of practice, guidelines, legislation summaries, photo galleries and glossaries. This resource has been used to add support to the AP website. Firstly, within the self-assessment audit there are links to specific documents, or pages/paragraphs within documents, within the ADLib resource. So, for example, if there was a question about controlling cabbage root fly, there would links to HDC factsheets on controlling cabbage root fly. This format allows the user to 'draw down' valuable and useful information about specific subjects as they proceed through the audit. Secondly, a library of documents, drawn from the ADLib resource, is available to browse on the AP website. Additionally, libraries were also developed for members of the Horticultural Development Council (HDC) and the British Potato Council (BPC) and these can be accessed by their members from the AP website.

The first year of this project involved developing the underlying tools and systems for the new AP website and its new services. The new website was then implemented in the second year and it was then updated and maintained during the remaining time of the project. In February 2007 there were 1230 unique users of the site and 18731 page requests. This had risen to 5684 unique users and 27822 page requests by March 2008, demonstrating increasing use of the site and the tools and services.

The general principle of providing users with targeted information is clearly a good idea. Growers need the most relevant information at their finger tips and do not have the time (or the money) to spend hours looking for it. Clearly information technology and the internet will not suit everyone, some will always prefer paper-based or people-based knowledge transfer systems. However, for those who do embrace modern technology we do the have systems to deliver knowledge in a very effective way. As information providers it is no longer acceptable just to make information available. It needs to be carefully managed and well thought out systems of delivery are required. It should be ensured that at the point of delivery the user has access to what they specifically need. If farmers and growers cannot find the information they need, then that knowledge will not be transferred and consequently scientifically and technologically well informed decisions cannot be made. This project has demonstrated one way in which information can be targeted to meet the needs of farmers and growers and thus improve systems of knowledge transfer.

Research outputs

ID: 605517