Symposium 4: Data, Knowledge Economy and Agriculture

3-6 December 2017, Pretoria, South Africa 

The fourth Royal Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering for Development symposium took place from Monday 4 December to Wednesday 6 December 2017, in Pretoria, South Africa. 

Symposium Goal

The goal of the two-and-a-half day symposia was to introduce outstanding researchers and innovators, and through this interaction facilitate collaboration in engineering for development, the transfer of new techniques and approaches across disciplinary boundaries and the establishment of contacts among the next generation of engineering leaders.

 

Symposium Format

The event consisted of three multidisciplinary workshop-style sessions on themes of Agriculture, Data and the Knowlege Economy. These were interspersed with formal and informal networking sessions including a reception at the British High Commissioners residence in Pretoria. 

Event Chairs

 Distinguished Professor Umezuruike Linus Opara CEng MIAgrE fsaiae fniae
 

Professor Opara is a Distinguished Professor at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, where he also holds the DST-NRF South African Research Chair in Postharvest Technology. He graduated with degrees in agricultural engineering from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (BEngHons First Class and MEng cum laude) and Massey University, New Zealand (PhD).


He has held academic and management positions in New Zealand, Sultanate of Oman and South Africa, and has consulted with international development agencies such as the FAO/UN. He is the founding President of the Pan African Society for Agricultural Engineering, Incoming President of the International Commission of Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering, member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, Fellow of the South African Institution of Agricultural Engineers, Fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Agricultural Engineers, and Life Member of the American Society of Agricultural & Biological Engineers, Asian Association of Agricultural Engineers and Indian Society of Agricultural Engineers. Prof. Opara is the founding editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Postharvest Technology & Innovation and has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles.

 

 Dr. Prasad "Pram" Ram

Dr. Prasad Ram ("Pram") started Gooru as a non-profit in 2011 whilst at Google. The aim was to bring the simplicity of Google Maps to education by developing a “GPS for Learning”. Students seeking to learn a topic are presented with a learning "route" based on their profile and are continuously “re-routed” based on their performance.

During his time with Google, Pram led Google Books for Education in Mountain View and was previously the head of Google R&D in India. In 2010, he received the Founders’ Award at Google for his work on Google Ads. Prior to joining Google, Pram led engineering at Yahoo! and was a research scientist at Xerox Research.

Pram is a Council Member and Chair of the Education Committee at the California Council of Science and Technology (CCST) and is also a Board member at Leadership Public Schools (LPS). He also holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UCLA, and a B.Tech. in Computer Science from the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, India.

Symposium Themes

1. Agriculture

Session Chair: Alastair Taylor, Institute for Agricultual Engineers (IAgrE)Alastair Taylor is CEO of the UK Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE), the professional membership organisation for all those working, or interested in, engineering, science and technology for agriculture and the environment. Alastair has over 35-years’ experience as an Agricultural Engineer having worked in the vocational and academic education sectors.

 

Session co-chair: Geoffrey Mrema, Sokoine University of Agriculture: From 2001 to 2011 he was with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Since 2011 he has been based at the Sokoine University of Agricutlure, Tanzania in the Department of Agricultural Engineering and Land Planning. In addition to lecturing and research, he undertakes consultancy missions for international and national agencies.

Speakers:

  • Kit Franklin, Harper Adams University:What does greater automation in agriculutre and precision farming look like for developing countries and what are the barriers to be addressed?
  • Brendan Moroso, CGIAR Big Data: How can engineering and technology solutions be applied to build the infrastructure to collect and store the data and information needed to support improved farming practices and improve autonomous systems?
  • Taita Ngetich, Illuminum Greenhouses: How can multiple engineering and technology disciplines be harnessed to ensure efficient horizontal integration and improvement of Sub Saharan farming systems?
  • Anh Tran, Coventry University: How can the concept of “sustainable intensification” be realised through more applied engineering and technology solutions at the same time as maintaining the natural capital of developing countries?

3. Knowledge Economy

Session Chair: Shalini Urs, MYRA School of Business: Shalini is an internationally recognised academic and an institution builder whose brainchild is the MYRA School of Business. She is an information scientist who takes a 360-degree view of information, and has researched on issues ranging from the theoretical foundations of information sciences to Informatics. Her areas of research include—Information Retrieval, Ontology Development, and Social Media and Network Analysis.

Speakers:

  • Nishanth Sastry, Kings College London: Feeding the Big Data Demon to Feed the World
  • Serena Coetzee, Centre for Geoinformation Science, University of Pretoria: Geographic Data: making the information available and usable
  • Lee Annamalai, Meraka Institute: The use of remote sensing, data analytics and spatial information systems to help reduce envionmental and economic loss in the aquaculture industry
  • Selma Karuaihe, University of Pretoria: Big data challenges: lessons from the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)

 

More Information

If you would like to attend a future event, please visit the How to get involved page and complete the expression of interest form. 

Visit the Past Symposia page to find out more about other previous Frontiers of Engineering for Development events 

2. Big Data Infrastructure

Session Chair: Nicolene Fourie, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR): Nicolene is the Principal Scientist: Geo-Informatics with the CSIR. Her research portfolio includes the deepening of the CSIR capability in Information science for spatial information governance and management models and she is responsible for R&D strategies for information science for advanced spatial infrastructure.  She also dedicates significant time to investigate the economic expression of spatial information governance and management activities along the development value chain.

Speakers:

  • Nishanth Sastry, Kings College London: Feeding the Big Data Demon to Feed the World
  • Serena Coetzee, Centre for Geoinformation Science, University of Pretoria: Geographic Data: making the information available and usable
  • Lee Annamalai, Meraka Institute: The use of remote sensing, data analytics and spatial information systems to help reduce envionmental and economic loss in the aquaculture industry
  • Selma Karuaihe, University of Pretoria: Big data challenges: lessons from the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)