The original concept for Farm-PEP was to provide an online space for projects & resources, like the YEN website but opening access to anyone to put a project online, opening discussion to all and enabling connections to people and organisations.
Our concept of a project is broad - all projects begin as ideas and successful projects can turn into resources, products, services, networks or organisations.
Projects generate knowledge, so by bringing projects & resources together in Farm-PEP we provide an ecosystem in which knowledge can emerge and be distilled. We've decided not to start by promising to bring together all knowledge resources for agriculture - that is simply too big a task, and there are other initiatives already attempting part of this, such as AHDB's Evidence For Farming What Works Centre (which Farm-PEP plans to connect with) and the National Libraries for Agrifood. Our aim is to connect projects using tags and connect the knowledge that emerges from projects in 'themes', from which current state of the art and 'best practice' messages can be distilled from those directly involved. The mechanism by which this distillation happens needs consideration - it takes time and consultation and so should be rewarded. It also needs to connect with, rather than duplicate, other information sources such as Agricology.
We have some confidence that people would populate Farm-PEP with 'Projects' as there currently is no alternative online space to do so. Research projects might be mentioned on UKRI's Gateway to Research, LinkedIn, ResearchGate or the hosts website, but these are not generally seen by farmers. AHDB projects are listed on the AHDB website, but there is no opportunity for engagement by the project team or from interested parties. Innovative Farmers do have neat solutions for browsing and viewing their Field Lab projects, which we seek to emulate in Farm-PEP. There are questions over the depth of content we insist on for projects in Farm-PEP - the more detail and the more structure the more useful it will be to viewing users, but insisting on too much detail may put off project owners from listing at all. We must also be mindful of projects which do have a main project page elsewhere, such as Innovative Farmers, where the priority of Farm-PEP should be to connect and sign post, rather than duplicate. Getting the balance right between depth of content on individual projects and breadth of projects listed will be important.
There is a question over the importance of discussion generated in Farm-PEP, and whether that discussion should be centralised in each project, or distributed by enabling on each posting. Our original plan was to integrate discussion forum functionality from The Farming Forum (TFF) into Farm-PEP, but on reflection we feel that sufficient functionality can be met from simple comment boxes as below. Where TFF brings real value is in the connection to a broad and vibrant farming community (>20,000 users). We will seek routes for ideas or themes originated in TFF to be taken up by Farm-PEP. Outputs from Farm-PEP can be disseminated via TFF for maximum reach. TFF is developing a 'Resources' section which will include 'projects' - this will allow projects on Farm-PEP to be shared on TFF in parallel. We plan to share progress with the development of Farm-PEP on TFF to maximise farmer engagement in the co-design process.
We envisage the initial audience for Farm-PEP to be engaged users - in the early phases we will be dependent mostly on researchers and KE practitioners to upload content on their projects and resources. We will need enough content to attract engaged farmers & advisors - having the YENs, Innovative Farmers, Agri-techE & TFF as partners should help, as well as AHDB support. It will be important for content not to be too skewed to one sector, ideally all sectors should be represented. However, most farmers will not be that interested in projects per se - their interest is in the knowledge that comes out of them. We therefore need to quite quickly move to demonstrating how knowledge will be distilled and shared in Farm-PEP, by focussing early on 2 or 3 specific themes where a precis of the current understanding and key messages can be given. The continued management, moderation, curation and distillation of content in Farm-PEP will be a considerable undertaking, and will require a business model to continue beyond the end of the current Innovate project in February 2022. We believe that a commercial membership/sponsorship model is feasible, granting pages to companies but with explicit demarcation of paid-for content. To be attractive to clients, we will need to demonstrate substantial numbers of farmer users and viewers. We will set out the issues around moderation and commercial content in future posts.
Our first ideas for what Farm-PEP might look like are set out in wireframes below - please give us your feedback.