Building Local Capacity for the Next Agricultural Revolution

The ACGT hosted a webinar for the plant phenomics community on the 4th of March 2021. The webinar was designed as a feedback session for the Wageningen University and Research (WUR) “Drones for Agriculture” online course, as well as to discuss the progress made on formation of the SA Phenomics Society and exploring collaborative funding opportunities.

The “Drones for Agriculture” course was attended by 20 participants (fully funded by the ACGT) associated with the University of Pretoria (UP), the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI).  The course was a self-paced, three-week online course facilitated by WUR’s top professors from the ‘Information Technology Group’ and the ‘Laboratory of Geo-Information Science and Remote Sensing Group’. The course was ran through the edX platform. Three participants gave feedback on the course, including Mr Phinda Magagula (UP), Dr Tingmin Yu (ARC) and Ms Natalie Hoffman (SASRI). They gave an overview of the course and also shared their highlights from the course. The participants shared how each institution hopes to implement the drone technology in advancing the plant phenotyping in their institutions. The presentations from the participants can be accessed at the link below.

Dr John Becker from the ACGT chaired the sessions on the SA Phenomics Society formation and exploring collaborative funding opportunities for the community.  It was highlighted that since the first Plant Phenotyping and Precision Agriculture meeting held in 2019, a Charter for the SA Phenomics Society was developed and has been circulated to a number of institutions for approval. More institutions were identified at this meeting and the Charter has been circulated to them.

In the last session of the webinar, the attendees were informed about the High-End Infrastructure grant application that will be submitted to the Department of Science and Innovation at the end of April 2021. This application is a collaborative effort by the ACGT, UP, the ARC and Stellenbosch University, from which national researchers stand to benefit. The community will be kept informed about the grant application progress.

From the discussions it was highlighted the ”Drones for Agriculture” course was useful for the community. The ACGT will thus investigate whether there is enough interest to fund more participants for the course in 2021. The ACGT will also look at identifying other courses that might be beneficial for the community. The ACGT was also tasked with establishing an online discussion forum, which has been completed in the interim. This discussion forum includes participants from UP, ARC, CSIR, SASRI and Stellenbosch University. This discussion forum will be utilized by the community as a communication tool (sharing ideas, seeking assistance, etc.) around any topic within the plant phenotyping field. The community highlighted the need for a large data storage facility. The ACGT volunteered to explore data storage platforms that the community could utilize.



Mr P Magagula – University of Pretoria

Dr T Yu – Agricultural Research Council

Ms N Hoffman – South African Sugarcane Research Institute

Story by: the ACGT