Every one of us is surrounded by various devices that can manage information, smartphones tablets and so on. If you have kids, you are probably astounded by their ease in adopting various new apps using a touch screen. Obviously, in the world of plant breeding recording observations with a mobile device is not new. The first (hand?held) devices date back to the 80’s. It is however relatively recent that every person in a company can potentially add information by using his smartphone or other device. The barrier for entering data on plant varieties has dropped significantly.
Act upon information
Why is it then that when we assist our customers in their information systems; we often find that the collection of data is still a tedious process? Often a few office managers or even breeders own the job of ‘entering’ data, including adding pictures to observations made in the field. That kills a critical opportunity; to act upon an observation. Let’s say for example you are testing a new oil seed rape variety on 5 different locations in Europe. During your observations in Germany you find a defect in a variety. Without the information on the other 4 testing locations; you are not able to discard the item at this point. You need to assess all other collected data from the different locations. Given the short timeframe between harvest and next season sowing, this might even mean you keep varieties that could have been discarded at that moment you were walking in the field, months ago.
Intuitive tools over complex procedures
Having all information available at all times enables you to directly act upon new information. That does mean you need to think about having a proper structure to enter your observations. Intuitive tools need to help you as a user to automatically connect what you see to the item you are looking at. And act upon it. Having tools readily available offer the opportunity to also let other employees enter information. The time of a breeder is limited, due to geographical spreading and increasing work load. Parts of the phenotypical information that needs to be collected can be outsourced to other employees. That allows for a work division between the bulk data collection and the expert view, more focusing on analyzing trends and thinking about next steps in the breeding process.
Create actionable data
In most situations simple changes can lead to great improvements. Try to find the critical moments in the process where a decision needs to be made. Would it be helpful to decide earlier in the process? What information is necessary? Would more information help decision making? Especially when multiple breeders are working within your company; try to find common methods that still allow for individual working methods. When all of this is working properly there is still a whole world out there to consider. High throughput phenotyping, gathering data by using drones, field sensors, etc etc. There will always be room for improvement. My point here is that it is not about collecting data; but about interpretation of that data to make it actionable.