Agro-Know has a long-time involvement in the biodiversity area – in various aspects; it all started with the Organic.Edunet Web portal which was launched back in 2010 (and continues until today of course) and contains a number of digital educational resources on biodiversity; biodiversity is only one of the several green topics covered by the portal, which focuses on organic agriculture but also includes educational resources on other green topics like ecology, sustainability, energy, renewable resources etc.
Then, about one year ago and in the context of the agINFRA project, we had the opportunity to be involved in an effort towards the identification of the standards used for the description of germplasm accessions and the development of a linked data framework for this case. A Germplasm Working Group was established within agINFRA and was expanded with external experts, delivering a number of solid outcomes/deliverables which were based mostly on the identification and analysis of the existing resources; however, the highlight of this effort was probably the 1st International e-Conference on Germplasm Data Interoperability, which was co-organized by Bioversity International, FAO, the agINFRA project and Agro-Know and in which Agro-Know had an important role, both in the organization of the event as well as in the contribution with presentations. I was personally involved in this work and my participation in the 2nd Workshop of the BioVeL (Biodiversity Virtual eLaboratory) FP7 project several months earlier, provided me with a part of the necessary background for understanding the work done by the biodiversity researchers and the workflows that they use in their daily research routine – let alone the opportunity to get to know people who have been working with biodiversity informatics for several years and have actively contributed to the biodiversity infrastructure and other related outcomes.
By being members of the Wheat Data Interoperability Working Group of RDA (Research Data Alliance), we are able to link the work that is done in the context of the agINFRA project with the one that is taking place in the context of the RDA group and other initiatives that we are aware of. For example, during the 2nd RDA Plenary meeting in Dublin, Ireland, I made a presentation about the current status of the germplasm linked data, the ongoing work and the next steps.
Only recently we came across a really interesting initiative, called “Open Source Seed Initiative“. The aim of the initiative is to define the legal framework for enabling the free transfer and use of plant seeds, bypassing the restrictions posed by large companies which do not allow e.g. the reproduction of their seeds while in some cases, the plants produced using such seeds do not produce any seeds on their own…so by preserving local varieties, allowing their free exchange and distributing their seeds, OSSI contributes in the biodiversity field. We are currently in communication with the founders of the OSSI initiative, trying to identify opportunities for collaboration.
Nikos Manouselis, the CEO of Agro-Know has been involved in a way in the iMarine project, a “Data e-Infrastructure Initiative for Fisheries Management and Conservation of Marine Living Resources”, working on and significantly supporting marine biodiversity. Nikos was recently invited to give a small inteview for iMarine, in which he suggested a number of activities to ensure the sustainability of the iMarine project and its outcomes.
This relationship between Agro-Know and biodiversity was also materialized in the context of the Bouchout Declaration, an initiative which aims to enhance openness and accessibility to the digital biodiversity resources (open data and open access respectively). The initiative was conceived and supported by the Pro iBiosphere FP7 project and in fact, the Bouchout Declaration was launched on June 12th, 2014 on the last day of the pro-iBiosphere Final Event in Meise (Brussels), hosted at the Bouchout Castle. Agro-Know is proud to be among the initial signatories; in the meantime, there were 57 Organizations and 58 Individuals as signatories from 28 countries. Based on our (relatively short) experience in the biodiversity context, we strongly support the objectives of the Bouchout declaration and we will act accordingly in each appropriate occasion.
Agro-Know will keep supporting biodiversity-related initiatives and activities and I am sure that we will have the opportunity to be more actively involved in the future, as this thematic is at the core of our the ones that Agro-Know has been working on for the last five years.