Friends of Agro-Know: Fabrizio Celli (FAO)


This time we have the pleasure to interview a long-time friend and collaborator, Fabrizio Celli from UN FAO. Fabrizio is currently one of the most active members of the FAO AGRIS team and the person responsible for ensuring the technical operation of the AGRIS network. Fabrizio is a regular visitor of Agro-Know, mostly for getting in touch with the rest of the team working on the AGRIS operation and development. We took advantage of Fabrizio’s latest visit to the Agro-Know offices some days ago and we asked him for a short interview; an offer that he gladly accepted. You can find Fabrizio’s responses right below!


Can you tell us some things about your educational background/studies?

Celli_FabrizioI started to cope with information technology since I was attending the secondary school, the scientific lyceum with IT experimentation. Then, I received the Second Level Degree in Information Technology from the University of Rome “Roma Tre” in 2009 and I started to work as a software engineer. Since I thought it was not enough and in order to take advantage of all my neurons before they collapse, I have started to study Psychology at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. Let’s see what will happen in the future, it is so beautiful since nothing has been written yet…


You have been working for FAO for several years now; what exactly is your role in FAO?

2014 is my fifth year in FAO, where I work as senior information management specialist. My primary role is to be the AGRIS architect, developing the system, thinking at its future, using my knowledge and my background to solve conceptual problems. Then, I am also involved in other internal projects and I give support and share my knowledge when an IT background is needed. I try to work transversally with my division’s needs…


There have been changes in the structure of the FAO AGRIS team rather recently; how is this affecting your work?

Yes, there were some changes. The most important one is the collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and Agro-Know to better evolve AGRIS according to the most recent community’s needs. I am happy about this collaboration, since it is stimulating me a lot: even if the amount of work is growing up very quickly, it is very important to discuss and find solutions with many persons with different backgrounds, both technical and cultural ones. Now we have an important plan for the development of AGRIS in 2015, which involves the three teams: it will be a great challenge and a great honor for me!


How do you see things moving with the AGRIS network? Do you have any ideas that you would like to see implemented in the next couple of years?

The AGRIS network is a dynamic network, it is continuously changing, also according to the evolution of the technology and of the world. I would like to see a network of people more strictly involved in AGRIS, with continuous feedback, both direct and indirect. We already have feedback now (e.g. surveys or emails) but, for instance, implementing the users registration in the AGRIS Web site would allow collecting feedback from users’ behaviors and users’ reorganization of the content. In this way, we would be able to provide to the community better services and a more accurate content.



Can you share some information about your current work in the context of the agINFRA and the SemaGrow project?

I am involved in both projects, even if agINFRA is going to finish and I have already provided all my effort there. In the context of agINFRA, I developed the AgroTagger, a JAVA API that allows to index some documents using the AGROVOC thesaurus. Then, I worked with other partners to define the interface of some Web services to run the AgroTagger from the agINFRA infrastructure. In SemaGrow I started from the AgroTagger and a Web Crawler to implement an application that is able to crawl the Web, discovering resources in the agricultural domain, and interlinking discovered resources to the AGRIS database. It is a very interesting project, which allow AGRIS to provide a new service to the users: “a set of Web resources related to the topic searched by the user”.


What do you think about semantics and the linked data approach that is currently being exploited for linking related data sources?

I think the final result can be fantastic, as the AGRIS mashup pages are currently showing. The main problem is the availability of datasets that use semantics technologies and so they can be interlinked. I attended the ISWC 2014 Conference, where I was able to see many of these services, even if the most of the time they were not so mature: lack of data, lack of resources, lack of collaboration. At the moment we can rely on RDF datasets produced by big Organizations or Government (like UK), but it is very important also to annotate Web pages: we cannot ask to users to write RDFa or to annotate HTML pages with, but editing tools could do it automatically. Things are moving slowly, but they are moving, even if now saying that “everybody is using RDF” can be translated with “I will call you later” (cit. Shadbolt).


Υou are the 3rd place winner of the LinkedUp project’s Vici competition with the AGRIS submission; would you like to provide us with some information about this idea? How can AGRIS be used for educational purposes?

Υes, it was a nice achievement, also to reward the efforts we made ​​in the last years. I think one of the AGRIS business is related to education. If you consider that the AGRIS database is a collection of more than 7.8 million scientific resources in agriculture (including thesis and journal articles), then it’s obvious that one of the AGRIS users category is composed by students, professors and researchers. AGRIS makes available a lot of precious and unique data to be used in educational environments, if we consider “education” as a form of learning in which the knowledge, skills, and habits of a group of people are transferred from one generation to the next through teaching, training, or research (Wikipedia).


Fabrizio Celli (right) during the award ceremony of the Vici competition (image source:


What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?

Interesting question. I don’t have so much free time to say the truth, while, on the other side, I have many interests. First of all I am officially studying Psychology, but when I have some chances, I also try to study and think about Quantum Physics, maybe one of the most fascinating topics considering the amount of possible applications. Then I write some poems, even if the most of the time they are quite sad: just to cite an Italian singer, Luigi Tenco, “Why do I write only sad things? Because when I’m happy I go out!”. About my hobbies… I am Italian, so soccer (I am a Roma’s fan!), gym and women.



As a traditional Italian, Fabrizio appreciates good wine


Last but not least; what is your opinion about Agro-Know, based on your experience?

Agro-Know is first of all a fantastic group: many people working together, with reciprocal respect. I was really impressed at the beginning to see the spirit in the team: everyone can provide his/her own idea, but also concern, without the fear to be judged. In this way, the entire team can benefit from the personal contribution of each (valid) member of the team. It is like a working family, continuously growing, as I could see in the last months, when two new persons became part of your team. It is a pleasure collaborating with Agro-Know and I believe that Nikos Manouselis is doing a perfect job in modelling such a team and its objectives!


We would like to thank Fabrizio for taking the time to respond to our questions. You can find more information about Fabrizio and his activities at this personal website.

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