agINFRA: the end is the beginning

Case closed.

There are some projects that have a special value and meaning for people, even if they look similar to others, even if they run similarly to others, even if they finish in a nice but quite inglorious manner – compared to the energy and passion that they needed to start. Organic.Edunet was one of them, agINFRA is also one of those special ones. And it has finished on Friday with an excellent review meeting, receiving excellent feedback, and leaving a sweet but also bitter taste in mouth. Because, from now, agINFRA will not be one of the flagship, strategic and essential for our survival EU projects. It will be something beautiful, challenging, prestigious but also completely new.

Don’t get me wrong; I feel extremely happy that another major project of ours, where many of us helped in its conception, coordination and implementation, ended with such an excellent review outcome. But there are also so many personal reasons that make agINFRA a very special part of the history of Agro-Know – probably a bit more special than other projects that we have successfully completed so far.

We were young: it’s only December 2013 and Babis runs an agINFRA session.

First of all, agINFRA was a baby of mine. I got the idea back in 2010 when I was finishing my contract at GRNET, preparing to move on with setting up an Agro-Know office and regular team. I had to negotiate with people to get them to buy the idea behind agINFRA. I had to contact people that I didn’t know of, to get them involved in agINFRA. And I had to work hard, extremely hard, with the support of a good core team of other passionate people (especially Guntram from SRFG, Suzie and Oli from 21c, the great team of Johannes at FAO, and of course Miguel from UAH with his immense trust and calmness) to put together a solid proposal and go get the grant [Hint: I also had a little bit of guidance from a friend that knows the e-infrastructures world very well, who helped me shape the approach and get the right data center partners on board]. And I have to admit it openly now: this was one of the most demanding and difficult bids that I have worked on until today. And we got a good evaluation. And we were invited to negotiation hearings. And we spoke about our project concept with our heart and our soul. And we got it.

So many e-mails, so little time. Yes, one of the tough bids, I have to admit.

So many e-mails, so little time. Yes, one of the tough bids, I have to admit.

Moreover, agINFRA was one of the first big projects that Agro-Know had in its portfolio. Yes, we had several smaller projects already running (like the sweet LaProf and the  bitter CerOrganic ones), sure we were running some important big projects (like Natural Europe and VOA3R) as part of the GRNET team, but it was agINFRA and Organic.Lingua that gave us the boost (and the funding) for something big on which we could have our name on. Agro-Know was one of the core partners, with substantial funding, and with a big responsibility.

Ready for new challenges? The agINFRA-powered AGRIS workflows (and climbing the Great Wall) are ahead

Ready for new challenges? The agINFRA-powered AGRIS workflows (and climbing the Great Wall) are ahead

agINFRA was also the environment in which some very strong professional and personal relationships have flourished. The new AGRIS and the new CIARD RING came out as a result of our close collaboration with the team at FAO. The  collaboration with CAAS that led to our joint strategic involvement in the new AGRIS partnership, evolved from this project. Our core product offerings around AKstem (and the ones to follow around information capacity building information) were conceived, prototyped, vetted, re-conceived and implemented within agINFRA. And lots of the people in Agro-Know found a safe space in agINFRA to get exposed to high profile international collaborations, to demanding and pressing work schedules, to fun and difficult moments that helped them grow.

So there is one of the reasons why I am also feeling happy but also a bit sad. I have watched Andreas grow, develop and shine through his experience from assisting Miguel in managing the project during the past couple of years. I felt proud of his victories and mad at his failures, as he worked hard, with energy and passion – always with a smile at his face. And I felt proud of him, but also of his mentor Nikos Marianos, as they went through this journey together. I was eagerly waiting for the opportunity to work my self closely with Andreas, to continue from where Nikos has taken him, and help him grow and develop even more.

Ready for a next dive, in much deeper waters

Ready for a next dive, in much deeper waters

But you know what John Lennon has said: life is what happens while you are busy making other plans. And Andreas felt strong and capable enough to take his next step, and try a new adventure, at a new position, in another much larger company. So we have just closed the agINFRA final review with an excellent outcome and are flying back home together. And I feel so proud of this guy, what he managed to achieve in Agro-Know, and what he is going to do next. And I also feel proud of the fact that he will always be part of the Agro-Know family, leaving as a good friend and having such strong personal connections with everyone in the company. Sad that he leaves, but happy for his growth and achievements. Sad that we cannot accommodate his next dream, but happy that we were the perfect environment for him to grow at a completely different level – I dare say, both personally and professionally. I assume that I feel the same like the way that Xenofontas (who we accidentally met on the plane and who is travelling with us) felt when I decided to move on from GRNET (where he gave me precious space and opportunities, as the Organic.Edunet story describes): a bit sad and a bit happy. Χαρμολυπη we call it in Greek.

Did I mention that we also have fun during and after the agINFRA meetings? Here is Ben from 21c and responsible for the project dissemination activities (lost somewhere in Belgrade...)

Did I mention that we also have fun during and after the agINFRA meetings? Here is Ben from 21c, responsible for the project dissemination activities, lost somewhere in Belgrade night life…

So this was the agINFRA FP7 project that ends these days. It gave us all in Agro-Know an amazing environment to grow, some great stories to remember, a few special friendships, and a legacy to build upon. Which we will do, in the caring and special way that we do things in this company. And in the future, when new, young hires join the onboarding seminars on the history and profile of Agro-Know, eager to find out the adventure that they embark upon, I will tell them the stories of people like Andreas. And be proud of the people that helped us make this company what it is, even if they do not work for us anymore.

To tell you the truth, this was intended to be a short post on the agINFRA vision for the future. But you will hear about agINFRA again during the next months. And I really wanted to take the opportunity to thank Andreas, as well as all those team members that decided to try something new, because with their special contributions, they helped us make  Agro-Know such a wonderful, extraordinary place to be.


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