Project Management

Smart Farming - Part 3a

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Part 3 is the last (for now) in the series on Smart Farming - focusing on projects and programs in the area of growing and distributing foods.  As I wrote it, I realized that it had to be further decomposed into Parts 3a and Part 3B.  The decomposition theme continues here - in a WBS sort of way.  Read on, brave project leaders, read on.

In Part 1, I covered agrivoltaics - the practice of installing solar photovoltaic panels on farmland in a way that primary agricultural activities (such as animal grazing, insect resourcing (honey production) and crop/vegetable production) can continue.  In Part 2, we shift upwards - WAY upwards, to focus on satellite imagery and using data to discover and potentially repair problems with topsoil.

In Part 3, we bring our attention to the food that is grown on farms and projects surrounding its distribution.  Again from UMass Magazine, there is a piece about Farm to Institution New England, a network backbone that connects farms to institutions, such as universities and hospitals.  Their mission?

"Our mission is to mobilize the power of New England institutions to transform our food system."

A good mission statement deserves a vision that drives it.  We know this as project (and especially Program and Portfolio) leaders.

"By 2030, we envision New England institutions and the FINE network playing leadership roles in cultivating a region that is moving towards self-reliance. We envision an equitable and just food system that provides access to healthy and abundant food for all New Englanders, and is defined by sustainable and productive land and ocean ecosystems."

This is a project-oriented organization.  For a glimpse at some of their work, visit their projects page by clicking here.  I was fascinated by the  projects surrounding University dining.  As a long-ago graduate of UMass Amherst, I am of course proud of the UMass year-after-year number one ranking for campus food (very, very different from when I attended - can  you say "cube steak"?).  FINE has published (amongst many other items) this interesting report about the supply chain of food from local farms to university campuses, called Campus Dining 201 (click on the link or the image below for an immediate download).

In it, you will find a treasure trove of data (D) advanced into information (I) and knowledge (K), providing wisdom (W) (see the Part 2 post of this series to learn about the DIKW Pyramid).  Amongst the gems in this report, and of particular interest to project leaders, is the pie chart (see figure below) which talks about the definition of "local food".  We know that in a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), we need a WBS Dictionary to tell us what we mean when we say (for example) "Complete Electrical Wiring", and whether or not that includes installation of light fixtures.  It's similar to the idea of defining project success, so that we know when we're done - but on a work package level.

To even begin to understand the food supply chain and the element of 'local food', what do we mean by the term 'local food'?  The pie chart below tells us that we have some work to do in that area:

I was amazed by the fact that almost 3/4 of the schools don't define or know what is meant by local food.  So it seems some work is in order to provide the equivalent of a WBS Dictionary for terms such as this.  Otherwise we are in danger of compiling lots of data and creating lovely charts that are based on undefined or unknown inputs - a formula for disaster.  Work being done by groups such as FINE are helping us avert this disaster by providing some definition. 

Do your projects have concise and clear definition around the work to be done?  It's worth some background work on your part as a project leader.

In Part 3b, I'll close out this series with more about projects focused on the food supply chain and advancing data into information, knowledge, and wisdom in the area of just how that Christmas fruitcake from Auntie Catherine made it from ... wherever fruitcakes come from ... to your holiday table.

 Merry Christmas!


Posted by Richard Maltzman on: December 25, 2021 12:07 PM | Permalink

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If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.

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