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Minor in Data Science in AgriFood: "We learned so much from each other!"

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At the end of August last year, the English-language minor 'Data Science in Agrifood' started for the first time. Some 37 students enrolled, mostly from HAS and Avans. The minor was concluded on 28 January with a webinar and a virtual poster presentation. Lector Precision Livestock Farming Lenny van Erp is closely involved in the minor, and talks enthusiastically about this first edition.

The minor, with a duration of 20 weeks, is a collaboration between HAS University of Applied Sciences and Avans University of Applied Sciences.  During this period, students look in depth at data science and associated subjects related to applications for the agrifood sector. Thanks to this collaboration between HAS and Avans University of Applied Sciences, subjects in the field of data science, along with case studies and projects in the agrifood sector, are studied.

Kick-off in Proeftuin Randwijk

The minor kicked-off at Proeftuin Randwijk, the applied plant research centre for innovation and knowledge development for fruit cultivation in the Netherlands. “The location and programme of the kick-off were organised by Harrij Schmeitz, a member of the DataLab AgriFood steering group,” says Lenny. “It was fantastic that we were able to organise a physical meeting at this location for all 37 students and teachers involved. For some, it was their first contact with the agrifood sector.”

The minor kicked-off at Proeftuin Randwijk.

Getting acquainted with practice

The limitations imposed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis meant that most of the minor took place online. “It was a shame that we were unable to go on any type of excursion,” says Lenny. “A visit to a barn or greenhouse really brings the agricultural sector to life. For those students less familiar with the sector, such an introduction is extremely useful.”

Different backgrounds

About half of the group of students hailed from HAS University of Applied Sciences, the other half came from Avans University of Applied Sciences. Three international students from the Hochschule der Medien in Stuttgart also took part. Lenny: "The group composition alone, with students and lecturers from very different backgrounds, made this minor interesting."

Project assignments

The first half of the minor focused on theory. Students were given a solid grounding in data science, supplemented with approximately 20 guest lectures from speakers from the agrifood sector. The second half of the minor concentrated on project assignments. Eight companies from the agrifood sector submitted assignments. Students worked on these in groups of four to five. Each group was composed of students from both HAS (agri, food and living environment) and Avans (business and IT).

Animals, plants and trees

A selection of the assignments: cow recognition based on visualisation technology for Wageningen Bioveterinairy Research, wild plant invasiveness for Floron, using noise data to measure chick welfare for Kuijpers Kip, and a potato yield prediction model for Delphy. DataLab partner Fruitmasters also submitted an assignment about automatically recognising the quality of young fruit trees in growth.

Lenny van Erp, lector Precision Livestock Farming.

Learned so much from each other

“The expertise of the Avans students and lecturers really complemented our knowledge,” says Lenny. “It meant we could deliver better results to our clients, because solutions could be calculated and programmed.” Lecturers worked in pairs (one from HAS, one from Avans) supervising groups, and found the collaboration very educational: “The main feedback I heard was that they learned so much from each other."

Virtual poster presentation

The minor was concluded on 28 January of this year with a webinar and a virtual poster presentation/drinks with all students, lecturers and clients. Looking back, Lenny feels very positive about it. “There were some real gems in there. It’s a real shame that we couldn’t meet physically due to the lockdown. Even so, we managed to make something fun out of it, and it certainly left everyone wanting more.”

The Data Science in AgriFood minor will start again on 30 August 2021. Students interested in participating can register via Kies op Maat. Interested companies can contact Lenny van Erp.