Business Newsroom

La Trobe Business School

Tag: data analytics

LBS Innovation Series: Data analytics for food and agribusiness

In 2017, The Economist published an article titled “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data”. Hence, during the 2018 Innovation in Food and Agribusiness Forum, Dr Kok-Leong Ong, Associate Professor in Business Analytics at LBS and a researcher at our Centre for Data Analytics and Cognition (CDAC), discussed how digital technologies like internet of things (IoT) devices and the digital supply chain can create opportunities to utilise data to help drive the food and agribusiness industry.

The use of technology in farming

Data processing

Advances in digital technology bring new capabilities. Think about real-time data streams, large scale data storage and management, advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to power new analytical solutions. On top of that, companies keep designing new and better processing systems for all that data. For example, Apple´s A12 Bionic iPhone Chip includes dedicated neural network hardware, has eight cores and can perform up to 5 trillion 8-bit operations per second. All that computing power in a small form factor means we can expect smart-farming to be more sophisticated than it is now in the coming years.

Smart farming

Smart farming and IoT for agriculture are shaping the future of agriculture. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines smart farming as “a farming management concept using modern technology to increase the quantity and quality of agricultural products” (FAO, 2017). Nowadays, farmers have access to radio-frequency identification (RFID), GPS, soil scanning, data management, and IoT technologies. They can precisely measure variations within a field and adapting their strategy accordingly and with that increasing the effectiveness of pesticides and fertilizers, but also using them more selectively. It also allows farmers to better monitor the needs of individual animals and adjust their nutrition, preventing disease and enhancing herd health.

The context around this need for smart farming is further driven by multiple factors. For example, global warming and changing environmental conditions are placing a lot of stress on farmers. While yield in the crops are impacted by drought or floods, the global population is growing and demand out of China and India means farmers need ways to increase yield in a less nurturing environment in order to meet these demands. Smart farming thus becomes an important proposition for farmers. Collectively with the different sensors, powerful computers and new advances in data analytics, farmers can look into better yield management and automation to replace slow and costly labour.

Australia

Research in this space within Australia is already growing, with researchers in Analytics working with mechanical engineers to develop weeding machines, or robotic fruit pickers. The weeding machine uses vision and AI to autonomously move around the field killing weeds without hurting the crops. Similarly, the robotic fruit picker will consistently pick fruits without damaging its surface thus ensuring that farmers get the most out of their harvest. However, smart farming and digital agriculture in Australia is still in an immature state (Trindall, Rainbow & Leonard, 2018). Adoption of digital and analytics technologies among food and agriculture businesses are either low or patchy.

AgriNous

An example of a company that is doing really well in this space is AgriNous. Based in Bendigo and founded in 2016, AgriNous is a transnational platform that facilitates real-time processing of livestock sales. Their application is a mix of technology, customer service and industry insights. AgriNous won the 2018 Inventor of the Year at the Bendigo Inventor Awards and took part in the La Trobe Accelerator Program (LTAP).

Smart farming challenges

While smart farming is promising many benefits to farmers, there are challenges as with other technologies. With the growing adoption of equipment and services that collect and analyse farm data, the agricultural industry could face increased cyber targeting. This could include theft, but data may also be vulnerable to ransomware and data destruction. Farmers need to be aware of and understand the associated cyber risks to their data and ensure that companies entrusted to manage their data, develop adequate cybersecurity and breach response plans (FBI Cyber Bulletin, 2016). In addition, according to an article by Trindall, Rainbow and Leonard (2018) Australian producers and agricultural stakeholders lack trust in data management systems and require improved digital knowledge. Other challenges are access to finance, telecommunications connectivity shortfalls, impartial advice, and interoperability and reliability. Therefore, the journey to a smart farm is still an on-going one, but research in this space will address these issues, as with any innovation that involves technologies.

This blog is part of the LBS Innovation Series, developed by Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice in Economics at La Trobe Business School. 
 
More blogs in the LBS Innovation Series:
- LBS Innovation Series: Gaps to perfection
- LBS Innovation Series: Building a global business in a period of disruption
- LBS Innovation Series: Is the Australian agriculture sector ready to grow?
- LBS Innovation Series: Agtech – Agriculture’s Disrupter or Saviour?
- LBS Innovation Series: Crossing the Chasm – Agtech & innovation ecosystems
- LBS Innovation Series: Innovation and the Agribusiness Taskforce
- LBS Innovation Series: Supply challenges and consumer expectations
- LBS Innovation Series: Robotics and AI are coming your way
- LBS Innovation Series: Consumer trends and future foods
- LBS Innovation Series: The future of agricultural production systems
- LBS Innovation Series: Cities that feed our planet
- LBS Innovation Series: Is big data the answer for the future of agribusiness?
- LBS Innovation Series: Lean business model design for food and agribusiness

Centre for Data Analytics and Cognition – A new paradigm in AI

Data is everywhere and being created almost constantly. This calls for a new way of handling data.

With traditional data, the person who wants to use the data has to create that data. Although called Artificial Intelligence (AI), traditionally AI needs to be trained with data and outcomes that are known. So researchers have to build the Artificial Intelligence and algorithms to suit the problem and to suit the data. Now, data is generated by machines, leading to great amounts of data yet to be interpreted. Machines generate data at a rate that could go up to hundred thousands of data points a second. This data is being created through media, the cloud, the web, the Internet of Things, sensors, etc. It is no longer possible to connect each of these individual data point to objects in the real world. It is not possible anymore to build the AI, because the data is unknown, and so is the problem or outcome.

This new type of data is in real-time, online, machine generated, in high volumes and granular, and means we need a new paradigm. A paradigm that allows AI to make sense of data collected through for example text, images and videos, especially in social media, and capture feelings, emotions and someone’s personality.

CDAC AI

Centre for Data Analytics and Cognition Lab

LBS’ Centre for Data Analytics and Cognition Lab (CDAC) specialises in research and development of cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms and the transformation of these into practical tools and technology for business and other practical applications in advanced analytics. The team consist of a group of big data experts with outstanding research and academic achievements on top of many years of industry experience in the areas of finance, telecommunications, IT and business.

CDAC and the new paradigm

One of the key areas CDAC is involved with, building AI that builds itself, called self-structuring AI. The other aspect is that it allows for unsupervised learning. This means that the AI not only builds itself, it also learns by itself. It does not need to be trained. It can still be trained, but it has the capability to learn by itself. The CDAC team then transforms this technology into practical technology, called technological AI building blocks so it can be used to serve the community.

The great news is that collaboration is already taking place with industry, governments and academia.

Contact or visit

For more information visit the Centre for Data Analytics and Cognition.

Donald Whitehead Building, Room 301, Level 3
La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC 3086

Or visit the website https://www.latrobe.edu.au/cdac

Students’ successful participation in SummerTech Live

Over the summer, two LBS students, Preet Kaur and Shaun Doolan, took part in SummerTech Live, a program organised by the State Government of Victoria that allows students to work on real-life projects while being mentored by Victorian businesses. Last month, during the SummerTech Live 2019 Showcase at the Victorian Government Investment Centre they presented their successful projects.

What is SummerTech Live?

SummerTech Live matches Victorian small or medium enterprises (SMEs) with digital needs to tertiary students, to solve their technology problems and support digital transformation. The business first identifies a business tech problem and is then matched with an innovative tertiary student who is assisted by an academic supervisor. For businesses it is an opportunity to accelerate technology adoption and innovation; build digital capability and improve competitiveness through accessing educational supervisors and exceptional tertiary students. It also provides the opportunity to build relationships between businesses and educational partners for future collaboration. Students get the unique opportunity to develop their job-ready skills, work on real-world issues, increase their technical skills and assist to build the business’s digital capabilities. In addition, the program operates as a paid 10-12 studentship and students receive $4,500 for their work on the program.

La Trobe University participated in Round 3 (Summer 2018/2019) with five LTU students, all working with regional business partners. Two of these students were from LBS: Business Analytics student, Preet Kaur and Agribusiness student, Shaun Doolan, who was also the first Bendigo student to be selected for the program.

AgriNous

Both Preet and Shaun worked with AgriNous, based in Bendigo. AgriNous was founded in 2016 and is a transnational platform that facilitates real-time processing of Livestock sales. Their application is a mix of technology, customer service and industry insights. AgriNous won the 2018 Inventor of the Year at the Bendigo Inventor Awards (BIA) (read more here) and took part in the La Trobe Accelerator Program (LTAP);  a 12-week program that  provides education and mentoring to a varied range of entrepreneurs, as well as support services to accelerate the success of start-ups. Besides collaborating with LTU during SummerTech Live they have continued participation with the university through La Trobe’s Work Integrated Programs – across various disciplines.

Marcus Pollock (GM, AgriNous), Preet Kaur, Shaun Doolan, Joel Rockes (AgriNous co-founder)

What did our students do?

Preet’s project involved dashboard design on Amazon Web Services, Quick Insights and novel data modelling. Supported by her academic supervisor Dr Kok-Leong Ong, Preet conducted data model creation and data cleansing (by matching and validating data for clients to consolidate and remove duplicate information), but she also proposed data model modifications to meet future requirements, did management reporting for AgriNous and created user group-specific dashboards for stock agents, producers, buyers and the saleyard operator.

The project that Shaun worked on, supported by academic supervisor Earl Jobbing, consisted of providing analytical and technical writing support for product management and livestock industry insights. This included the design and execution of surveys and interviews to assist with the identification of problems and solutions for the producer, buyer and stock agent, but also process mapping, user story, acceptance criteria writing and wireframing. In addition, he had to develop document and design features, dashboards and prototypes to be considered for incorporating into the product offering. Ultimately, as a result of the successful project during SummerTech Live, AgriNous offered Shaun a part-time job!

Shaun presenting at the SummerTech LIVE 2019 Showcase

LBS Innovation Series: Welcome to the 4th industrial revolution

The next presentation in the LBS Innovation Series is from Craig Scroggie, the CEO of NEXTDC, Australia’s leading Data-Centre-as-a-Service provider. Craig challenges us to think about and imagine the future through the lens of ever expanding data analytic possibilities.

Theoretical influences

Craig’s presentation is grounded in four major theoretical influences: Moore’s Law (the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits will double every year); Schumpeter Economics (i.e. the notion of creative destruction) and the books, The Lean Start-up by Eric Ries; and, The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab.

Internet of Things

As Craig explains, data is the electricity of our age and the amount is doubling every two years, yet we analyse less than 1% of current global data. He tells us global internet traffic will nearly triple over the next five years, driving billions of dollars of investment in the construction of new data centres and communications networks to enable our digital lives. With the Internet of Things we’re entering a whole new era of technology with – machine learning, self-driving cars, drones, 3D printed body parts, robotics, and artificial intelligence etc. We will have new opportunities for solutions to challenges such as digital disruption, which affects areas such as medical research, sustainability, energy, education and transport. Craig suggests that more opportunities will also emerge from the convergence of technologies over time. His advice for start-ups and entrepreneurs is to develop products and services using lean methods and platforms aimed at the mobile market (not desktop computers).

 

Watch his presentation:

 

This blog is part of the LBS Innovation Series, developed by Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice in Economics in the La Trobe Business School. The series was developed after the successful National Innovation Forum organised by La Trobe Business School, NORTH Link and Deloitte Consulting P/L.

More blogs in the LBS Innovation Series:

Meet the Head of Department of Accounting and Data Analytics

Since January 2018, Alison Parkes has been the Head of Department of Accounting & Data Analytics. Business Newsroom sat down with Alison to ask her some questions about who she is, what made her come to La Trobe and other interesting facts about her.

 

Are you new to La Trobe?

I joined La Trobe in January 2017 and took up the HoD role after one year in the Department.

 

Where do you come from and what brought you to La Trobe University in 2017?

Before starting at La Trobe, I was with Taylor’s University in Malaysia for two years. I was recruited by them to build and accredit their MBA program. I specialised in postgraduate education during my time at Melbourne Uni which preceded my Malaysian appointment. While at Melbourne I had oversight of the Master of Business & IT throughout its entire life cycle from inception through to eventually teaching it out. When Taylor’s recruited me as their inaugural MBA Program Director I lived and worked two years in Malaysia, did lots of travel, built the MBA, got it accredited, and saw my first student cohort graduate just before I came back to Australia.

When I got towards the end of my two-year contract at Taylor’s in 2016 I had to decide whether I wanted to stay on for another two years or move back to Australia. I loved living in Malaysia but missed my family in Australia. I had already decided to come back when the job at La Trobe came up. I always wanted to work at La Trobe, so I applied for the job and was lucky enough to be appointed.

Before Taylor’s, I was at University of Melbourne for 15 years, I did my PhD there as a part-time PhD candidate and a full-time staff member. I graduated with my PhD in 2009. I’m a late career academic, a large part of my career was in industry. In my last industry role I was the most senior female IT executive in a state railway, working with huge financial systems projects and large numbers of staff. I got my first academic appointment at Massey University in New Zealand as a level A Lecturer in Information Systems. When I went into academia I had to start all the way from the bottom again, which was sort of a fun thing.

 

Why do you think La Trobe University is a good fit?

I have always been interested in the research projects and outputs from La Trobe as they are not always mainstream. I came from a more conservative academic environment with particular and relatively narrow views on what you were expected to publish and where to publish. I like what people are doing here, there is a lot more freedom and critical analysis, more work around sustainability, more private enterprise focus.

I have never been a traditional financial accountant. My background is accounting information systems. My first ever-academic job was not in an accounting department, but in an information systems department. While I was lecturing in IS I did my Honours year and a Masters Research which equipped me to enter the PhD program at Melbourne in Accounting & Business Information Systems. I’m a chartered accountant but have always been interested in the technical accounting systems side, which means my research isn’t necessarily published in mainstream accounting journals.

 

How will you be approaching your new role as Head of Department?

I’m fortunate that my expertise bridges both sides of accounting and data analytics, and I’m looking forward to bringing these disciplines closer together. We also need to refresh the accounting curriculum. Accounting doesn’t have to be boring, I know from my work experience that accounting is a really interesting and diverse field to work in. Across most universities, accounting is mostly treated the same old way, it’s as though we are still working with pen and paper.

I have always been passionate about educating students for the job they are actually going to be doing. To me that means educating them to be an accountant who uses accounting systems and data competently. This year I am rewriting the first year accounting information system subject to integrate Xero software and give students an idea of how it looks when you’re working with an accounting system in the workplace.

So my overall goal is to bring the two related disciplines closer together and refresh the curriculum so it better reflects the authentic lived experience of what accounting actually is. I’m not necessarily talking about changing the topics, but instead focusing on the pedagogy, how it’s being taught and assessed.

 

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were a student at university?

I have an atypical student experience. I left high school early and came to University for my bachelor’s degree on a special admission program for mature students. I completed my Bachelors, Honours, Masters and PhD all as a part-time student while working full time. My advice to former me would be to maybe consider doing the PhD full-time instead of part-time. Working full-time as a Level B lecturer meant there were whole semesters where I got pretty much nothing done on the thesis. It’s good to look at your research through fresh eyes, but it’s also hard having to re-engage with your topic afresh over and over again.

 

What do you do to get rid of stress?

I never work on the weekend. Everyone has different tactics but that is the rule that I find works for me to balance out my life. I don’t mind being in the office for long hours during the week if it’s necessary but weekends are mine. I like to come back in on Monday feeling re-energised and ready to tackle the week ahead.

 

Lastly, if people come across you at the coffee-machine, what’s a good conversation starter?

Travel! I’m a big traveller. I love all parts of Asia and have travelled there extensively, also lots of US, UK & Europe. Since coming back to Australia I’m making time to visit places that I hadn’t been to before. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I recently went to the Great Ocean Road for the first time after living in Melbourne for 15 years. I’m always coming back from somewhere or about to go somewhere.

 

Associate Professor Alison Parkes is a researcher, educator, consultant, and author whose expertise relates to optimising information quality and decision outcomes via better design and control of accounting systems and processes. In her professional career prior to entering academia she held positions at Queensland Rail, Rio Tinto, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Her academic career has included positions at Massey University New Zealand (Associate Lecturer) The University of Melbourne (Lecturer, Senior Lecturer) and Taylor’s University Malaysia (Associate Professor and MBA Program Director). Alison’s research consists of two primary themes; (1) The task-technology-individual fit implications of accounting systems design choices, and (2) Strategic investment decision-making. Her research has been published in journals including Decision Support Systems, Behaviour & IT, the Business Process Management Journal, and the Australian Journal of Information Systems. She authors a leading Australian accounting information systems textbook and also designs and delivers specialised executive education and consulting. Alison has consulted internationally to the Governments of Malaysia and Iraq, and completed a variety of management accounting consulting jobs in the Australian not for profit sector.

The Donald Whitehead Building has officially been opened!

Donald Whitehead building

Donald Whitehead building

On 30 August 2017, The Donald Whitehead Building was officially opened. As a part of the Melbourne Campus masterplan, the building has undergone a full refurbishment and now features brand-new cutting edge teaching and learning facilities.

The refurbishment aimed to create a lively connected space with upgraded staff accommodation, teaching, research and specialist lab spaces, including the Finance Trading Room, the LBS Data Analytics and Cognition Lab, the lab for the Research Centre for Computers, Communication and Social Innovation (RECCSI) and the LBS Judgement and Decision Making (JDM) Lab.

The refurbishments support the University’s Future Ready objectives to instil future-ready graduates with a responsible sense of leadership.

After a Welcome to Country by Dr Julie Andrews, the building was opened by the Head of La Trobe Business School, Professor Paul Mather, as well as La Trobe University’s Acting Vice-Chancellor Kerri-Lee Krause and the University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Antony McGrew. Both stakeholders and staff members were able to tour the building and see the new facilities on the day.

© 2019 Business Newsroom

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑