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SRUC Senior Challenge Research Fellowship

Dr Hannah Rudman has just joined SRUC. She is Senior Challenge Research Fellow & Data Policy Lead.

Hannah’s digital and data innovation applied research and development work is grounded in interdisciplinary Participatory Action Research, which is practice-led rather than practice-based, and typically helps to create actionable knowledge with participants. Its about working out how digital tools and data can best assist in assuring, strengthening and proving Scotland’s natural economy’s – and its agriculture and land-based sectors’ – impact on grand challenges. It is also investigating the question: can distributed ledger technologies (DLT), digital technologies and digital data build human trust in the reporting of food quality and security, supply chain, natural economy and climate truths?

SRUC is organising around Grand Challenges such as the Climate Emergency and Food Safety and Security. The UK has legally-binding target of net zero GHG emissions for 2050 (Scotland’s are for 2045), and new farming policy to support “public goods” like climate change mitigation is already a focus due to exit from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. However, there remain major questions around how new support schemes would reliably calculate the correct price points for specific actions, and how these could be evidentially proven. Hannah’s research and development plans are to discover how to support farmer and land owners to compile trusted and transparent information on climate change and carbon impact and sequestration. Datasets could be more trusted if they include actual data from embedded IoT sensors, from UAVs and satellites, and from softwares like Agrecalc. Currently though, sensors are unreliable, insecure and with different standards, and data from softwares like Agrecalc is difficult to integrate and include in data networks. The biggest hurdle though, is that humans have trust issues with digital data, and information per se. Channel Four showed six stories, three of which were true and three false, to 1,700 people, only 4% of people guessed correctly which was which. We have a wide range of informational ‘ills’ that digital technology has released into the political and social ecosystem. So, can distributed ledger technologies (DLT) build human trust in the reporting of food quality, supply chain and climate truths? Hannah’s hypothesis is that it is only by assuring the truth of the data in the digital records created by Scotland’s natural economy businesses, that the sector can effectively prove its positive impact on efforts towards grand challenges.

The applied practical background is that Hannah worked with SAC Consulting, and a group of innovative farmers in NE Scotland to pilot the application of DLT to enable farmers to prove certain qualities about their crops. The KTIF funded Gluten Free Oats pilot project has proven the technical capabilities of DLT. DLT has allowed them to qualify certain qualities in their product across its lifecycle – in this case that oats are continuously gluten free – for a better price from food processors, and improved brand value with customers. Read the case study and watch the technological demonstration:

The project has captured national, local and sector press attention, and has been gaining engagement and traction at conferences such as Future Farming, and A3:

Hannah at A3
Next Year Now!

We are seeking to continue and develop it with new funds.

Hannah has taught professional courses to staff at SRUC, and will be releasing an online course for staff and students on DLT soon.

She is also lead on data policy for SRUC to support it proving impact, and for enabling innovation, and will develop that area of her role next.