Artificial intelligence for agriculture to improve the efficiency of commercial decisions

At this turbulent time for the economy, the viability of many companies depends on their commercial efficiency. The huge volume of data they generate is an opportunity to turn this information into knowledge that will help them come up with more efficient and competitive commercial solutions.

Decision Making project is being led by UOC researcher and the Falset Marçà Agricultural Cooperative in conjunction with Centre Vinícola del Penedès and the Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives of Catalonia, and is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food of the Government of Catalonia.

According to Xavi Domènech, manager of the Falset Marçà Cooperative and a graduate of Computer Engineering from the UOC, “Companies today amass enough data to be able to take much more calculated commercial decisions than they are generally taking. Personalizing their commercial structure and equipping it with rigorous methods and processes is key to guaranteeing their survival. We believe that supporting this process by introducing the intelligence of analytics can be a differentiating factor.”

The aim of the project is to develop and operate a system that helps to minimize the subjective variables that distort commercial decision-making, hence giving it greater rigour and analytical consistency. “In the business world, we have traditionally worked very intuitively and unsystematically, entrusting much of the sales process to salespeople’s own communication skills. This emotionally-based relational approach to sales is very difficult to adapt with good results in a business context in which purchasing has been professionalized and systematized and now includes a very large analytical component,” emphasized the cooperatives behind the project.

Improved targeting of potential customers

The Internet Computing & Systems Optimization (ICSO) group of the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) at the UOC, headed by professor at the Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications Ángel A. Juan and joined by researchers John Cardona and Diego Oliva, will be responsible for the more technical side of the project, taking advantage of their extensive experience in the research and transfer of data analytics and intelligent algorithms. Ángel A. Juan said: “Our role is to provide support for the digitization process of agricultural enterprises. Specifically, this entails analysing the huge amount of data generated by their e-commerce platforms and, based on the results, develop intelligent algorithms that will help them to better reach their market of potential customers, optimize their digital marketing processes, and efficiently adapt their offering to the specific needs of their target market.”

Billing, international trade, internet traffic and customer segmentation data will be correlated with predefined algorithms that help to achieve greater precision in decision-making so that the work of sales teams is more efficient and less arbitrary. To achieve this, the system combines different cutting-edge scientific methodologies such as statistical methods, machine learning methods and intelligent algorithms. The UOC professor explained: “The integration of these methodologies allows the intelligent digitization of a sector such as agriculture, giving it the necessary tools to become more competitive now and in the future, especially when events such as COVID-19 have transformed consumer habits.”

Although this project focuses on agricultural cooperatives, it should be noted that the proposed solution could have a big impact on other sectors, given the importance of sales and marketing to the balance sheet of any company. In fact, the new system will be especially useful for small enterprises, many of which have a lot of difficulty marketing their products and do not have a big enough budget to take on the expense of building their own commercial structure.

Research with a scientific and social impact

This project underlines the ICSO’s commitment to fostering collaboration with companies from different sectors and with other universities, both nationally and internationally. Professor Juan said: “Over the years, this has allowed us to create an extensive network of centres with which we collaborate on research projects, including co-authorship of papers published in indexed journals and world-class conferences, as well as companies with which we collaborate on knowledge transfer projects (Divina Pastora, Insylo, Guy Carpenter, Fhios, Rhenus, Euncet, ACT OR, etc.). Both these components, research and knowledge transfer, are fundamental, at least in our field, to ensure that our research work achieves a double impact: both scientific and social.”

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This UOC research supports Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 industry, innovation and infrastructure.

The Decision Making project – Comprehensive and circular methodology for making business decisions is developed by the operational group formed by the cooperatives Agrícola Falset-Marçà and Secció de Crèdit, AFALMA, SCCL, who leads the project, Centre Vinícola del Penedès, SCCL and the FCAC, as well as with the UOC’s ICSO group for the technological part. This project is co-financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food of the Government of Catalonia by the Catalan Rural Development Programme 2014-2020’s Operation 16.01.01 (Cooperation for Innovation).

UOC R&I

The UOC’s research and innovation (R&I) is helping overcome pressing challenges faced by global societies in the 21st century, by studying interactions between technology and human & social sciences with a specific focus on the network society, e-learning and e-health. Over 500 researchers and 51 research groups work among the University’s seven faculties and two research centres: the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) and the eHealth Center (eHC).

The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and open knowledge serve as strategic pillars for the UOC’s teaching, research and innovation. More information:research.uoc.edu. #UOC25years

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