Improving accessibility to expert guidance

With the continuing cost savings being made by Local Authorities in leisure provision, especially that of sports surfaces and green space, along with limited resources for many sports clubs in maintaining their pitch or green to a safe and appropriate standard, there is a need to revisit how the large knowledge evidence base related to turfculture / grounds care, that has accrued over the years, can be made more easily accessible to users.

The knowledge base is not a secret, but the ability to understand and apply it effectively is not nearly as widely spread as it should be; much of this being a consequence of the limited size of the industry and especially from political decisions made over the past 30 years.

By accessible I mean not just the ability to find relevant information but also how this information is effectively communicated to provide practical answers that could be readily applied without the need for expensive consultants. This doesn’t preclude the need for professional consultants for the more detailed or larger scale projects, but where knowledge has been well been established within the industry the question we need to address is  ‘why should this knowledge not be made more widely available to lay people to help them make best use of often limited resources?

Is there not a moral requirement to help others in such situations? Is this not what we could see as an approach which contributes to enriching society to create a sustainable community?

The pervasiveness of web and mobile technology provides the means to be able to deliver an accessible knowledge base which provides effective guidance based on the likely probabilities of the actions taken.

This would be a detailed decision based intelligence system (I see this as a sort of sub-artificial intelligence as the system would not be self aware, nor would it learn from user interactions – not for the time being anyway). There are many interacting variables within turfculture which can impact on the outcome of a particular action, primarily due to the way the natural environment behaves, but we should be able to provide an estimated probability of the consequences, both whether positive and/or negative, of an action.

Sketch of concept for determining probability of positive or negative impact of a maintenance activity

Sketch of concept for determining probability of positive or negative impact of a maintenance activity

These types of outcomes are particularly important within the grounds care industry as we want to know to what extent do activities or applications of materials have positive and / or negative effects on the grass surface. For example, aeration is usually classed as a positive activity for a turfgrass surface. However, the probability of how positive (or negative) the effect will be will depend on criteria such as the type of implement used, soil type, ground conditions – especially moisture content, how well the equipment has been set up and the ability of the user.

Using equipment in the wrong conditions, set up wrongly or used ineffectively can have more of a negative impact than a positive one.

Having an accessible detailed decision based intelligence system can provide the insight needed to lay people, as well as employees within the industry,  to significantly contribute to helping to make effective use of, often limited resources. This can all aid in contributing to a sustainable system, which may be part of an organisation or a community.

The next stage is then to develop a demonstration version of this concept, so that will be for another article.

Chris Gray, 30th July 2017