Teagasc to ‘fine-tune’ method for holding discussion groups remotely

Teagasc is in the process of “fine-tuning” a system that would allow farmer discussion groups to continue, despite restrictions relating to Covid-19.

The system revolves around Microsoft computer software that allows several people to participate in video conversations, instead of face-to-face group meetings that have been curtailed due to health concerns.

A spokesperson for the authority explained to AgriLand that a number of Teagasc advisors had run some meetings using this technology last week, and that these arrangements will be examined in further detail during this week to see if it could be rolled out further.

A few advisors ran a couple of pilots last week. We will be fine-tuning this week to see what works best. It’s only getting going really.

The Microsoft technology being used is an “unified communications platform” that allows users to talk and conference with each other, as well as share documents; send instant messages; and hold online meetings.

The system works from any location (with internet access), and works “in tandem” with the Teagasc email system and direct messaging services (DMS).

The Teagasc spokesperson added that all members of discussion groups are able to participate in this way.

Covid-19 arrangements

Last week, Teagasc announced a list of arrangements to ensure the continuation of agri-advisory services to farmer clients amid ongoing concern over Covid-19.

The agricultural authority noted that its advisory offices are open for pre-arranged appointments only, and for staff who are unable to work from home.

Among these changes, each Teagasc location will set up one bio-secure office for essential one-to-one consultations. This will involve a double desk with a clear perspex divider and a computer with two screens, the authority added.

Clients will be asked to wait in their cars to prevent contact in waiting areas, and essential clients may also have to sign forms in the office parking area.

Meanwhile, all Teagasc Basic Payment appointments will now be processed over the phone rather than in office consultation, and Teagasc staff will contact farmer clients in the coming weeks.