The Agricultural Document Library (ADLib)

Much of AERU’s work has involved elements of knowledge transfer. This has included the development of software tools, databases and websites. The Agricultural Document Library (ADLib) is a web service that evolved from the offline advisory system that was developed for the award-winning Environmental Management for Agriculture (EMA) software. The library of documents in ADLib were used to create bespoke online library services and were also used to support numerous online services (e.g. Defra’s whole farm approach). The key projects and services are outline below.

2005-ongoing: Fertiliser Advisers Certification & Training Scheme (FACTS)

ADLib has been used to support the Fertiliser Advisers Certification & Training Scheme (FACTS) scheme. Various government codes of practice, industry guides and other documents relating to best practice for fertiliser use have been compiled into a unique library for the FACTS website, which is then made available to FACTS members only.

2004-2016: ADLib (Agricultural Document Library)

Building on the library produced for the award winning EMA software, ADLib was a service developed jointly by AERU at the University of Hertfordshire and TLR Ltd (Everysite), as a primary online and offline resource for the industry.

The ADLib resource contains over 1600 documents (approx. 32000 pages), including Government codes of practice, industry guidelines, information and topic sheets, legislation summaries, glossaries and an extensive contacts directory. Currently the ADLib service contains documents from England, Scotland and Wales. The contents of ADLib appealed across the industry (farmers, advisors, retailers, educators, and policy and planning organisations) and will enable all these groups to have access to the information they need to push forward the sustainability of the industry, in line with public desires and legal demands.

For further details please visit the ADLib website.

2012-2012: Farm Efficiency Hub

The AHDB Greenhouse Gas Action Plan (GHGAP) set out how the agriculture industry in England is responding to the challenge of climate change. One of the actions within it is to develop the Farm Efficiency Hub, a repository of information to assist advisors, farmers and other interested parties to access consistent and reliable advice on production efficiencies and GHG mitigation. The work was led by AERU and undertaken in collaboration with TLR/Everysite Ltd and Harper Adams University College (HAUC), building on ADLib developed by AERU & TLR and OpenFields ( developed by HAUC, with ADLib focusing on providing advisory information for farmers and advisers, and Openfields on technical translation and advisory materials. The Farm Efficiency Hub included an index to facilitate browsing and simple and advanced search facilities and delivered a flexible solution with scope for expansion and further development in the future.

2005-2008: Strengthening the chain for knowledge transfer for members of the Assured Produce scheme (Ref. HH3816NX)

Encouraging the use of knowledge and making it easily available to farmers and growers is a key goal of Defra, other agricultural regulators and information providers. Obvious ways to share knowledge are through teaching, publishing, workshops, seminars and conferences but these are not always as successful as would be liked and reaching large numbers of individuals is not always possible. Consequently, innovative ways of delivering and offering information are constantly needed. By combining knowledge transfer with other activities, such as the produce assurance schemes, growers can be offered the information at a time when they are most in need of it and most susceptible to its messages. Thus, maximising uptake and the value of the knowledge to both the grower and the broader community.

The purpose of this project was to enhance the facilities available to Assured Produce (AP) members by improving the AP website and management of the AP documentation such that there is considerable improvement in technology and knowledge transfer. Information is now delivered to the end user on a ‘pull down’ basis (i.e. on request of the grower) and includes access to a large, external e-library of documents relevant to the agricultural and horticultural businesses. This library is part of the ADLib resource managed by AERU and providing farmers and growers with access to this library saves time, money and helps to increase the uptake of timely and appropriate best practice information.

The project was funded by Defra, with support from HDC and BPC, and was carried out in collaboration with TLR Everysite Ltd.

2005-2014: Defra's Whole Farm Approach

The Defra/Business Link Online Farming Service was a Defra initiative that aimed to lighten the regulatory burden on farmers, reduce the number of duplicate requests for information, and offer innovative and efficient ways of working online. It included a number of online self-assessment tools that aim to help farmers comply with a broad range of legislative requirements and to improve their farm practices. These tools made reference to key industry documents, codes of practice and legislation. Therefore, to make the tools more useful to farmers the ADLib resource was used to link a broad range of documents into the Defra tools. This means that as farmers worked their way through the various modules, they had access to relevant documents and information. This is not simply a case of linking to individual documents, in many instances there were 'deep links' to specific pages or paragraphs that were relevant to the issue being considered by the farmer at the time. This resulted in a very powerful means of signposting farmers to the most relevant information they need to run their business. ADLib was also used to provide guidance documents within the Business Link Farming Guides. This provided a simple way to access all the guidance and documents that were linked into the Defra tools.

2004-2005: Defra content audit (Ref. TVA 8188)

During July and August 2005 AERU undertook a project for Defra's Communications Directorate to audit all the content/documents produced by Defra, and other organisations, that are targeted as advice to farmers and land managers. This was undertaken to support the development of Defra's Rural Business Advice Channel that will be launched in 2006 as part of a revamp of their website. Over a 6-week period all the Directorates within Defra were contacted and asked to supply details about the material they produce that is targeted at farmers and land managers. At the same time numerous non-departmental public bodies and private organisations were also contacted for the same information.

The content audited included documents such as codes of practices, factsheets and advisory guides, video and audio material, telephone and email helplines and other advisory services. Each item was assessed for its quality and classified using a taxonomy into different subject areas. Other information such as governance (who is responsible for the content), frequency of updates and availability were also recorded as part of the audit.

A content audit database was created to collate and store all the information collected. The ADLib resource was used a primary means of populating this database and was expanded by the information obtained from the participating organisations. At the end of the project over 1500 documents/content items from almost 100 organisations had been audited and entered into the database. The content audit database was maintained since 2005 as part of the management process of the ADLib resource.


  • Tzilivakis, J. & Lewis, K.A. (2007). The Agricultural Document Library (ADLib) and its applications. Proceedings of the European Federation for IT in Agriculture (EFITA) conference 2-5 July 2007, Glasgow
  • Tzilivakis, J., Warner, D., Green, A. & Lewis, K. (2005) Utilising the Assured Produce Scheme for
  • Tzilivakis, J., Green, A. & Lewis, K. (2005) Content audit study. Final report for Defra project TVA 8188.


Dr John Tzilivakis


University of Hertfordshire
University of Hertfordshire, 2020.