With export sales in 2014 of over $1.6 billion, the New Zealand kiwifruit industry is one of the great horticultural success stories. However, with a target of $3 billion in export sales by 2025, the industry can’t afford to rest on its laurels. Much of the increase in revenue will be due to increase d productivity and fruit quality on-orchard, and that does not happen by default. The aim of this study is to understand how we can increase the pace of change within the industry with respect to on-orchard adoption of innovations.
Eight Bay of Plenty kiwifruit growers were interviewed about their perceived motivations for and barriers to adoption of innovations. They identified cost, a lack of evidence, conservatism, and underlying beliefs as key barriers to adoption. The need for operational efficiencies, financial benefits, and needing a solution to a specific significant issue were key motivations to adopt.
A case study of DairyNZ highlighted the use of networks and opinion leaders as key tools for accelerating change.
Two innovations in the kiwifruit industry were studied: the pre-flowering trunk girdle, and root pruning. The attributes of these innovations have significantly impacted their rate of adoption within the industry, and serve to highlight gaps in the current research and extension programmes with respect to how innovations are “sold” to industry.
Based on the information collected in this study, the following recommendations are made:
- Network mapping could provide so me significant insights and gains in the targeting of messages and improve the influencing of laggards;
- The orchard productivity innovation portfolio should continue to use the “farmer first” model by way of the on-orchard brainstorming group, and should implement a grower review process to evaluate the success of research programmes, thereby “closing the circle”;
- Research trials should embrace the same model, with grower participation and collaboration actively encouraged;
- The OPC grower trial programme should take a more participatory approach, although this will mean a scaling back of the number of trials that are under way at any one time;
- The attributes of an innovation should be considered when setting up research trials and planning extension activities, to take into account the barriers these may cause in the adoption decision process.
The recommendations proposed here do not make anybody’s job easier, but will lead to a greater pace of change within the industry, and set us on the path towards the $3 billion target.