Understanding the drivers for creation and adoption of Innovation by farmers; on and off farm.

Executive Summary

The ability of a business to compete in an ever changing world is linked into its ability to identify and adopt innovations.  Introducing new ideas, alternate systems and different technologies enable a business to change and meet the market; it maintains competitiveness and relevance in an ever changing world.

A major challenge facing agriculture globally and within New Zealand, is the increasing more complex farm business environment.  Price volatility, climate change and shifting societal expectations on food producers are bringing greater demands on the farmers of today, and those of tomorrow.  The ability and willingness of farmers to explore new ideas and adopt innovation will play a significant factor in the success of farming in the future.

Identifying and adopting innovation is a complex and personal process, and improving our understanding of innovation adoption will aid in lifting the performance of farmers and farm business.

An individual’s upbrining, their educational achievement and their participation in the world around them, establishes their willingness or openness to innovate.   Whereas the adoption of that innovation is influenced by an individuals own aspirations and goals and under-pinning the personal driver, is the compulsion to improve an individuals’ place in life.  Interacting with these personal drivers are external factors which also influence the willingness to innovate.  These factors disrupt the status quo and bring about a change which requires a response from the individual.

An innovation needs a supportive environment to flourish.  Leveraging off the personal drivers and factors increases the likelyhood of the innovation to be adopted, and building a supportive environment increases prospect of the innovation becoming normalised into the business.

NZ’s future agricultural success lies in a skilled workforce implementing innovation along the value chain.  NZ agriculture needs a workforce that challenges the status quo and looks for creative solutions.  Building these skills is the repsonsibility of all members of the agricultural industry.  The industry must acknowledge the importantce of formal education and structured informal development, and build a culture of learning and discovery.  This starts with our young people .

The willingness to innovate is the beginning of the innovation process, and the full value of the innovation needs to be demonstrated in technology transfer and the extension processes.  Within these systems recognotion of drivers other than financial drivers need to be accounted for, and innovation ‘hot spots’ identified.

NZ would do well to consider structured innovation development for farmers through processes like Innovation Incubators; structured creative exploration groups with supported discovery and inplementation of innivation. Facilitated creative exploration within a supportive network would add significant value to the business of agriculture, and establish a blueprint for innovation discovery and adoption within the farm gate.

By building our people and equipping them for a changing world, NZ will be well positioned to captialise on the challenges of the future. The heritage of resourcefulness and creative problem solving is embedded in the NZ farmer’s psyche, and building skills and competencies to support this will strengthen our future and consolidate our position as producers of high quality, safe and secure food.

Understanding the drivers for creation and adoption of Innovation by farmers; on and off farm – Richard Fitzgerald

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