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2016 Autumn - Switching on farm innovation

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Farm Policy Journal: Vol 13 No 1 2016 Autumn - Full Journal - Switching on farm innovation

Australian Farm Institute (2016), Switching on farm innovation, Farm Policy Journal: Vol. 13 No. 1, Autumn, Surry Hills, Australia.
ISSN 1449–2210 (Print)
ISSN 1449–8812 (Web)


FPJ1301B - Robertson et al. (2016), Five Ways to Improve the Agricultural Innovation System in Australia

FPJ1301B - Robertson, M, Keating, B, Walker, D, Bonnett, G & Hall, A (2016), Five Ways to Improve the Agricultural Innovation System in Australia, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 13, no. 1, Autumn 2016, pp. 1-13, Surry Hills, Australia.

Australian agriculture faces the dual challenges of meeting a massive market opportunity for food exports in the face of declining rates of productivity growth. While research outputs are healthy, other indicators of innovation and impact with industry suggest that the innovation system in Australian agriculture is not evolving fast enough, and hence not driving productivity improvements. The aim of this paper is to critically examine the state and function of the agricultural innovation system in Australia and whether it is fit-for-purpose given the opportunities and challenges that confront agriculture. We propose that the vision for a ‘healthy’ innovation system should be framed in terms of entrepreneurial activity and public policy intervention, rather than the traditional narrative of infrastructure, funding modalities, and expenditure. We describe five issues that we believe need attention in order for the innovation system to both overcome slowed productivity growth and take advantage in growth in food and fibre markets. (1) Increase the emphasis on innovation rather than research, away from the current science-centric environment. (2) Develop market road maps for higher value capture from major commodity sectors that connect the opportunity with the associated innovation challenge and send more effective signals to industries and knowledge institutes. (3) Develop a set of national targets and a learning platform for agrifood sector growth and innovation to inform the national policy and practice across industries, governments and knowledge institutes. This will allow independent and collective monitoring and understanding the performance of the agricultural innovation system. (4) Recognise and embrace the evolving role for government, to include ‘mission-mode public investment’ that can open up new innovation trajectories and associated markets, such as with the current emerging digital revolution. (5) Recognise and embrace changing modalities for agricultural extension in the 21st century digital world – with networks of digitally connected research, research tools and databases, consultants and farmers.



FPJ1301C - Barlow et al. (2016), Innovation in Australia’s Agrifood Systems: Are Australia’s Universities Ready for the Next Challenge?

FPJ1301B - Barlow, S, Kingwell, R, Prately, J, Keating, B (2016), Innovation in Australia’s Agrifood Systems: Are Australia’s Universities Ready for the Next Challenge?, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 13, no. 1, Autumn 2016, pp. 15-23, Surry Hills, Australia.

Australia’s universities play a key role in the agricultural innovation ecosystem, publishing the majority of the agricultural research papers and training the next generation of agricultural researchers and practitioners. This university sector has expanded significantly, and become more independent and internationally focused over the past 25 years since the transformational reforms of the Hawke Government.
The agricultural innovation ecosystem also has developed significantly over the past 25 years since the establishment of the Research and Development Corporations which have predominantly evolved into industry owned corporations with elected boards. CSIRO and state departments of agriculture have also evolved significantly in this period with some downsizing in their research and extension capacity.
These developments have led to fragmentation rather than coordination and integration of the agricultural innovation ecosystem as sectors and institutions have responded to their individual rather than systemic drivers of the agricultural innovation system.
Currently the university system and its agricultural researchers are focused on performance in the Excellence of Research for Australia (ERA) evaluation rather than delivery to the agricultural innovation system. Its linkages to the national research organisation, CSIRO, are neither strategic nor transparent and will not facilitate CSIRO in its new role as a national innovation catalyst.
Australia’s university sector could play a major role in the national agricultural ecosystem if university researchers and their postgraduate students could be incentivised to contribute, by recognition of the impact of their research on industry in the ERA process and by industry levy funding for more strategic research being available.
To achieve these and other measures that support greater oversight, integration and coordination of the agricultural innovation ecosystem, an independently chaired Agrifood Innovation Council reporting directly to the Prime Minister through PMSEIC is required.
To achieve greater agribusiness involvement in this innovation system, significant incentives need to be established for the formation of private/public partnerships in research, innovation and postgraduate training; involving universities, industry and farming groups.


FPJ1301D - Copeland, L (2016), Research Frontiers in Agrifood Systems

FPJ1301D - Copeland, L (2016), Research Frontiers in Agrifood Systems, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 13, no. 1, Autumn 2016, pp. 25-33, Surry Hills, Australia.

This paper looks at research frontiers with potential to increase agricultural productivity. It considers how food production has benefited from agricultural innovations for thousands of years, with productivity gains achieved mostly by the accumulation of incremental advances in knowledge of the resource base, improvement of varieties and practices, and exploiting new enabling technologies not specifically targeted to agriculture and food production. The digital revolution has brought fresh and innovative approaches to answering fundamental questions about plants, animals and soils. Recent advances in biotechnology have opened up new ways to explore the genetic potential of food plants and animals, their response to stress, and the effects of genotype by environment interactions on complex traits such as yield, quality and plant-soil interactions. The massive increase in gene sequencing capacity has greatly improved the efficiency of identifying genetic variability for plant and animal breeding. Much excitement is being generated by the potential of CRISPR technology to deliver customisable gene editing tools that are easy-to-use, accurate and inexpensive. These tools are being adopted at a rate rarely seen before, with the recognition that current regulations may not adequately cover their use. The erosion of traditional discipline boundaries is providing greater flexibility for multidisciplinary, collaborative research. Yet, despite the enormous capacity for high-throughput data gathering, our ability to extract knowledge from the accumulated information is still limited by a rudimentary understanding of biology and the natural resource base. The key to capturing opportunities to boost productivity will be continuing to foster imaginative research leading to the discovery and adoption of new technology.


FPJ1301E - Turner et al. (2016), Challenges to Effective Interaction in the New Zealand Agricultural Research and Extension System: An Innovation Systems Analysis

FPJ1301E - Turner, JA, Rijswijk, K, Williams, T, Barnard, T (2016), Challenges to Effective Interaction in the New Zealand Agricultural Research and Extension System: An Innovation Systems Analysis, vol. 13, no. 1, Autumn 2016, pp. 35-47, Surry Hills, Australia.


This study used semi-structured interviews to evaluate the perceived effectiveness of interactions among those mandated to develop and diffuse knowledge that meets the identified needs of farmers/growers in the New Zealand primary sector, as well as the users of knowledge, practices and technologies. We used the systemic innovation policy framework, which integrates the structural and functional streams of innovation system enquiry. This enabled analysis of the effectiveness of the functions that support technology co-development, along with the presence and quality of the structural components that are needed for these functions to be effective. Key lessons are the need for: (i) incentivising individuals that are able to effectively act as translators between science and farmers/growers; (ii) strengthening of interactions between research organisations and industry good bodies in knowledge development, setting strategic direction for innovation efforts and exchanging knowledge; and (iii) institutional support for greater collaboration among government, industry, research and users.


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