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Agriculture’s brightest gather to strengthen innovation on Australian farms 27 Apr 2016

Some of the brightest minds from across Australia’s primary industry sector gathered in Wagga on Thursday to address how Australian farmers and fishers can best apply innovation in their business.

The first national workshop on Enhancing adoption in primary industries was opened by the Chair of Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), Professor Daniela Stehlik.

The workshop reflected the diversity of the primary industry sector, and featured speakers and participants representing national and state government departments, agribusiness, farmers and the supply chain.

Vicki Woodburn, General Manager, Policy and Cross Sectoral at RIRDC said the workshop was an important initial step in better using extension services to achieve sustainable and profitable management of their businesses.

Ms Woodburn was one of four speakers who discussed the emerging trends and opportunities in primary industries for the next 20 years, along with Michael Bullen (NSW DPI); Dr Matthew Cahill (Dow AgroSciences); John Langbridge (Teys Australia) and Simone Jolliffe (Australian Dairy Farmers).

The most important and disruptive changes likely to occur in primary industries over the next five-to-ten years were discussed – including a hungrier world that is more connected, competitive, and socially and environmentally aware – as well as what role extension and adoption services will have in supporting farmers and fishers.

“Extension and adoption services are part of helping change occur and complement other levers such as regulation and clear market signals,” said Ms Woodburn.

“These services play a crucial role in helping the agricultural sector perform in a complex changing environment - and there is strong interest and commitment for Australia to do extension better.” 

Associate Professor Ruth Nettle who leads the Rural Innovation Research Group at the University of Melbourne and is Associate Dean of Engagement and Partnerships in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, outlined the role of the private sector in addressing emerging trends.

Professor Nettle said the timing of the workshop was ideal as we are entering a time of significant transition.

“The opportunity to address the risks and concerns of change, and the imperative to coordinate and collaborate on a response is now,” said Professor Nettle.

Reflecting on the participants in the room, she believes the workshop was an important and vital step in adopting cross-sectoral learning and sharing of models.

Ms Woodburn said the workshop provided an ideal forum to collect the thoughts of people representing all parts of the primary industry sector.

“The Australian approach to extension and adoption is in a period of transition,” she said. 

“Significant change has occurred and will continue. There would be value in identifying a plan to help the transition occur effectively for the benefit of farmers and fishers.”

The outputs from the workshop will include direct input to a ‘state of play’ national assessment of extension and adoption in primary industries. More importantly it will inform the strengthening of public/private extension and its adoption to help Australian farmers and fishers achieve continuous improvement in their business. 

The workshop was coordinated by the Extension and Adoption for Australian Fishers and Farmers project which aims to provide practical and achievable improvement to the delivery of extension across Australia. Workshop partners included another Australian Government-supported 'Rural R&D for Profit' project, 'Stimulating private sector extension in Australian agriculture to increase returns from R&D', and the NSW Department of Primary Industries.