Knowledge transfer and new technologies on farm level

‘’Knowledge transfer and the adoption of new technologies at farm level’ was the area of research for 2012 Nuffield Ireland scholar Sean Cummins who presented at today’s conference in Mount Wolseley, Carlow.

Courtesy of his presentation, he said the objective of his report was to identify effective knowledge transfer platforms to initiate on-farm change of practice to ensure farm viability.

In his research, Cummins observed that there is a huge disparity between best practice, as recommended by research and extension providers, and common practice on Irish farms.

“There is an immediate need on industry stakeholders and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine to co-ordinate their efforts and establish an industry good body with the responsibility of enhancing knowledge flow throughout the industry to maximise best practice adoption. In a similar fashion as Animal Health Ireland was established to address health-related issues. This organisation would invest in the necessary technologies required for Irish agriculture to fulfil its potential.”

He continued: “Traditional extension methods (print, face-to-face and so on) have been shown to be resource inefficient and over rely on an ineffective top-down information push model to initiate change. The rapid advances in digital technology have laid the foundations for moving agricultural research and extension into the digital age.”

Cummins is recommending that industry stakeholders collaborate and co-ordinate their efforts to develop a web-based knowledge management system that would compile information from all the relevant sources and act as a single point of contact to farmers.

“This universal digital resource would have the capability of; personalising and targeting content for every user, organising and storing user specific information, and enhancing knowledge transfer by using more interactive and engaging media. The benefit to the farmer is simplicity and convenience by making information, targeted, timely and in a format that best aids adoption. The benefit to the industry is more effective use of information and resources, opening up channels of communication directly to farmers and complementing the existing extension services.”

According to the scholar, global agriculture is undergoing a technological revolution known as precision farming.

“Evolving technologies (phone apps, GPS, micro-sensors, satellite imaging, and wireless networks) enable recording, analysis and interpretation of on-farm data. This datification of agriculture provides farmers with the quantifiable information to make timely decisions and monitor the outcomes of those decisions. Enabling farmers to measure, react, and monitor.”

Cummins is calling on a strategic plan to incorporate this technology into farming practice.

“There is a requirement to develop an industry good online database that has the capability of storing and exchanging farmer data from multiple sources. This integration of data creates a comprehensive dataset for robust analysis and delivering quality decision supports, thus adding value to the technology. By developing an industry good database, data is controlled by farmers. This ownership enables sharing of data to other agricultural applications or services, which encourages competition and innovation.”

Speaking to AgriLand, Cummins said he was honoured and delighted to be awarded a Nuffield Scholarship, which allowed him to research his topic worldwide and bring that expertise back home.