Innovation in Agriculture

Innovation is the process of recognising and pursuing potential that has not yet been realised. It starts with a question that challenges the status quo to seek new solutions.

For most people the innovation process starts with an event or crisis and it can be financial, health-related, philosophical or inspirational. A smaller group of people are natural innovators, on a continual journey of improvement.

The future for agriculture in the 21st century certainly needs innovators. Challenges the industry faces include growing enough produce to feed an increasing world population, adapting to a changing climate and meeting the increasing costs of inputs such as labour, fertilisers and chemicals. The Wet Tropics region will not be immune to these challenges and will need to play their part.

For each of these challenges there is an opportunity to innovate and turn ideas into new practices or approaches in how we undertake agriculture. In fact, embracing innovation and change will provide us with the perfect opportunity to be world leaders in tropical agriculture, as well as securing a bright future for the communities of our region.

The Wet Tropics Plan for People and Country helps people on their journey to meet these challenges, by providing access to an innovation network for sharing information on a global scale. A resource library also provides access to the latest technical and research documents on various subjects from around the world.

The Innovation Cycle

For many people, change is uncomfortable and new ideas and innovations can often be viewed with mistrust. Agricultural innovators can often face challenges in progressing their ideas and having them accepted as mainstream practice.

It can require navigating a range of obstacles along the way including the wariness of other farmers, unsupportive policies, insufficient resources and limited access to information and support.

innovation cycle

This diagram shows some of the stages that an ‘innovation’ may go through within the agricultural sector, before becoming something that is considered ‘normal practice’.

At each stage, innovators will be faced with many obstacles and at any point in this cycle an innovation may ‘fall off’ the cycle and progress no further.

Stage 1: A new idea

A new idea is born, but is not yet tested. This idea may be based on other innovations or practices, or may be an entirely new approach.

Stage 2: Informal testing

Innovator has already undertaken their own tests (often independently) and are finding promising results. However, they have not applied any rigour to the testing (e.g. insufficient documentation).

Stage 3: Validation

Credible testing/trials undertaken to validate the results of the innovation, sometimes in partnership with researchers and industry.

Stage 4: Early extension

Validated innovation practice extended to ‘early adopters’ who are interested in applying the practice, further testing it prior to mainstream introduction.

Stage 5: Adoption as new “best practice”

Broad-scale uptake by industry.

Support for innovators of the Wet Tropics region

There are many remarkable innovators in the Wet Tropics region including farmers who have great ideas and are prepared to take a risk to give them a go and also farmers who have heard about exciting new approaches being applied overseas and are keen to try them here.

They are producing some incredible results which are going to be of interest to any farmer wanting to not only reduce their footprint on the natural environment, but also build a more resilient farming system which is less dependent on expensive inputs and is ready to face new challenges on its doorstep.

There is a range of support that can be accessed from Terrain NRM, as well as researchers, industry bodies and agronomists. This plan provides people with ideas and information about current innovations happening in the region, but also nationally and internationally. It also provides contact details for people who can provide advice on innovative practices.

Terrain NRM is leading the development of the Wet Tropics Innovation Strategy aimed at supporting and networking farmers and facilitating innovations to progress through the innovation cycle.

For more information on the support available through this strategy, go to www.terrain.org.au.