Giving the stage to innovative farmers
Innovation for Agriculture (IfA) aims to connect farmers with farming research. We ask livestock researcher Laura Palczynski about her views on innovation in the industry, and why it is so important.
Why is innovation important in agriculture?
“Agriculture is subject to a lot of external factors and pressures, such as the weather and the effects of climate change, new policies and regulations. It’s important to be able to adapt to meet these challenges and seize opportunities. Innovation will help agriculture thrive within these complex and changeable circumstances.”
What are the dangers of not being innovative?
“I think the biggest danger resulting from failure to innovate is stagnation and frustration. As individuals we all have our pet peeves, and while we make do and put up with things, an innovative idea (or several) could make our lives much easier and more enjoyable. Feeling unable to change circumstances for the better is not a great mindset, so innovation may also be linked to wider issues such as mental health.
“In terms of the industry as a whole, not being innovative could well mean not producing essential products in the face of growing challenges – setting the stage for a dystopian future!”
What needs to happen for innovation to be possible?
“I think opportunities to learn from others and support for innovative thinking, practices and technologies are essential components of innovation. At IfA, we believe in giving the stage to innovative farmers who showcase their practices and systems to offer insights to other farmers and industry players.
“Opportunities for more integrated supply chains are hugely beneficial. New technologies need to be well-designed with tech developers speaking to farmers and understanding their needs to produce something valuable at farm level.
“Recently, we facilitated a workshop for wool growers and representatives from fashion and clothing brands to help them better understand the whole process from the wool on sheep to the end product. Participants found it really valuable to fill gaps in their knowledge so I’m excited to see what next steps the group takes.”
What are the barriers to innovation?
“Competing commercial interests and the need to protect intellectual property (IP) can be key barriers for groups working together, slowing progress at industry level. At a more individual level, there is a big difference between wanting to make an innovative change, and actually doing it! It’s a complex, often underestimated process, and advisors aren’t necessarily trained to help farmers navigate it.”
What can be done to encourage innovation in farming?
“Greater provision and participation in learning opportunities. Facilitated discussion is a good way for different industry players to learn from each other and better understand the needs and perspectives of others; both are essential for innovation.
“More training for farm advisors to help support farmers through innovative change processes could also help. Ultimately though, more funding for these activities, focusing on the human element of innovation, is what’s needed.”
Do you have any advice for farmers?
“Take opportunities to visit other farms and talk to other farmers. If you want to form a group but aren’t sure where to start, contact us at Innovation for Agriculture at email@example.com. As an independent charity, we happily offer any support we can.”
Laura Palczynski is livestock researcher at Innovation for Agriculture and has come to the organisation from Bristol University with a 2:1 BSc Hons in Animal Behaviour and Welfare. She is working for IfA while completing her PhD thesis exploring experiences relating to calf rearing in the dairy sector.
Farmers are currently seeing the biggest changes in agriculture for more than 50 years. As a mutual insurer, we’ve stood by South West farmers since 1903 and through our Future Farming Programme, we are helping our Members and the wider farming community navigate the changes ahead in this transformative time.Future Farming Programme