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Practical approaches to inspiring innovation

We take a very practical and applied approach to helping to create inspiration for innovation.  We are an ‘ideas organisation’, passionate about introducing people to new technologies and opportunities.  We help bridge the divide between developing and developed countries, since innovation is a process of bringing new ideas and opportunities into reality.  We help introduce new technologies and innovations into different agricultural systems.  Importantly we provide support in the adaptation of these ideas to local farming systems through creative participatory extension approaches.  We help create an environment that supports the development of innovation.  We challenge the thinking of farmers, researchers, extensionists, the decision makers and influencers of government policy. Innovation is driven through providing enabling environments, that capture entrepreneurial spirits of motivated communities.

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Critical success factors for Innovation Platforms

All stakeholders need to be introduced to the concept of Innovation Platforms (IP), with roles and responsibilities clearly defined. The innovation process needs to be farmer led. An independent needs analysis conducted with the local farming community.  Prioritised issues then provide a clear focus for the group activities. It is important that farmers have the ability to access the required resources, inputs and technologies. All group activities need to be planned well, and professionally facilitated. Importantly, progressive farmers need to be identified to lead the innovation process, since leadership from within the group works best. The IP needs to be managed by the community.  The IP needs to be accompanied by strong entrepreneurial spirits, such as establishing a local custom hire centre to provide access to machinery, as well as a retail outlet for cropping inputs and market opportunities for produce.

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Simple technologies can be biggest innovations

Innovative technologies need not be complex.  Often some of the most simplest of technologies can result in a high-impact innovation being introduced to a farming community. Take the ‘G-Dot’ for example, developed by the company Measurement Engineering Australia (MEA).  The G-Dot simply measures the available water to a growing crop within the root zone. As the soil dries out, the number of visible bright yellow 'dots' on the G-dot face disappear. When only 2 or 3 dots are visible, the crop is under water stress; it’s time to either pray for rain or turn on the pump and irrigate the crop! Working with farmers and scientists from Haryana India, Dr Jay Cummins has identified the significant savings made possible through the use of the G-Dot.  Water savings of 25% can be achieved without any impact on yield. For a country that is rapidly running out of water, this simple tool presents a significant innovation that can have such a positive impact on regional food production and water security.

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What is innovation? Some food for thought.

There’s a lot of talk about innovation.  But what is innovation in the first place?  How best can innovation be defined? Innovation is all about collecting knowledge from different sources and developing new ideas, concepts and approaches that are different to the current practices. Innovation can be created and developed by anyone and is not limited to just research organisations being innovative; but can be equally created and developed by individuals, groups and organisations at all levels of operation. 

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have adopted the Oslo Manual for Measuring Innovation, whereby there are four types of innovation described:

  1. Product innovation: a good or service that is new or significantly improved such as technical specifications, user friendliness or benefits.

  2. Process innovation: a new or significantly improved production or delivery method, including significant changes in techniques, equipment or software

  3. Marketing innovation: involving a new marketing approach that involves significant changes in packaging, product placement, promotion or pricing.

  4. Organisational innovation: whereby a new method in business practices, workplace management or external relations are introduced.

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