How to efficiently support adoption of new technologies in agriculture?

Oral presentation and full paper at XIX World Congress of CIGR in Antalya, Turkey. Based on two research projects (2012-2017).


Hannu E S Haapala

Increased automation is needed in agriculture. Automation replaces heavy and dangerous work and enhances quality of life. If correctly chosen, automation simultaneously reduces negative environmental effects and raises effectiveness of production. To be real innovations, however, the new solutions need to achieve wide adoption. Adoption of new beneficial technologies is generally regarded slower than wanted. This is apparent in automated systems such as those of Precision Agriculture, both in arable and livestock applications.

The paper concludes results from two research projects on agricultural innovations: the OECD Joint Research Program research ´Speeding up innovation in agriculture´ (2011-2012) and EU HORIZON2020 project ´AgriSpin´ (2015-2017).

Conclusions of ´Speeding up innovations in agriculture´ pointed out the most important hinders. Automation, as all new technologies in agriculture, faces obstacles of adoption. Poor adoption includes mainly problems in acceptability. Usability issues are important. Farmers also face problems in integrating the new technologies in the existing systems at the farm level. They have mistrust on new technology as a whole. The education of engineers, designers, marketers and end-users of automation need to include more user-centered elements. They also need to interact better during R&D process. User-Centered Design (UCD) is promoted.

´AgriSpin´ was a forerunner in Multi-Actor Approach in HORIZON2020. Cross Visit methodology including thorough analysis of 50 innovation cases in Europe was applied and improved during the project. Spiral of Innovation was used to illustrate the cases and to communicate them to wider audience. Pearls, Puzzlings and Proposals were reported for each case in Final Symposiums where relevant stakeholders were informed about the findings and challenged for developing the local innovation environment of agriculture. Conclusions include that agricultural innovations, although technological in nature, are developed, realized, disseminated and embedded through a social process. This process should be understood better to be able to support it correctly. Multi-Actor Approach is needed since the application environment is complex.

New technologies including e.g. robotics, autonomous vehicles and automation need to be introduced in such an appropriate way that the adoption of the required changes happen effectively. Research is needed to better understand the restrictions of innovation in agriculture. Supporting actions that build on actual end-user requirements need to be introduced. New kind of advisory and consultation that cope with the systems level challenges is to be introduced. Demonstrations, Living Labs and user networks have a central role in this development. Educational needs of all actors involved need to be met.

Keywords: automation, technology, adoption, user-centered design, multi-actor approach

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