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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

AiiA presentation on innovations in IT

I gave a presentation under the topic: “Speeding up innovation in agricultural IT”, reporting the results of the OECD research. AiiA 2013 presentation Hannu Haapala final

The results show that considerable part of the relatively slow innovation comes from the fact that users do not trust in new technologies or that the usability of them is unacceptable. 
The experts suggest that education of the engineers and designers should include more elements from User-Centered Design (UCD) and also User-Driven Innovation methods should be more used.

As a conclusion a new ‘Dream Team’ of agricultural innovation was developed where user interaction and marketing professionals were given more roles.

Promoting User-Centred Design in MANUFUTURE

I attended the 6th Workshop of the MANUFUTURE AET community in Valencia, 11th July 2012. I gave a short presentation (attached) on the importance of UCD in agricultural innovation processes. The message was that

‘User-Centered topics should be emphasized among the European research priorities in Agricultural Engineering. The research should be more directed towards the acceptability of new technologies. The innovation process itself should be an important topic. ‘

Hannu Haapala

Initiative for MANUFUTURE

Manufuture Initiative

Publishing the results in AgEng 2012 Valencia

Because of the encouraging results in my OECD-funded research, I want to promote research and innovation on User-Centred Design in agricultural engineering. I attended the AgEng 2012 Conference in Valencia where I gave a presentation on ‘The potential of User-Centered Design (UCD) to make radical agricultural innovations’. The full paper and presentation (attached) concluded:

‘In the future, research and development should be more directed towards the acceptability of new technologies, including usability and ease of use. Innovation in the applications of UCD is needed. Education topics are found in UCD methods and practices for designers. Eventually, the users should be activated to demand better products.’

Hannu Haapala

AGENG 2012 full paper HH

AgEng 2012 presentation Hannu Haapala final

Experts say: acceptability and trust are important research topics

The preliminary results of my OECD CRP research ‘Speeding up innovation in agriculture’ suggest topics for future research. Replies of experts around the world rate the acceptability of new technology as the most important research topic. Right after comes trust in complex technologies and how it is built. See

Hannu Haapala

Preliminary results of the research

Dear Friends,

I am delighted with the current high-quality answers to my questionnaire. I must admit that the questionnaire is quite long and takes some time to answer. The issue of UCD in agricultural engineering is not an easy one. An old Finnish saying fits here: ‘If this was easy others would do it’! I need your expertise.

Here are some preliminary results for your attention: the respondents and their research priorities so far (5th March 2012).

More recipients are needed especially in the following areas of expertise: ■Industrial designers ■Software designers ■Manufacturers ■Funders ■Politicians ■Sellers ■Young professionals in all categories!

So, please, forward the link to potential recipients and ask them to answer the questionnaire.

Best regards, Hannu E. S. Haapala