2014 FLRC Workshop – Ian Yule

How do we transform our industry to achieve a modern vision for New Zealand agriculture?

Presenter: Ian Yule

Abstract:

There has probably never been a time when the tensions between achieving higher food production, environmental sustainability and the need to reduce risk created through increased climatic variance have been more acutely felt. Possibly the biggest challenge is to have a balanced debate about a path forward especially in relation to the expansion of intensive agriculture and its effect on the environment. In our case the most recent focus has been fresh water and the health of our river systems versus dairy farming.

Some global commentators are already predicting that we are past peak food, and there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that global food production is not keeping up with population growth. There is also evidence from around the world that policies designed to assist environmental sustainability are reducing food output and quality. One of the major sources of risk for farmers is lack of water, many have made capital investments to reduce this risk but then the capital structure of their business usually leads to more intensive land use, which many argue is presently detrimental to sustainability.

Accelerated change is required, and the adoption of new methods and technologies encouraged. It will not necessarily be an orderly transition however and there will be a huge number of small incremental steps and individual solutions developed, “Rapid Incremental Improvement”. One of the major failings of technology adoption at the moment is that we perhaps have an idealised or normative view of farmers and their motives.

In this paper we argue that many improvements will come from land managers and farmers using improvisation to adapt enabling technologies to their farming systems. A concept called “Bricolage” is introduced which attempts to explain how this process might work, how solutions might be developed by this “brick by brick” approach, and what it means for technologists, researchers, regulators, government, service provider and farmers.

Presentations from the Fertilizer and Lime Research Centre (Massey University) Workshop. The indicative information about this workshop is the ‘Proceedings’ accessed through the ‘Publications’ page on the website (http://flrc.massey.ac.nz/). These are the manuscripts provided by the authors, and it is these that must be cited when referring to the information presented at the workshop.