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Impact and adoption – keys to return on research investment

GRDC's impact means a grower putting an extra dollar into their pocket or holding on to one of the dollars already earned.
Photo: Jake Hamilton

Someone asked me the other day what impact means. It is a great question.

Impact to me means a grower putting an extra dollar into their pocket or holding on to one of the dollars already earned.

It could be in the form of better yield, better price, lower costs, more differentiated products (that make customer relationships more strategic or allow access to different export markets), or even better ways to manage the risks associated with running grain businesses – particularly financial risk.

However, impact is also about understanding the ‘what’ (which impacts matter to growers?) and ‘when’ (which dollar matters most at this point in time?).

Tactical needs

So, on top of GRDC being clear about the longer-term opportunities and challenges that could either grow or constrain a grower’s business, which are captured in our investment strategy, GRDC asks about the more immediate tactical needs of growers – to solve more short-term local issues or adapt existing GRDC investment outcomes/solutions.

Just like any business with the number of industry-level and grower-level issues and opportunities out there, these sources of the ‘what’ will generate more ideas than the available investment funds allow us to explore at any point in time. That’s where, like any business, we have to prioritise. How we do that is a topic for another day, but impact is one of the things we look at when making this decision – as well as the investment cost; once again, like any other business. Like good investment businesses, GRDC has its regional and national advisory panels to help us understand, among other things, that the investments we propose will have the expected impact.

How do we generate impact once we’ve listened to what growers need?

We invest on behalf of growers to allow us to do any or all of:

  • discover – learn about new grains science, genetics and technologies;
  • apply – use what we learn to design ways to develop better grain products (such as new varieties or chemicals) or solutions (such as a better crop rotation or farming system);
  • communicate – tell you about products or solutions through respected publications like GroundCover; and
  • extend – work with you to support adapting and, ultimately, adopting these outcomes.

GRDC has a great track record over the past 30 years of investing in this process to deliver impact to growers through its consolidated national investment approach. Of course, we cannot achieve much without the support and collaboration of our co-investors and research partners, wherever they are in the country – or the world.

Impact does not happen without the courage and preparedness of Australian grain growers to adopt the outcomes where it makes sense to them.

This process has delivered some outstanding results. For example, Australian grains production has increased from $5 billion in 1995 to $10 billion in 2007 and a forecasted $15 billion in 2019. That is a measure of the impact – and value – that can be created from this investment model. This result has been driven by research impacts like the whole-of-value-chain effort that led to canola being established as a major domestic and export crop, delivering more than $14 billion in farm gate value over the past 10 years; the impact of no-till farming; and the emergence of new and exciting pulse crop options – all of which can add to Australia’s domestic and export market penetration.

Impact requires adoption

These results would not have materialised without the last part of this process – adoption. Impact cannot happen without adoption. We can always learn more about what drives growers to adopt some solutions and not others, which of these drivers are within growers’ control – or not – and how we can use these insights, in conjunction with our research results, to design and develop even better, more impactful outcomes.

So, GRDC will continue asking growers, and their support businesses, about why they have, or have not, adopted particular products and solutions. We will incorporate this feedback into our investment development process to make it even more impactful.

This is how we will keep driving positive grain industry outcomes and ensure the grains sector is a major component of the Government and National Farmers’ Federation’s $100 billion agricultural farm output target by 2030.

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