Meet rising demand with sustainable innovation

Farmers are never too old to try new technology. This is according to Jacqueline Rowarth, agribusiness professor at New Zealand’s Waikato Management School.

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“Any concept that farmers are too old to change, and that new technologies will come in with new recruits, isn’t supported by research,” Rowarth said, who was speaking at at the recent SA Large Herds Conference. Research from the Netherlands showed that while younger, educated farmers were more likely to adopt ‘new ways’ of doing things, older farmers were in the best position to adopt new technology successfully.

“Data from the Kauffman Foundation in the US indicates that the highest rate of entrepreneurship in the US has shifted to the 55 to 64 year age group, with people older than 55 almost twice as likely to create successful companies as people in the 20- to 34-year age group,” said Rowarth.

She added that the expected increase in disposable income, particularly in developing countries, has big implications for the international dairy sector. Innovation and the development of new technology were important to meet demand. Dairy is one of the fastest-growing sectors, with world milk production expected to increase by 153 million tons this decade. Milk production increases were predicted to be significant in India, the US, China and Pakistan, with those in China and India alone accounting for 38% of global gains.

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“The prospect of more dairy cows is greeted by economists in countries such as New Zealand as vital for growth, but by environmentalists as a potential disaster,” said Rowarth. The challenge, then, was to increase production, without imposing greater strain on natural resources. For this to happen, research was vital and industry, government and other stakeholders “need to find innovative ways of working together to develop sustainable agricultural solutions for the future”.

Knowledge-sharing, education, extension and advisory services were critical to facilita