Communication and collaboration: Essential for successful innovation

Developing the channels for transferring knowledge between all levels of the agricultural industry is the key to helping farmers meet the challenges of the future, according to a recent Twitter forum.

Hosted by @AgriChatUK, the debate was set up by the team behind Rothamsted’s Open Innovation Forum which is taking place in January. Entitled ‘Open innovation and why it matters to agriculture’, the discussion aimed to draw out key themes on the challenges facing the industry and how open innovation and collaboration could help provide the solutions.

Working together was a prominent theme throughout the discussion, with much focus directed at improving communication links to make this happen. According to @FarmStokehill, the best communication required a multi-stream approach, including stands at agricultural shows, articles in the farming press, social media and information provided through agri-suppliers.

Bridging the perceived gap between farmers and researchers was a strong focal point for many. “It has to be a two-way process,” said @HMetcalfe1. “As an ag researcher, I need input from farmers just as much as they can learn from my work.”

Trials also had to work in the real world, not just in the lab, with innovation being farmer-led, added @IFarmers. “It is not only about developing and testing, it needs to be implemented too, so engagement with end users is vital,” said @SIRN_tweets.

“This was what will set the Open Innovation event aside from other conferences, as it will not only discuss the challenges and solutions facing the industry, but facilitate collaborative working to put the results into practice on the ground”, said Chris Dunkley, Programme Director for ROIF and CEO at RoCRE, the Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise.

Using a mix of research institute driven channels and open paths such as competitions was suggested by @FarmStokehill, as a way of getting farmers to feed their innovations into science and research. But open innovation was also about taking ideas from outside one’s own organisation, said @AgriTechEast. Farmers could also learn from other industrial sectors, making an outward-looking approach essential to finding pioneering answers.

Whatever the challenges facing agriculture, it was clear that overcoming shortfalls in communication within the industry was an essential aspect of the solutions identified, added Mr Dunkley. “We face this challenge with increasing food demand, constraints on natural resources and emerging issues of climate change. It is absolutely critical to get working solutions as we are all part of the same agri-ecosystem.”

#AgrichatUK was set up to help farmers keep in touch wherever they farm and live, sharing ideas and aspirations across counties, sectors and different interest groups. “Helping to spread the word about the Open Innovation Forum is something which we were really keen and pleased to be involved in,” said Charles Tassell, co-founder of @AgriChatUK. “The number of users taking part in our discussion on the night was a tribute to position Rothamsted holds within the industry.”

The Rothamsted Open Innovation Forum will be held from 18-20th January 2017, bringing together thought leaders and industry experts. Using a collaborative approach, it aims to develop game-changing innovations to address global food security challenges. For more information visit