The ability to organize successful research to create improved technologies and techniques in agriculture is one of the world's most important innovation processes.

However, this process is complex requiring multi-disciplinary knowledge and a systems group approach to the identification of gaps and needs and effective solutions. Value chain analysis and operations need to be combined with business capabilities and the marketing of products and services. These need to serve consumer requirements with good quality food, fibre and feedstocks at accessible prices.

There is a constant need to accumulate better knowledge of the evolving frontier of knowledge and best practice. Researchers and project team members need to remain abreast of the advancing knowledge and be able to design and execute projects effectively. In this mix, the appropriate targeted training of researchers in appropriate research and innovative techniques is essential. This needs to be combined with the acquisition of knowledge and practical capabilities in improved project cycle management.

Editorial


This week's agricultural innovation search for information resources and news...

The significant potential of portfolio data warehouses in revolutionizing agricultural innovation - A Note

In the last note concerning instructional simulation, portfolio data warehouses were identified as an important future development with potential for improving agricultural production and innovation. The APEurope Economic Unit provides an explanation of some of the more evident potential of portfolio data warehouses in revolutionizing agricultural innovation.

Read more...

Better quality agricultural innovation, instructional simulation and reinforcement learning - A Note

Recently the term reinforcement learning has appeared in the realms of Artificial Intelligence (AI). However, this is an old concept dating back to the 1940s. We explore related processes and identify emerging techniques and methods that have been identified as being particularly relevant to agriultural innovation.

Read more...

Economic development, innovation, decision analysis and locational state theory - A Note

The APEurope Economic Unit provide a short outline of how economic development results from learning and innovation. Innovation is defined to be a practical change in the way something is done for the first time in a specific location. The decisions that give rise to practical change are those best orientated by applying decision analysis as a basis for raising the probability that the outcome will be successful. The relationship between economic development, innovation and decision analysis is an important example of the validity of locational state theory.

Read more...

Decision analysis as a basis for more effective agricultural innovation
The Decision Analysis series


We provide links to all of the 5 articles in the series on decision analysis by Hector McNeill, the director of the George Boole Foundation Ltd. To access click on the title of interest below:

Part 1: What is Decision Analysis and how does it work?

Decision analysis is a precise method to identify projects, support their design and understanding of their degrees of resilience and sustainability as well as support decision-making in the face of change during implementation. It has a major potential contribution to reducing exposure to risk and increasing the returns on investment to lender and donor funding of agricultural development and innovation projects. However, the procedures and methods used seldom feature as part of the training of agronomists, economists and those working in the scientific disciplines in the agricultural domain.

Part 2: Designing resilient projects

Decision analysis is a precise method to identify projects, support their design and understanding of their degrees of resilience and sustainability as well as support decision-making in the face of change during implementation.

It is often assumed that decision analysis is to be applied mainly to the design of a project. However, conditions change and the prevailing conditions at the end of a project can be very different from those planned for during the project design phase. Decision analysis remains an essential technique in ensuring that decisions taken during implementation can ensure appropriate and optimised adjustments to change. In this way the likelihood of better outcomes is increased.

Part 3: Tacit knowledge & performance

In terms of project sensitivity and risk analysis, there is a tendency to emphasize the performance impacts of changes that occur in the environment surrounding a project. It is often assumed that internal capabilities and processes are fixed. However, in reality, the capacity of human resources to improve project performance, changes all the time. The quantitative benefits of changes in human performance can be measured and forecast. This provides for a more transparent and realistic assessment of risks facing a project because the ability to compensate for any externally-imposed changes is enhanced.

Part 4: The cloud-based decision analysis tool box

The analytical techniques, software and hardware that are used to build project cycle and portfolio management systems have advanced significantly during the last 70 years. Since 1940, more than 350 programming languages were developed, averaging over 60 new additions each decade; currently only a handful dominate today's implementations. Hardware has undergone a revolution in terms of processing capacity, speed, dimensions, energy consumption and costs.

This article provides a summary of how the benefits of an advancing state-of-the-art of these factors are being integrated into Navatec System to create a next generation project cycle and portfolio management system.

Part 5: Paying for successful projects

Successful agricultural innovation that translates into real economic growth and enhanced community standards of living depends upon the identification of feasible projects. While emphasis is put on the methods to complete a project cycle, the capabilities of service providers to remain abreast of information technology developments and their ability to turn these into appropriate support for users is of vital importance.


The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) provides research-based policy solutions to sustainably reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition in developing countries. Established in 1975, IFPRI currently has more than 600 employees working in over 50 countries. It is a research center of CGIAR, a worldwide partnership engaged in agricultural research for development.





Decision-Focused Agricultural Research


Solutions
In this article, on the solutions journal, Eike Luedeling and Keith Shepherd, explain that with agriculture providing most of our food and many other products, agricultural decision-makers from farmers to agricultural ministers, should consider all of the multiple trade-offs between the factors that determine output, but this rarely happens. Many of agriculture’s products and services are regularly ignored in decision-making, mainly because they are difficult to appraise. This easily leads to decisions with adverse side effects, such as land degradation, pollution, or loss of cultural heritage. Decision analysis provides decision support that consider factors that are difficult to quantify. It recognizes that rational decisions do not normally require precise information on all factors of interest. Decision Analysis harnesses the knowledge of system experts to produce a high-level model of a decision, which reflects the best available information on plausible decision impacts. Decision Analysis helps solve the problem of data gaps, which has often prevented research from comprehensively forecasting decision impacts. It also allows explicit consideration of risks and variability.

The article presents some examples of applications of Decision Analysis in agricultural development, demonstrating its ability to secure understanding of likely decision impacts, in the face of risk and imperfect information.

Read more...

How much development data is enough?

In this article, Keith D. Shepherd sets out his reasoning that the data revolution offers enormous potential for improving decision-making at every level of development policy.

He also elaborates why gathering data is not enough; the information must also be managed and evaluated – and doing this properly can be far more complicated than the effort to collect it.

Read more...



Innovation in Food and Agriculture

Effective agricultural knowledge and innovation systems ensure that the global food system provides adequate supplies of high quality food and non-food agricultural products, in a sustainable way. OECD work on innovation systems in food and agriculture explores the relationships between innovation, productivity and sustainability, and examines the respective roles for the government and the private sector in strengthening agricultural innovation systems and facilitating adoption at the farm and agri-food firm level.

As part of this work, a framework has been developed to review the impacts of a wide range of policies on the creation and adoption of innovations needed to improve productivity growth and sustainable use of natural resources, leading to concrete recommendations for each policy area. This framework is being applied to an increasing number of pilot countries and will be regularly revised to reflect new evidence and experience with implementation of these country reviews of “Innovation for agricultural productivity and sustainability”.

In parallel, quantitative analysis is being conducted to improve the evidence base for policy recommendations within the framework. Work with farm-level data aims to analyse the economic, policy and structural determinants of sustainable productivity growth, starting with the dairy sector.

Access to OECD publications on Innovation in Food & Agriculture

Two foundations team up to improve the quality of agricultural innovation through new service

Addressing the agricultural research-to-innovation challenge in low income countries






Two foundations have announced their agreement to provide a new service to improve the quality of agricultural innovation. The STRIDES Foundation and Navatec - a division of The George Boole Foundation - will collaborate on a new extension service that supports low income country researchers improve their knowledge acquisition on research and secure a better management of agricultural innovation projects. This collaboration is a culmination of over 45 years experience in the field of agricultural development and in particular agricultural research, project proposal assessment, project design, implementation management and evaluation. This experience has been gained in South America, Africa, Asia and transition economies in Central and Southern Europe.

This initiative addresses the important issue of poor project performance affecting around 50% of economic development projects. In 2016 the total aid budget from government and international agencies totalled some $135 billion and private donors contributed an additional $85 billion. Additional analyses undertaken more recently have come up with similar rates of project failure. Based on a weighted calculation of existing rates of project failure it is estimated that out of this total of $220 billion in international investment, somewhere between $35 billion and $70 billion will be wasted.

Read more ....

Partnering to effectively strengthen whole value chains:
The focus of the Global Program for Grain Legumes & Dryland Cereals


Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (17 February, 2018)

As part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC) initiative over 150 participants from 25 countries met to identify better supportive partnering models. Dr Peter Carberry, Director of GLDC, explained that the Program’s approach is how it can add value to what is already being undertaken. Ethiopia’s Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, H.E. Dr. Eyasu Abraha Alle, who inaugurated GLDC, noted that, “grain legumes and dryland cereals are what have been termed as ‘Smart Food’ because they are: Good for you, Good for the planet, and Good for the farmer. However, they have received less attention and their value chains have not been as well developed. Through GLDC, we will build this whole industry from the consumer end and also develop the food processing industry and connect this right back to the farmers.” He added that, “Grain legumes and dryland cereals are well adapted to the drylands and naturally nutritious. I challenge the CRP to come up with a strategy for the drylands of Ethiopia. GLDC’s vision is to deliver improved rural livelihoods and nutrition by prioritizing demand-driven innovations to increase production and market opportunities along value chains. The program supports research for development purposes on six legumes (chickpea, cowpea, pigeonpea, groundnut, lentil and soybean) and three cereals (sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet). It will focus on the semi-arid and sub-humid dryland agro-ecologies of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The Program is a partnership of CGIAR centers, public and private organizations, governments and farmers worldwide.

Read more

An innovation system is....

An innovation system is therefore a network of organizations within an economic system that are directly involved in the creation, diffusion and use of scientific and technological knowledge, as well as the organizations responsible for the coordination and support of these processes. Based on Dosi G. ‘The Nature of the Innovative Process’. In: Soete L. Technical Change and Economic Theory (Pinter Publishers, London, 1988, p222).
Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS)
What is an innovation system and what does it do?

An innovation system is about people, the knowledge, technology, infrastructure and cultures they have created or learned, who they work with, and what new ideas they are experimenting with.

The approach represents a major change in the way that the production of knowledge is viewed, and thus supported. It shifts attention away from research and the supply of science and technology, towards the whole process of innovation, in which research is only one element. Innovation is essentially the result of an interactive process between many actors. For our work, those are farmers, extension workers, researchers, seed companies, government officials, and many others. Individual organizations rarely possess all the knowledge necessary for the whole process of innovation.

It does not follow a linear path that begins with research, moves through the processes of development, design and engineering, and production, and ends with the successful introduction of new products and processes. Rather, it tends to involve continuous feedback loops between the different stages.

The actors we are engaged with focus on bringing new products, new processes, new policies, and new forms of organization into economic use. In their attempts to bring about change in agriculture, these multiple stakeholders are all part of what may be seen as agricultural innovation systems (AIS).

Read more

Innovation for Agriculture

Innnovation for Agriculture (IFA) is an English organization helping farmers make best use of existing and emerging knowledge… to help them meet the challenge of feeding the world and to improve the environment and animal welfare; creating fulfilling opportunities for current and future generations.

IFA is a consortium of English Agricultural Societies bringing you the latest developments in New Science & Technology. The members include: Devon County Agricultural Association, Royal Cheshire Agricultural Society, Driffield Agricultural Society, East of England Agricultural Society, Lincolnshire Agricultural Society, Newark and Nottinghamshire Agricultural Society, Newbury and District Agricultural Society, Staffordshire and Birmingham Agricultural Society, Suffolk Agricultural Association, Surrey County Agricultural Society, The Royal Agricultural Society of England, The Royal Bath and West of England Society, The Royal Cornwall Agricultural Association, The South of England Agricultural Society, The Three Counties Agricultural Society and Westmorland County Agricultural Society
To visit their site click on the image above.

Cranfield University & Agricultural Innovation

As a postgraduate only, research-intensive university, Cranfield is a British university that is post-graduate only and research-intensive. Their work is designe to deliver advanced solutions applying scientific expertise to the current and future challenges faced by agribusiness and our farming landscape. In 2013, the UK Government launched its Agricultural technologies strategy and invested some £10m in two new Centres for Agricultural Innovation at Cranfield. These are Agri-EPI, the Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre and CHAP, Crop Health and Protection. These combine Cransifeld's research and development capabilities in agriculture, in various configurations, to address the importance of soil resources, sensing and analysis of big-data. To visit their site click on the Cranfield logo.



Energy 4 Impact is a non-profit organisation working with local businesses to extend access to energy in Africa, impacting the quality of life for millions of people. Growing sustainable clean energy markets improves livelihoods and accelerates economic growth. They work in East and West Africa and operate from regional offices as well as our head office in London. The executive team reports to a Board of Trustees comprising private sector and development experts in renewable energy technology, energy policy, finance and investment.

Energy 4 Impact, formerly known as GVEP International, was registered as a UK charity in 2007. It evolved from a partnership between the World Bank, UNDP and other bi-lateral donors, launched at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002. To visit the site click on the logo on the right.


About 3ie

The International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) is an international grant-making NGO promoting evidence-informed development policies and programmes. We are the global leader in funding, producing and synthesising high-quality evidence of what works, for whom, how, why and at what cost. We believe that using better and policy-relevant evidence helps to make development more effective and improve people’s lives.

3ie evidence gap maps

Evidence gap maps (EGMs) aim to inform funding and research decision-making by compiling existing research accessibly in one place in a way that also shows limitations and gaps.

These maps are based on systematic methods to identify and describe completed and ongoing impact evaluations and systematic reviews. EGMs are structured around a framework of interventions and outcomes and include an interactive map that highlights areas with extensive, limited or non-existent evidence. They provide an overview of evidence on the effects of policies and programmes in a particular sector or thematic area. EGMs are available through an online interactive platform on the 3ie website that allows users to explore the full studies and reviews that are included.

About this evidence gap map report

This report provides the supporting documentation for the online EGM map on agricultural innovation developed to inform current 3ie grant-making in this area. The 3ie Agricultural Innovation grant programme is funded by UK aid through the Department for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

Click on the report image to access

Excerpt from introduction....

Agriculture is the main source of income and employment for 70 per cent of the world’s rural population (ILO 2016). Despite this, in 2014 there were only 0.19 hectares of arable land per person, thereby failing to provide farmers with sufficient opportunities to increase their productivity and income (Alexandratos and Bruinsma 2012). The depletion and degradation of agricultural land and global water supplies are serious challenges that affect the sustainability of many farmers’ livelihoods. In regions such as South Asia, East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the effects of low agricultural production can be seen strongly affecting both food security and household well-being.

The World Bank’s World development report 2008: agriculture for development highlighted the importance of the agriculture sector in international development, encouraging opportunities for economic growth, food security, poverty reduction, sustainable land management, climate change mitigation, and overall improvement in the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in low- and middle-income countries (L&MICs). The report stated that a developing country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth, if originating from agriculture, is four times more likely to be effective in reducing poverty than other forms of domestic income (Byerlee et al. 2008). Policies that foster higher productivity and encourage climate-smart agriculture can have substantial sustainable impacts on poverty alleviation, food security and improved well-being, particularly for smallholder farmers (Asfaw et al. 2014).

Innovations in the field of agricultural production are key in helping determine best practices and technologies to help improve farmers’ livelihoods. Although many agricultural technologies are being created continuously, the effective dissemination of knowledge remains a challenge that inherently affects the productivity of many rural farmers. Farmers’ lack of access to resources and infrastructure, as well as a lack of capacity to support local agricultural production, can lead to unstable rural economies and declines in farmers’ well-being.

Improving agricultural innovations and technologies in developing countries is of paramount importance, as it offers new opportunities for increased agricultural production and income sustainability (Feder et al. 1985). In an analysis of the intersection between agriculture and development (Dethier and Effenberger 2012), the authors identify two challenges that hamper the sustainable growth of the agriculture sector in developing countries: the need for increased food productivity and the volatility of food prices. Thus, many agricultural innovations aim at targeting factors that contribute to improving production and quelling volatile markets. This includes improving access to credit and market information and land tenure security, encouraging diverse employment, and increasing supplies of complementary inputs (fertilisers and seeds) and infrastructures (irrigation and roads) (Feder et al. 1985).


Agricultural innovation
is the key
to overcoming
rural poverty
and to ensure that
there is enough food
at accessible prices
for everybody...



The UK Government's Strategy for Agricultural Technologies has an objective of accelerating growth in the agricultural technology sector by funding four Centres for Agricultural Innovation that aim to advance the development, adoption and exploitation of new technologies in the agri-food sector.

Agrimetrics, is the first of four Agri-Tech Centres and is set up as:
  • An independent, not-for-profit centre
  • Partnership between four Founder Partners: Rothamsted Research, The University of Reading, National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) and SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College
  • Expertise and capabilities in data science, smart analytics, bio-informatics, translational research and knowledge exchange in crops, livestock and food, and sustainability.
Read more....



The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB)

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is a statutory levy board, funded by UK farmers, growers and others in the supply chain and managed as an independent organization (independent of both commercial industry and of Government). The stated purpose of AHDB is to inspire UK farmers, growers and industry to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Their vision is for a world-class food and farming industry inspired by, and competing with the best.

AHDB believe that they can achieve their vision by focusing their efforts on four key priorities:
  • Inspiring British farming and growing to be more competitive and resilient
  • Accelerating innovation and productivity growth through coordinated R&D and knowledge exchange
  • Helping the industry understand and deliver what consumers will trust and buy
  • Delivering thought leadership and horizon scanning.
Read more....








CAPACITY FOR CHANGE
Common Framework on Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems


The Tropical Agricultual Plan (TAP) is an action plan to develop capacity for agricultural innovation systems. This is supported by the Common Framework on Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems (CDAIS) an EU-funded action supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of UN and AgriNatura.This programme has a TAPipedia or knowledge base which is worth visiting. To visit this section click on the TAPipedia image.

The TAP document describing the CDAIS, explains why this group consider agricultural innovation to be important as follows:

"In the context of a growing world population and climate change, agricultural innovation has a high potential to increase farmers’ income, improve food security and allow for a sustainable management of natural resources. As agriculture increasingly involves complex interactions of environmental and socio-economic factors with stakeholders at multiple levels, innovation needs an Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS) perspective. The AIS comprises four main components: research and education, business and enterprise, bridging institutions, and the enabling environment"".

The pilot countries included in the Common Framework include:
  • Angola
  • Bangladesh
  • Bukino Faso
  • Ethiopia
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Laos
  • Rwanda
Read more....



To visit the CDAIS website , click on the image on the right




Agricultural Innovation Systems : An Investment Sourcebook

This World Bank sourcebook draws on the emerging principles of Agricultural Innovation System (AIS) analysis and action to help to identify, design, and implement the investments, approaches, and complementary interventions that appear most likely to strengthen innovation systems and promote agricultural innovation and equitable growth. Although the sourcebook discusses why investments in AISs are becoming so important, it gives most of its attention to how specific approaches and practices can foster innovation in a range of contexts.

The sourcebook is targeted to the key operational staff in international and regional development agencies and national governments who design and implement lending projects and to the practitioners who design thematic programs and technical assistance packages. The sourcebook is also an important resource for the research community and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and may be a useful reference for the private sector, farmer organizations, and individuals with an interest in agricultural innovation. It concludes with details on the sourcebook's structure, a summary of the themes covered in each module, and a discussion of the cross-cutting themes treated throughout the sourcebook.

To secure a copy of this publication click on the image on the right.




10 Innovations for Climate Action in Agriculture

The Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. CGIAR science is dedicated to reducing poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security, and improving natural resources and ecosystem services. Its research is carried out by 15 CGIAR Research Centers in close collaboration with hundreds of partners, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, development organizations and the private sector.

Agriculture needs to produce 60 percent more food by 2050 to feed a growing population, and these production increases need to occur even as the impacts of climate change are becoming evident in crop, livestock and fisheries systems globally. However, agriculture also contributes 19-29 percent of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions and will need to reduce emissions by 2030 in order to achieve the global goal of limiting warming to 2o Celsius. The CGIAR site lists the following to be the 10 Best Bet Innovations for Adaptation in Agriculture developed by their scientists (click to access):
  1. Agroforestry to diversify farms and capture carbon

  2. Aquaculture to enhance nutrition and diversify incomes

  3. Stress tolerant varieties to counter climate change

  4. Improving smallholder dairy enhanced incomes and greater climate resilience

  5. Alternate wetting and drying in rice systems

  6. Micro-irrigation powered by solar, expanding access to affordable irrigation and enhancing resilience

  7. Digital agriculture from tailored advice to shared value with millions of farmers

  8. Climate-informed advisories to enhance production and resilience

  9. Weather index-based agricultural insurance for countries and farmers

  10. Blended finance



APEurope.org