Episode 1: What is innovation & what motivates people to do it?

Vic Drought Hub - Farmland 1

Kirsten Diprose:
We acknowledge the traditional owners of country throughout Victoria and recognize their continuing connection to land, waters, and culture. We pay our respects to the elders past, present, and emerging.

Nigel Kerin:
Innovation, for most at agriculture, will have a connotation of bright, shiny paint. It's electronics. It's got algorithms.

Dr Dorin Gupta:
I believe that farmers need to be in the center of all the decisions from the very beginning.

Ivan Shaw: Innovation is, I've been doing it this way. There may be another way of doing it that's better.

Kirsten Diprose:
Hi. I'm Kirsten Diprose and this is Innovation Ag. I'm a farmer, former journalist, and now a research fellow. This podcast is more than just interesting stories about agriculture.

We're aiming to understand how to innovate in ag, whether you're on a farm, working in industry, or helping to develop ag policy.

Brought to you by the Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub. We're featuring guests right across Australia and even internationally.

So to start us off on this innovation journey, what is innovation and what motivates people to make a change? But first, if you'll allow me to get all first speaker of the debate team here, judges, audience, the affirmative would now like to define innovation.

Nigel Kerin:
It's more sitting back and looking at what we can maximize. What can we make the best out of this situation?

Ivan Shaw:
Shifting the paradigm, taking it back to a more sustainable way of doing things.

Dr Dorin Gupta:
To bring a change with conscious efforts, being proactive to enact that change.

Prof. Ross Kingwell:
Most people think about innovation as technical innovation, but it can also be social.

Kirsten Diprose:
Right. Turns out innovation isn't so easy to define. Does anyone in Australia at least actually call themselves an innovator or an entrepreneur? Let's face it. If you put the title innovator on your business card, people are going to have a very different name for you.

This episode is all about understanding what innovation actually is because it's more than just buzzing drones and fancy tech. In fact, technology means nothing if it doesn't actually make anything better.

Now that last voice you heard define innovation is actually a bit of a rockstar in the world of agriculture economics. Professor Ross Kingwell has studied how farmers have changed practices to adapt and innovate when faced with challenges such as drought.
So do these farmers call themselves innovators or entrepreneurs?

Prof. Ross King...:
My gut impression is most farmers see themselves as the inheritors and the custodians of familial tradition. They don't first and foremost see themselves as business entrepreneurs.

Now, of course, there's the exception to that. There are some farmers who are truly innovators, constantly on the lookout for better ways of doing things. The issue of farmers being entrepreneurs, yeah, it's an interesting question.

They need to be and they need to be risk-takers, but at times, they also need to be cautious and they need to be traditionalists. So they're between a rock and a hard place.

Kirsten Diprose:
What will motivate, not just farmers, but the agriculture industry and people within the agriculture industry to actually change practices or do something new or incorporate technology? What is the thing that makes them do it?

Prof. Ross King...:
There's the old adage, necessity is the mother of invention. That's certainly true that when you are in a difficult spot, and that could be due to climate volatility, it could be to price troughs due to calamities of pest disease. When you are screwed down, there's a few options. Some are really deleterious.

You can be screwed down so badly, so mentally scarred that you literally do nothing and that's a horrible place to be in. Some farm businesses end up there and that kills innovation. If we can prevent that trough, then you get into a sweeter spot where people realize that they have to do something differently.

So their antenna are up and they're asking questions that they wouldn't previously have asked. I think it's that environment that is conducive to people embracing innovation or doing things differently.

Kirsten Diprose:
That's the position Nigel Kerin found himself in. He farms just south of Dubbo in New South Wales, trading cattle and running a seed stock business, Kerin Poll Merino.

Nigel Kerin:
I believe we are okay at farming, but we weren't that good at business and that's what we had to improve on. So we tweaked our business skills and started looking at things differently. When you look at the seed stock business, the Merino business, that was pretty simple one.

All we had to do was compete against the other breeds and to do that, all we had to use was science and technology. So that involved breeding values, ASBVs, genomics, all that.

All that's Kerin Poll to where it is today because we are an early adopter of that technology and lots of people have been able to implement that themselves and do a good job of it. But I reckon the one big thing about innovation is reinventing a climate. I look at the climate that we've been dealt in the last 15 years, it's getting more extreme each year.

For me, the innovation in our business has been very much around turning what 95% of agriculture we'll call a negative thing, climate change, into an absolute positive cash cow.

When the drought broke in March 2020, we looked at our business and went back and went, did we miss anything? What went well? What could have been better? When we looked at what could have been better is we didn't come up with anything because we were making decisions ahead of time all the time while we're in that period.

Our business financially went back. We basically tore up $1.3 million over the three years. But the interesting thing was we were back in the black four and a half months after it broke in March 2020. That was from using really innovative thinking. We didn't buy anything. We didn't have to introduce some magical machine that turned out money.

We just looked at what class of animal in the Australian livestock game would have the most amount of emotion tied to it the day it rained? I have four mentors. When I can't work something out, I have four mentors I go to and I ask them the same question and they all come up with the same answer.

So for us, it was about using technology, marketing, and innovation to get us back in the black. In this case, we ai’d two and a half thousand Angus heifers. We used branding from a well-known stud to help us market that.

When the drought broke the class of livestock that had the most amount of emotion tied to it, it was pregnant black heifers because the northern cattle industry had been absolutely smashed by numbers and those wanted to restock.

It wasn't a shattering innovation, but my God, I'll tell you what it was, it got us out back in the black very quickly coming out of that drought. It was just thinking different that created that space that we got ourselves quickly back ...

Drought's not the big boogeyman. It's always been to Australian agriculture. We now know how to manage that in simple things like innovation. As I said, it's not shattering innovation.

The use of containment feeding in drought, looking after your landscape, not in nerving your landscape, not having your landscape blow in a drought. It allowed us, the day it rained, we'll be back in business. Our doors are open because we looked after the landscape.

That actual drought was five to seven years in Queensland, but we were able to receive really good prices for sheep and cattle where previously in those types of droughts, they were worth nothing. I now call a lot of our farming families in Australia, they're corporate family farms. I think the word innovation, you could nearly replace that with simplicity.

When you look at their business models, they're incredibly simple and they do things well. They usually do one big enterprise and one other enterprise. The secret to simplicity is having very few enterprises, love doing what you do and have it matched to the landscape you live in.

That is the secret, whether it's grain or animals, no matter what it is to having a sustainable business or a growing business. A business that's green and grown and not ripe and rotten, it must be simple.

Kirsten Diprose:
Professor Ross Kingwell actually studied how farmers innovated during drought by following 249 farmers over a decade in WA's Wheatbelt, a massive undertaking. In that time, there were multiple severe droughts. Professor Kingwell examined their farm financial performance along with rainfall data and there were some surprising results.

Prof. Ross King...:
We were able to know exactly what rainfall each farm received each year over that decade, and what did we conclude? Well, no surprise that we concluded that if the business more frequently experienced drought, that tended to financially impede that business.

So that's if you like altruism, that was completely expected. Those businesses that experienced the unfortunate sequence of consecutive droughts, at the end of the decade, those businesses were actually in a superior financial status to the businesses that experienced separate droughts.

Kirsten Diprose:
Sorry, what? Two droughts are better than one? Not exactly. These businesses were generally mixed, running sheep and crops. At the time, due to technological innovations and higher grain prices, crops became the better investment. So the farming businesses forced to make a switch from sheep to more crops ultimately fared better over the decade.

Prof. Ross King...:
Whereas the farmers that could survive a single drought didn't make that farming system switch because they could recover. They retained their sheep and they then, years later, experienced yet another drought, but there was no trigger to force them to reappraise the way in which they need to manage their farming system.

Those farmers that were competent and skilled at managing people and resources at those crucial times tended to, at the end of the decade, be in a more sound financial position and experience greater equity and income growth.

Sometimes, the best use of your time is in planning, not doing, and I think that's often a trap for farmers because they've watched their appearance work in the business, which means that they're always busy doing something.

Whereas perhaps the better use of the farmer's time is to be the coordinator, the organizer, the reflective resource for the business and less the manual laborer. And particularly in communities where the social fabric is being constantly weakened either through stagnant or declining populations, farmers live in those communities and want to inject something into those communities.

Kirsten Diprose:
I'm glad Ross mentioned the social or community side of innovation, and we'll return to that later in this episode.

As we've just heard, innovation is not just tech, but better equipment and mechanization has undoubtedly had a big impact on farm production in Australia. In fact, without advancements in tech, there's one particular industry which probably would've disappeared here in Australia altogether.

Ivan Shaw:
We had to be able to put it into a position where we could mechanize all the processes we used to do by hand.

Kirsten Diprose:
That's Ivan Shaw. He's a retired dried fruit grower from Merbein near Mildura. Back in the 1990s, everything was still done by hand, and meanwhile, the wine industry was taking off.

Ivan Shaw:
We were really at the crossroads. The industry really, really lost a lot of acreage to the wine industry.

Of course, we all know that that was an overreaction and a lot of people found that they were in difficult situation when the surplus in wine certainly came to the surface. So people who stuck with dried fruit and did it properly and embraced mechanization have done pretty well.

Kirsten Diprose:
And the reason those dried fruit growers survived is largely due to Ivan Shaw. His invention has even been named after him, and I recommend Googling it if you can so that you can have a mental picture.

It's called the Shaw swing arm trellis. This innovation built on the change of practice seen in the '60s and '70s when trellis drying was developed by the CSIRO. Now, trellis drying involves drying the fruit while it's still attached to the vine to the point it can be mechanically harvested.

Ivan Shaw:
They're the concepts we built as their swing armor. The CSIRO also did some valuable work on a basic type of concept of a swinger, and I thought that was just the most fantastic concept on earth, but it didn't get accepted in the industry because it was impractical in the sense that it would fall over and you couldn't manage it.

Kirsten Diprose:
So Ivan and some other local growers started tinkering to help design a system that would work.

Ivan Shaw:
You need to recognize good concepts when you're there, because if you can't recognize something that's happening somewhere as being part of the solution to what you want to do, then you've really got a problem. So I thought, well, if it's so cumbersome and so heavy and it falls over, why not just make the whole thing fixed and use those concepts?

So with a lot of chalk on the shed floor and having good hard think about what the problems were, we went back to that concept and totally remade it so that it was going to be practical on the farm.

Because of doing things that way, then we were able to do lots of other things like mechanically cutting these canes at harvest time and mechanically removing all the old canes that were there from last year.

It also allowed fruit to be grown on scale because before, everything was done by hand. Properties were limited, maybe 20, 30, 40 acres if you were ambitious, but this allowed 500 acre lots of vines to be planted and basically, mechanically.

Kirsten Diprose:
Ivan later then developed a specialized harvester for the job, thereby helping to create an entire mechanized system. For our purposes, when thinking about how innovation happens, Ivan's story is really useful.

The problem with some new tech and even research is that it can often be disconnected from the end user i.e., the farmer. But in Ivan's case, local growers already had a well-established connection with the CSIRO and other research bodies, and so they could continue to iterate the product together.

Ivan Shaw:
I think a lot of innovation isn't a eureka moment. It's not a revolution. It just evolves and it needs to build on other things and eventually you get to the point where you say, yes, we finally got it. I think that's what happened when we finally got to the swing arm that we use now. I think people only ever see end results. They don't see what happens in the background on the way there.

When you look back at it in hindsight, it took a long time and it takes just as long for people to actually accept those ideas. Because when I said before that trellis drying was introduced in the early '70s or late '60s by the CSIRO on traditional trellises, even in the mid '90s, it was probably only 15% actually adopted that technique. So there was a big reluctance to change at that point.

Kirsten Diprose:
There was also an established culture of innovation. Dried fruit growing is quite a niche industry. In Australia, it really only still exists in the sunrayser region, so growers have traditionally had to rely on their own inventions.

Ivan Shaw:
That is one of the drawbacks because there isn't that economy of scale for producing equipment and hence, we used to make our own.

That was one of the fun things with the industry, was developing harvesters and cutters and leaf strippers and things like that in the shed out the back to make that all happen because we weren't going to get a big company come along and say, “Gee, we'd love to do that because we can sell 200 units next year.” In fact, yesterday, I came across a thing I'd lost, which was a gadget in field day presentation we got for our little harvester in 1977.

Kirsten Diprose:
I love that it's called Gadget Day. I think now, we've all got these fancy words. It's like agtech and agritech and entrepreneur and just Gadget Day.

Ivan Shaw:
Gadget Day was fantastic.

Kirsten Diprose:
Does Gadget Day still happen in some sense?

Ivan Shaw:
It doesn't. It has a flow on, but the gadget aspect of it really has died. It's sort of a slight attempt to make it still happen, but now it's just a field day and that's a result of lots of things because farmers aren't quite as tinkery as they used to be because things are a lot more industry-based with companies providing solutions and also, the IG’s issues these days.

I think if you look back at some of the old fields and some of the gadgets, they may not pass the old OHS test, but they've provided some great ideas.

Kirsten Diprose:
Ivan achieved innovation across the entire dried fruit sector, which is a huge feat. But what about achieving innovation across the entire food and agriculture sector? What would that even look like?

Let's meet Dr. Dorin Gupta. She's currently working on drought resilient crops and using drones to detect crop disease early as part of the University of Melbourne and Victoria Drought and Innovation Hub. Dorin's across the fancy tech, but she has a much more holistic view of innovation and what that would look like on a large scale.

Dr Dorin Gupta:
I'm born and brought up in foothills of Himalayas in India, in North India. Definitely, I was surrounded with plants all the time. My mom used to grow some veggies in our kitchen garden.

Seeing them from seeding till harvest and enjoying something coming fresh on our plates probably deepened my connection with plants.

So thinking about plants, they are the most critical one because they're the one capable of producing food. They have that amazing pigment we call chlorophyll, which can trap sunlight and can produce food for themselves. Sometimes I wonder we all are parasites because we are dependent on them.

Kirsten Diprose:
Tell me about innovation. What do you think innovation is?

Dr Dorin Gupta:
I believe innovation to me is the ability to bring a change with conscious efforts whereby being proactive to enact that change for a better future is something I believe is an integral part of ag innovation as well.

We have realized that the way we are operating in existing ecosystems and environments, it's not working. Our quest is to ensure that we are using resources wisely and more efficiently.

We are ensuring profitability of the existing farms, but at the same time, taking care of well-being of the societies.

Kirsten Diprose:
Is this new approach to farming production systems the next agricultural revolution? Quick history lesson. The last major agricultural shift was the Green Revolution of the 1960s to 1980s.

The Green Revolution turbocharged agriculture around the world. It brought high-yield varieties of crops and our modern system of farming, including mechanization, better irrigation techniques, fertilizers, and pesticides.

The Green Revolution has been widely credited with preventing famines and helping poor communities. But now, people are talking about another green or ag revolution, combining new technology with a greater focus on sustainability.

Dr Dorin Gupta:
I would definitely say that approach to look for farming systems that is more region-based is the best way forward.

What happened during Green Revolution time was the best solution probably because we improved plant genetics for three major staple crops. We put more area under crops. We provided water. We provided fertilizers.

That helped to increase the production, but at the same time when we switched ourselves off from anything else we were doing at the same time, probably just compromised that concept of high-yielding production system and we didn't realize, we don't see change in one day when we see soil health is deteriorating.

It led to reocurrence of diseases for those crops year after year, which led to more use of chemicals to control those diseases.

But also at that same time, looking at some of the technological innovations which can actually minimize impact on environment by enhancing resource use efficiencies and definitely drone technology, robotics and internet of things, big data, all of them, they have a role to play. I would like to emphasize none of them probably as an individual technology will be able to make that bigger impact.

Kirsten Diprose:
Some of these advanced technologies include changing crop genetics to make them better cope with very dry or even very wet conditions.

Dr Dorin Gupta:
In Australia, most of our crops are rainfed crops, so we are reliant on rainfall patterns. When it's not in the optimum range we expect for a crop to do well, we experience moisture stress or drought stress.

In that space, we can probably do two things, looking for some useful genes which can enhance crop's ability for drought tolerance, but also some immediate mitigation strategies such as one of the element which is called silicon, which is quite abundant on earth, but plant available silicon has shown its potential to mitigate stresses like drought and heat where it enhances plant's ability to tolerate these stresses.

Kirsten Diprose:
I suppose the next step after the controlled stage and then the paddock level is trying to get it out into industry, into commercial farms. How do you go about doing that?

Dr Dorin Gupta:
Dookie farm, which is with Melbourne University is a commercial farm as well. What we do with our research here can be applied to be tested on farm here.

But at the same time, I collaborate with the grow groups such as Riverine plains, Birchip cropping group and they are the champions, I would say, in the region where they have fantastic connections with farmers.

One of the project I'm leading currently is through Future Drought Fund where we are looking for redesigned approach of a farming system.

Kirsten Diprose:
This redesigned farming system is being specifically designed to be more resilient in drought conditions, but it goes beyond the pure science of crops. For Dorin, it's just as important to get the entire innovation ecosystem right.

Dr Dorin Gupta:
We have actually started working collectively. In ag innovation, I believe that change will occur due to strong participation between private and public sector along with a participatory approach where farmers need to be there in the center of all the decisions from the very beginning.

Kirsten Diprose:
What do you think some of the biggest drivers for change are likely to be? You seem to be very motivated by sustainability and as much as I would love to think everyone is motivated by sustainability, it may not always be the case. What do you think some of the likely drivers?

Dr Dorin Gupta:
Unfortunately, if you just reflect for past few months, floods, fires, drought that's been seen in couple of months time in different parts of Australia, I would say.

By just giving a thought around how climate is changing, I think... I was just reading from our data in 2021, one in three of us, we were food insecure by one of the reason, whether food supplies were disrupted or whether there was less production at one or the other stage for one other food commodity.

I think we are all aware that these changes are happening at a very drastic level. These drastic events are so frequent now that we might be facing flood here, but in some parts, we might be facing drought very soon. Why we are talking about drought? Because drought is probably the most reoccurring and detrimental, I would say, stress when it comes to environmental stresses. Floods are equally bad as well.

Kirsten Diprose:
I understand that you are also investigating looking at some indigenous crops as well. Can you tell me a bit about that?

Dr Dorin Gupta:
Yes. When it comes to diversified food production systems, I think we are really reliant on handful of staple crops. When we look for the wealth of native crops in Australia, it's underutilized.

When we look for the commercialization pathways, we have macadamia as one of our native crops, which is commercialized. Within native crops, we have leafy greens, herbs, tuber crops, which indigenous Australians have used for thousands of years.

They are nutritionally dense. They have thrived these environments which has been drier here. So I think it's really critical for us to consider also incorporating them to have more diversified dietary options so as a more diversified production systems.

Kirsten Diprose: It's interesting when we think about innovation and we think about looking at some of the native things that we've got already available to us, like that innovation can sometimes be maybe returning. It might be returning to things, but in a different way.

Dr Dorin Gupta:
My students, they ask this question like, “So Dorin, are you suggesting that native crop's going to replace our staple crops?” I said, no. It took 10,000 years for the domestication of crops like wheat.

Around the world, scientists and farmers, they have spent so much time, energy to bring that staple crop as a staple crop, which is consistent for its growth and can provide right caloric requirements for existing population. But at the same time, when we think at those monocropping systems, they are not most resilient ones.

They are the most compromised one when it comes to how they sustain within the existing system and the pressure they put on the existing systems at the same time.

Kirsten Diprose:
Let's just take stock for a bit. I think we've been given a pretty good sense of what innovation is now. It's basically anything that creates an improvement.

But what makes people innovate? Motivation can come out of necessity, climate change, for instance, being a driver like in Ross Kingwell's study.

Secondly, it could be for profit. Like Nigel says, it just has to make good business sense. And a third factor, which is less talked about in terms of innovation is community.

Of course, it can be a combination of any or all of these three factors too, but for many rural communities, as farms have gotten bigger, towns have become smaller. So people are becoming innovative to bring that vibrancy back.

Andrea Cross:
I was a volunteer like many people are in our community. Being a volunteer, I've now moved into the role of executive officer.

Kirsten Diprose:
Meet Andrea Cross. She made the mistake of volunteering in a country town, and as anyone who does this soon realizes, you are stuck with that job for life. But Andrea has turned her involvement with the Horsham Ag Show into something innovative, not just saving the local show, but totally reimagining the way we showcase our regions.

Andrea Cross:
I'm a farmer's daughter and all my ancestors were farmers in the region of the Wimmera based in Horsham. My parents farm was just outside Horsham. I am a businesswoman as well.

My husband and I have a building and construction company and have had that for almost 30 years. I work at the local showgrounds, which doesn't sound very cool, but it actually is really cool.

As much as we would love our shows to have a much greater agricultural element to them, that's getting smaller and smaller. But I think that agricultural feel, it is the one thing where urban meets rural and for young people, for children today to have an opportunity to actually see a sheep being shown at a show or see actually the sheep fleece, that is just so important.

Shows are fragile at the moment, so we need to boost them. We knew that our ag show was teetering on the edge. In fact, the organization was broke in 2015. So how do we come back from that? How do we make it different?

We knew that it couldn't sustain the organization for a 12-month period. And because we own our facilities, we needed money to maintain the buildings. So we've been looking for a signature event for five years.

We tried German festivals, Irish festivals, and a variety of fundraising activities, but they were too small. We needed something that was going to make a stamp on our community. I just happened to be talking to some women in Northern Territory who run the Freds Pass Show and they were telling me about their 50-kilometer feast that they run the night before their show. And I said, “Ah, tell me more. Tell me more. We need to earn some money. COVID’s hit. All our events have been canceled, so how can I do this and can I steal your idea?” And they absolutely, “Go for it. No worries.”

I said, “Look, I won't steal your branding. I'll create my own.” So that's where it started.

So it came out of financial desperation. The other thing, what I guess was inside me in my head was how do we uncover the food bowl that isn't known in the Wimmera?

We've got some fabulous wineries and we've got some food bowl, food portions that need to be promoted, but they need to come together so we can work as one to promote what we have got in the region.

So the 150 kilometer feast was created out of those two things. It was to celebrate our farmers and our food producers and our growers, and from a financial perspective, we needed to find an event that was going to sustain us for the future.

The 150-kilometer feast, in essence, captures food and wine grown within 150 kilometers of Horsham. Tickets are at a base rate of $150. Numbers are capped at 150 people. Everything's related to 150 as much as we can. But the real key is finding food that is grown and produced, food and wine and beer and gin that's produced within 150 kilometers of Horsham. Finally in November, I was able to set a date and that was February 2021.

The ticket sold out within three days, so we put in a second date. It was meant to be a week apart, but of course, we had another snap lockdown in February and we had to push the event back. So we had back to back nights. We catered for 300 people outside on the banks of the Wimmera River over two nights. I don't even like to think how we did that, but we did. It was just so beautifully executed and I'm so grateful for the team that I had.

Kirsten Diprose:
The event was a huge success and it's now become an annual fixture on the calendar, but there have also been some important and ongoing food connections. For instance, ever heard of muntries? They are native fruit which grow in Western Victoria and are highly valued by the First Nations people of the area.

Andrea Cross:
We had a guy two hours before we went live. He came to me at work and he said, “Andrea, I've got some muntries that I've picked for the feast. Can you use them tonight?” I'm like, “Oh, you don't know chefs very well because they can't do last minute, but we'll work on that.”

Anyway, they were happy to put muntries on one of the dishes. But as a result of that, he's now talking with etch sparkling and they are talking about incorporating the muntries that he grows just up the road an hour into their non-alcoholic drinks.

And also one of the bakeries in Great Western, they're now having conversation as a supplier to local cafes here in Horsham. The extension of their business has gone beyond just their four walls, I suppose, and is now reaching out into the broader community.

An example, another one is a chickpea flour grower who provided the ingredients for the chocolate brownies. Their product is being used in one of the restaurants in Horsham.

Getting back to that innovation side of things, think outside the square. If anything, I would like to encourage people to take risk. Life is about taking a risk. While we didn't know that it would be as successful as what it is, the risk was taken after five years of research.

Go out and talk to people. Go out, meet people, broaden your horizons, get as much information and inspiration as you can get. If you want to achieve something great, start small and make sure that your foundation is well made.

Kirsten Diprose:
There's another key innovation driver, your network. We'll give networking its own episode later on in this series. But while we're looking at what innovation is, it's fair to say innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum. There's a whole lot of collaboration involved even if you're a sole farmer. Here's Nigel Kerin again.

Nigel Kerin:
You've got to have brilliant people working for you outside of your own business, and that's in your trucking companies, your agents, your forward people you do business with, your bankers. You've got to get really, really good advice and have good networks in your business.

The better networked you are, the easier it is. Networking means actually getting off farm and putting yourself out there. I think another really innovative thing is actually working with your lender, your bank to have facilities ready ahead of time for when an opportunity becomes available to your family and your business.

I'm a big one for having a facility sitting there, waiting there, organized, waiting for something to happen because there's always something or fall into your lap in agriculture if you've lined your ducks up. How many people are actually innovative with their lender?
How many people have really good relationships and good reporting back to their lenders? Were there lenders, when you ring them up for, say, more finance, can basically give you an answer straight over the phone because they know your position, where you are right now?

We're now making three to four years income in one year, an average year from just changing our business model to one where we adapt to what's given to us by climate.

I left school at 14.  Did Year 9 and bolted and never did any education till about 40-year-old. So it's not as if education's a barrier to getting ahead, it's more about networks and who you surround yourself with that get you ahead, and a hunger.

There's passion. The word passion comes into it. Yeah, there's the word entrepreneurial comes into it, but just having that hunger to get ahead in life is very much what drives success or non-success.

Kirsten Diprose:
Thank you for listening to the very first episode of Innovation Ag.

This is a 10-part series with new episodes released fortnightly. In our next episode, we look at decision-making, how to know whether you should introduce a new practice or technology without betting the farm.

We heard Dorin speak about native food crops. Well, in the next episode, special guest, Jacob Birch, a proud Gamilaraay man, scientist and innovator, will share stories and tips about commercialising native food crops in Australia and beyond.

To find the transcript and link to resources mentioned in this podcast, visit the Victoria Drought and Innovation Hub website. You'll find it all on our podcast page.

And if you've got any suggestions or feedback, you can let us know there too.

If you've enjoyed this episode, please give us a five-star review and tell your friends.

My name is Kirsten Diprose. This podcast is produced by Rachael Thompson with editorial input from the Vic Hub's farming and research communities.

It's funded by the Australian Government's Future Drought Fund. I'll catch you next time.

Innovation Ag Podcast Cover FA RGB

Sometimes we can confuse ‘innovation’ for high tech machines, sensors and drones. But there’s a lot more to innovation and adoption than fancy technology. So, what actually IS innovation? Bringing about change on farms or within agricultural industries and communities is complex. Firstly, understanding your motivation for change is critical to success.

So, in this episode, we look at three key motivators for innovation: 1) for growth and profit, 2) climate or consumer future-proofing and 3) community building. And sometimes is a combination of all of the above!

We look at whether an ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ is needed to innovate. Traditionally, farmers haven’t considered themselves as entrepreneurs because they are continuing the custodianship of land rather than creating something ‘new’. But is this changing?

Featured guests:

  • Dr Dorin Gupta, Associate Professor of Sustainable Agriculture at The University of Melbourne’s Dookie Campus
  • Andrea Cross, Director of 150km Feast in Horsham
  • Nigel Kerin of Kerin Poll Merino sheep stud, an agricultural entrepreneur
  • Ivan Shaw, inventor of the Shaw Arm Trellis and now-retired Merbein dried fruit grower
  • Ross Kingwell, Professor at the University of WA’s School of Agriculture and Environment