Building Stronger Agri Networks Event
Farm forum recommends development of stronger working relationships in the regions
Agricultural Science Association (ASA) event discusses benefits of information sharing among those working closely with farmers
22nd January 2016: More than 50 agri-professionals and farmers from the South-East region gathered this morning in the Newpark Hotel, Kilkenny to explore the benefits of developing stronger working relationships in order to offer an enhanced professional service for farmers. Attendees at the event, organised by the Agricultural Science Association (ASA), heard that increasing fragmentation in the industry means that agri-professionals often work in isolation.
The event highlighted the benefits of better information sharing and networking across the various disciplines of service provision while exploring models for enhancing knowledge exchange.
Vet, 2014 Nuffield Scholar and ASA Member, Finola McCoy who recently published a report* on the topic offered recommendations on the benefits of improved cross-professional networks.
“As part of the management of their business, farmers currently engage with many varied service providers – such as vets, nutritionists, Teagasc advisors, bank managers, farm organisations, farm consultants, sales representatives etc. – yet these agricultural service providers rarely engage with, or even know each other. As farming systems evolve and business decisions change, so too will the demand for an even broader range of skillsets. Service providers will need to either upskill in new areas, or have connections and work with experts from other fields in order to provide a comprehensive service to their farmers”, she said.
While acknowledging that barriers such as time, opportunity and competition exist, the key recommendation from the event was that the industry take advantage of existing ‘honest brokers’ such as the Agricultural Science Association (ASA) and Animal Health Ireland who already build networks and could allow for better information exchange between farm service providers.
Neil Keane, ASA President said “We are delighted to have the opportunity to facilitate today’s discussion which explored the ways in which agricultural service providers can ultimately improve the service offered to farmers. The sharing of information about the latest scientific developments and research is crucial in ensuring that agricultural professionals are continually developing and adding to their knowledge base in order to lead the Irish agri industry into the future”.
Dr. Monica Gorman, ASA Council Member and Lecturer in Agricultural Extension and Innovation in UCD who hosted the panel discussion said “Farm families who are well linked into networks of knowledge and information are much better able to deal the challenges and opportunities that face farming today.The agri-professionals who provide knowledge and information to farmers likewise need to be well linked and talking to each other so that they keep their eye on the big picture and collaborate for the greater good of Irish agriculture.”
ASA Member and Teagasc Dairy Advisor Richard O’Brien, said, ” At the end of the day, if farm service providers have some common ground and a common objective, then it’s always better to work together. From a Teagasc perspective, we have access to the most up-to-date research and if we can share that with others working with farmers, we are all supporting a common message. An example of this in practice is that we work closely with local bank managers, as part of a joint programme with Glanbia, and this sharing of information and expertise helps farmers to make better decisions.”
Other panellists included Mark Rochford, Dairy Farmer in family partnership, Nuffield Scholar 2013 and Member of Damer discussion group, and Heather Peppard, Nutritionist, Brett Brothers Ltd, both ASA Members.
For further information on the Agricultural Science Association, or to download a copy of the Nuffield Report visit www.asaireland.ie.