The introduction of something new. That’s how briefly the Van Dale dictionary describes the word innovation. However, something that’s merely new doesn’t necessarily make an innovation a success. It takes more than that.
For example, it seems that, on average, the advantage of something new should be nine times greater that the disadvantage. And, of course, an innovation must be easy to use. And, remarkably, an innovation shouldn’t be too innovative, or it won’t fit in with our current behaviour. And there are a few more of these rules of thumb. This is how many new techniques became successful in arable farming. Look at GPS. On our farm, it started with an automatic pilot. Today, RTK-GPS controls the sprayer sections and the fertiliser spreader, connects the yield measurement of the combine and the potato harvesters to a location, controls our compactor and allows our contractor to spread manure at specific locations. The possibilities are endless, although there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
In addition to the aforementioned rules of thumb, the introduction of innovations in agriculture is now clearly influenced by an external factor: the strong desire from society to adapt cultivation to natural, environmental and climate objectives. This requires innovations that don’t always bring benefits in terms of effectiveness, efficiency or financial return. For example, there have been wonderful innovations on the market in the form of haulm extractors and camera-controlled hoes, but they hardly compare with the sprayer. At the same time, I don’t need to explain why we can’t do without these innovations.
Looking at it in this way, innovation isn’t only something new, it’s also adapting to the changing environment. If you don’t do that, you won’t make it in the end. So, it’s innovate or shut down. That may sound dramatic, but the sector has proved to be resilient and innovative. The challenge is to get everyone on board. Not only the growers but also the businesses around them, as well as education and research. Because, while it’s great that we’ve got ‘clever machinery’, it’s the people that make the sector future-proof. And that, in the end, is nothing new under the sun.
The content of this blog is the Potato World Vision column by Hilko Bos (37), arable farmer in the village of Oldehove (Province of Groningen), published in PotatoWorld magazine 2022/01.
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