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vegetablesWA Regional Extension Services 2022–25 BY TRUYEN VO REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT OFFICER, VEGETABLESWA
Regional Extension is essentially the means by which new knowledge and ideas are introduced to growers to assist in implementing industry changes and improving the productivity and profitability of growers. Having a form of extension delivery, through the provision of a dedicated
On the 1 new extension project commenced.
Regional Development Officer (RDO), is therefore of critical importance!
vegetablesWA has provided a form of extension to the WA vegetable industry for the past 30 years, which has been funded by the Agricultural Produce Commission Vegetable Fee for Service and National Vegetable Levy funds through Hort Innovation. On 1 July 2022 a new extension project, using the Vegetable Fee for Service funding, commenced. This project will run for three years from 2022–25.
The new extension project strategy integrates two extension approaches:
1. Transferring existing relevant research and development (R&D) benefit to the vegetable industry; and
2. Building a deep understanding of grower needs and R&D gaps that leads to improved adoption July 2022 a and business performance and drives increased R&D investment in the WA industry from local and national funding bodies.
Figure 1 shows the proposed delivery and collaborative research and development cycle to deliver extension activities tailored to WA growers’ need.
This contemporary approach will be delivered over a three-year period to provide a more proactive and future focused extension service.
The approach will have four keystones as shown in Figure 1: 1. Assess growers needs 2. Identify available R&D 3. Identify and address the gaps 4. Deliver extension services
The delivery of these four keystones will be supported by:
• Building an enhanced collaborative research, development and extension partnership strategy.
• Developing a communication strategy that clearly outlines how the RDO will deliver information to growers.
FIGURE 1. COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CYCLE.Identifying grower needs and industry priorities.CONTRIBUTING to the sustainability of the Western Australian vegetable industry.The project will aim to achieve:
1 Extension services to meet current grower needs: vegetablesWA extension activities will continue to provide necessary and valuable services, which benefits growers and the industry as a whole. While grower needs and R&D gaps are being assessed, the RDO will continue to provide services to vegetable growers to address known needs and to link the WA industry to existing local and national projects. As the project progresses, extension services will become more tailored to identified grower needs and industry priorities.
2 Assessment of growers’ known and unknown needs: Traditional top-down approaches to extension assume that growers want to improve their production and business performance and understand what is limiting their productivity or profitability. vegetablesWA will conduct a structured needs assessment to identify and prioritise grower needs at an industry, region and produce type level to guide focus of the project and the extension activities provided to growers. Proposed survey topics and questions include:
— Demographic information — Production systems and crop — Farm business and management — Food safety systems and environment — Marketing — Grower concerns — Information sources and delivery methods — vegetablesWA extension services enhancement
3 Identify available and relevant R&D and gaps: Following the identification and prioritisation of grower needs, the RDO, in collaboration with other industry partners and service providers will work to identify available and relevant R&D to address the issues. Relevant R&D will be converted into materials and activities that can be utilised by the grower. Where no relevant R&D exists, or relevant research cannot be readily applied to the WA context these gaps will be recorded and reported to local and national funding bodies such as DPIRD and Hort Innovation.
4 Build and enhance collaborative research, development and extension (RD&E) partnerships: vegetablesWA already has strong collaborative relationships with local and national RD&E funders and providers. By establishing and formalising a process to identify WA grower needs and report gaps in R&D to funders, enhanced and more productive relationships can be built to drive investment into WA priority needs and issues.
5 Communication: A communication strategy structured to promote and measure extension delivery impacts will be developed for the project. The support and feedback from growers on the delivery of extension and how to improve will be an essential key to the ongoing success of WA extension services.
This contemporary approach to industry extension has the potential to increase adoption of new practices and technology, drive investment in local R&D and contribute to the sustainability of the WA vegetable industry.