Farm families that are well linked into networks of knowledge and information are much better able to deal with challenges and opportunities, said UCD lecturer Dr Monica Gorman at a recent event organised by the Agricultural Science Association (ASA), which highlighted benefits of better information sharing and networking among agri-professionals, and explored models for better knowledge exchange.
Dr Gorman added, “The agri-professionals who provide knowledge and information to farmers 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.”
Finola McCoy of Animal Health Ireland said, “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 skill-sets.
"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 presented findings from her 2014 IFJ/IFA Nuffield scholarship report on ‘Building Strong Professional Networks”.
The key recommendation from the ASA 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.
ASA Member and Teagasc Dairy Advisor Richard O’Brien, said, “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.”
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