Output Group 4: Communication and Customer Services
On this page:
- To deliver targeted and integrated information on research outputs arising from the GRDC's total R&D investment to all stakeholders
- To facilitate effective communication of the GRDC's R&D outcomes to all its identified customer segments
- To build critical mass in research capacity in collaboration with the GRDC's research partners that is able to maintain high-quality research standards and deliver against current and future needs of the Australian grains industry
- To identify the best means to attract and retain talented students and researchers in agricultural disciplines-such as breeding, agronomy and entomology-which benefit the grains industry
The Communication and Customer Services output group is responsible for communication, including the packaging and delivery of information, across the GRDC's total investment portfolio.
This is achieved by building strong alliances not only with the GRDC's key customer groups-the Australian Government and Australian graingrowers-but also with agribusiness, state agencies, the research community and other key stakeholders. Engaging with key information conduits, particularly public and private sector advisers, also helps the GRDC to tailor and deliver information in ways that recognise the diverse needs of the grains industry.
The output group is also responsible for managing the GRDC's capacity-building investment program that aims to facilitate learning and continuous improvement within the grains industry to achieve profitability and sustainability. The GRDC recognises the importance of supporting, and facilitating access to, the latest in national and international research initiatives, as well as the benefits of establishing industry networks. This is achieved by supporting conferences, scholarships, training and development awards.
In total, $8.93 million was invested through the Communication and Customer Services output group in 2005-06.
In addition, the Communication and Customer Services output group attracted significant co-investment from its research partners. We also relied on the skills and expertise of the people within our partner organisations.
Supporting industry skills development
Business, research and industry skills improvement and development are core components in the GRDC's capacity-building program. Each year the GRDC financially supports individuals associated with its partners (grower groups, government agencies, research organisations and the broader industry) to further develop their skills by undertaking grains industry-related travel, participating in study tours, attending conferences, or undertaking training at a recognised institution or organisation.
In 2005-06, $158,344 was allocated to 50 grains industry groups or individuals to fund travel to conferences or meetings, either overseas or in Australia. For example:
- In September 2005, Mike Sisson, a senior research scientist with the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, travelled to the United States to attend the American Association of Cereal Chemists International Meeting.
- In November-December 2005, Robyn McLean, a senior plant breeder with the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, travelled to Argentina to attend the Seventh International Wheat Conference and visit wheat-breeding programs.
- In February 2006, Thomas Wolf, a research scientist from the Saskatoon Research Centre in Canada, came to Australia to give presentations at the GRDC's Victorian and New South Wales farmer updates.
The GRDC also offers Industry Development Awards that allow graingrowers to undertake study tours within Australia and overseas. In 2005-06, the GRDC allocated more than $153,000 to cover the costs of 13 study tours. For example, a group from Western Australia's South East Premium Wheat Growers Association looked beyond the farm gate to develop the local grains industry during their study tour in August 2005. During the six-day tour, the group interacted with grain handlers in Fremantle, and visited the Bureau of Meteorology, the University of Western Australia's Field Research Station and the State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre.
In 2005-06, the GRDC allocated $293,400 to support 28 conferences, seminars, field days and workshops. The events included:
- Agriculture Australia 2005, held in Melbourne, Victoria
- the Facilitating Adoption of No-tillage and Conservation Farming Practices Conference, held in Tamworth, New South Wales
- the Fifth Australian Sorghum Conference, held on the Gold Coast, Queensland
- the Thirteenth Australasian Plant Breeding Conference, held in Christchurch, New Zealand
- the Fiftieth Annual Conference of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, held in Sydney, New South Wales.
The GRDC also provided $1,524,576 to students and researchers undertaking training at recognised institutions or organisations during the year. Financial support was provided for four visiting fellowships, ten research scholarships, 15 undergraduate honours scholarships and five agricultural training awards.
Expanding industry research capacity
In 2005, the GRDC spent $1.4 million on maintaining and building capacity in disciplines that will underpin current and future strategic research needs in the Australian grains industry. The principal investment areas included:
- undergraduate scholarships
- PhD scholarships
- post-doctoral fellowships
- conference sponsorship
- travel awards.
The GRDC invests in scholarships in strategic areas such as molecular biology, cereal chemistry, cytology, pathology, physiology, quantitative genetics, agronomy and crop modelling. An internal audit of grains industry research scholarships (PhDs) showed that the GRDC invested just over $1 million in 2005-06. Of the 66 GRDC scholarships:
- 60 percent were associated with the Varieties output group
- 26 percent were associated with the Practices output group
- 14 percent were associated with the New Products and Communication and Customer Services output groups collectively.
Having a clear understanding of where the GRDC allocates funds for research scholarships was a key step in setting the foundations for a targeted approach to mapping the skills, capabilities and research capacity presently available in the grains industry.
In 2005-06, discussions were held with a broad range of R&D bodies, including universities, state departments, CRCs and research organisations, to identify and track research capacity investment. The participants recognised that:
- there is a large number of diverse organisations involved in building scientific skills and knowledge across the grains industry
- organisations have overlapping yet distinct roles in building research capacity
- a coordinated approach is required to gain collaboration and cooperation to undertake a comprehensive research capacity audit.
As a result of the discussions, the GRDC concluded that the 'building research capacity' component of the output group's investment needed further analysis. The proposed audit, audit report and a detailed capacity-building strategy were not progressed in 2005-06.
The GRDC will now develop a research capacity plan through a number of staged projects:
- stage 1-conducting an audit of existing research capacity in the Western Region, including current capacity at universities and state departments, as a precursor to a national audit
- stage 2-validating and analysing the findings of the audit, in conjunction with key research partners.
Delivering research information through the airwaves
For the second consecutive season, Harvest Radio delivered information and case studies on topical grains industry issues. Researchers directly involved in addressing many of these challenges outlined the latest findings and strategies for graingrowers to manage and improve farm productivity.
Key topics in 2005-06 included:
- forecasting climate and minimising the risks associated with climate variability during the cropping season
- managing the incidence of crown rot, a fungal disease that was widespread across the eastern grains belt in 2005
- achieving yields of 20 tonnes per hectare in the irrigated zones of southern New South Wales
- addressing grain storage threats, including the ongoing problems associated with phosphine resistance, and developing other methods to enhance graingrower productivity
- minimising the risk of frost damage, with reference to a frost fact sheet released by the GRDC in March 2006.
The programs are hosted on the GRDC's website, GrainZone, and can be accessed through www.grdc.com.au/radio/main.htm.
The GRDC also released Driving Agronomy, an audio CD outlining many of the agronomic topics covered by Harvest Radio. Growers and advisers can listen to the latest issues affecting the industry in a format that can readily be used in vehicle, machinery and home audio devices.
Nipping frost damage in the bud
GRDC-supported research over the past four years has identified some effective strategies to reduce the risk of crop damage and losses due to frost. However, some parts of south-eastern Australia and, particularly, Western Australia experienced major yield losses in 2005 due to a 'once in 20 years' frost event. Economic losses caused by frost damage were estimated to be approximately $310 million across the country.
A GRDC advice sheet was subsequently distributed to 36,200 growers, across Australia, to assist them to minimise frost damage in the future. The advice sheet outlined some important management strategies that growers can implement to reduce frost damage. Key factors to consider include crop type and variety, sowing time, soil type and condition, atmospheric and soil moisture levels, crop nutrition and crop stress levels.
Building human capacity
'Building Human Capacity: Linking Schools to Universities through to Industries' is an innovative pilot project involving collaboration between the GRDC, the University of Tasmania and the University of Western Australia. The project has been recognised nationally by industry, education and government sectors as successfully creating links, developing capacity and building networks and relationships between schools, universities and industry.
The project operates on three platforms:
- student interaction in the classroom
- a science scholarship comprising one week of attendance at the University of Western Australia followed by a one-week industry placement
- curriculum-based professional development courses for teachers.
By 2006, the third and final year of the pilot, the program had achieved the following outputs in Western Australia:
- participation by 53 schools
- 242 classroom presentations, made to a total of almost 5,000 students
- participation by 53 students in the annual scholarship program
- six two-day professional development workshops, attracting a total of 133 teachers
- production of two CDs, with combined distribution to over 750 participant teachers or schools.
Ritu Garg, a Year 12 student from Mt Lawley High School in Perth, was a 2005 scholarship winner. Ritu spent her one-week industry placement at the Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture, where she successfully extracted quality DNA from chickpeas and lupins, under the guidance of Fucheng Shan and his team.
'The DNA extraction and generation of molecular markers are so interesting that they deepened my interest in genetics', Ritu commented.
The GRDC and partnering universities have agreed to continue supporting the program beyond its initial three-year term. The aim now is to expand it further within Western Australia and into other states.
Showcasing the co-investment model
In September 2005 the GRDC participated in Rewards from Innovation-World's Best Food and Fibre, an all-day event held at Parliament House in Canberra to promote the benefits of the co-investment R&D model.
This was a joint initiative, developed in conjunction with all 14 rural RDCs, to raise awareness of the RDC model among one of the key customer groups-the Australian Government. It provided an ideal opportunity to demonstrate and communicate the outcomes of the existing industry-driven, market-responsive approach to rural innovation. It also delivered the message that the RDC model is not only about investing in research but also about investing in the adoption of R&D outcomes on the farm.
For this event, each RDC provided a written case study on key R&D outputs that had delivered major benefits to their particular industry. The GRDC's case study highlighted a number of initiatives that have delivered demonstrable productivity gains to Australia's grains industry over the past 14 years. To support the written case study, a video presentation (delivered by the GRDC's Managing Director, a grower and a researcher) showcased the grains industry as a successful adoptor of new technologies. The presentation communicated the engagement process, involving growers, researchers and agribusiness, which is an important part of the investment cycle.
The presentation also clearly demonsJanuary 31, 2007the strategic use of the grower levy, which has funded a range of innovations including:
- better weed management
- no-till farming
- better crop establishment techniques
- crop agronomy a suite of improved seed varieties.
The case study was shortlisted for the Australian Government Prize for Rural Innovation that was presented at the event.
Supplements boost information access
The GRDC has substantial investments in a number of strategic initiatives, some of which involve as many as 12 projects. Delivering timely information on the progress of multiple research projects related to a particular strategic initiative in a single publication has been increasingly challenging in the past few years. In 2005-06, a pilot communication project began to bundle such information into tailored supplements, which are widely distributed to growers and the broader grains industry at no cost to the GRDC.
Six supplements were produced in the first year, covering grain storage, precision agriculture, nutrient management, farm health and safety, subsoil constraints and pastures. In some instances the supplements covered topics that cut across multiple primary industries. For example, the February 2006 supplement on farm health and safety contained information from a number of reports that were commissioned through the Farm Health and Safety Program, which is jointly supported by the GRDC and six other RDCs. Another example was the June 2006 supplement on pastures, which reported progress on collaborative research between the GRDC, Meat and Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation Ltd.
Recent surveys have found that the supplements are well read and seen as a valuable resource by graingrowers and advisers alike. Comments received from growers and agribusiness people include:
- 'Congratulations on the great effort done on the grain storage supplement'-Queensland departmental officer
- 'I really enjoy your supplements, very informative'-New South Wales grower
- 'Great to be able to access all the recent research information on the same topic in one publication'-Western Australian grower.
Requests for bulk copies of the supplement on farm health and safety were received from Landcare groups, various state mental health services, the Office of the Australian Safety and Compensation Council, agricultural colleges, private agricultural consultants and grower groups. The August 2005 grain storage supplement was in particularly high demand, as bulk copies were requested by seed merchants and silo manufacturers across the country. Demand for copies of the October 2005 precision agriculture supplement exceeded the supply of 46,000 printed copies. As a result of the success of the pilot program, supplements will become a key information delivery mechanism for the GRDC in future.
Research Horizons course opens up leadership opportunities
In partnership with BRI Australia, the GRDC has supported the Research Horizons course for growers, agribusiness people and members of the research community since 1996. The aim of the course is to broaden the knowledge of potential industry leaders through six days of intensive training delivered by BRI Australia in Sydney over two years. The course consists of two stages, and involves a maximum of 16 participants, who are usually nominated by the GRDC's three regional panels.
The content of the course is extensive and has an element of flexibility to allow topical issues to be addressed. Issues covered include grains R&D, breeding new varieties, marketing, grain quality testing, grain processing, grain food products and nutrition, commercialisation of R&D, quantifying research benefits, and board or company director responsibilities.
Participants who complete the course are encouraged to consider applying for a GRDC regional panel position or to seek involvement in other local, state or national grains industry bodies.Of the 287 people who have participated in the course, eight have taken up GRDC panel positions, four have become GRDC Nuffield Scholars, and two have completed the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation course.
Participants have found this course to be a valuable source of information. Course evaluation forms included the following comments from participants:
- 'It has given us a wide variety of topics with some interesting and thought-provoking issues'-Stage 2 participant, 2006
- 'I found the “exploring overseas wheat markets” and “our future direction into Asia” components of the course of great benefit'-Stage 1 participant, 2005
- 'Reinforced the need for better breeding programs or at least better varieties'-Stage 1 participant, 2005.
The course is consistently highly regarded in the Australian grower community, and interest expressed in the course often exceeds the number of places available.
|Communication and customer services||
Mechanisms in place to deliver targeted information to meet stakeholder needs included:
Information, products and services developed for the GRDC's customers during 2005-06 included:
GRDC activities supporting research capacity, to meet the current and future needs of the Australian grains industry, included sponsorships for:
The GRDC worked with research partners to communicate research directions through:
Activities to improve the interaction between researchers and the GRDC's target audiences included:
The GRDC provided secondary school students with a number of opportunities to think of science and agriculture as careers, through:
|An increasing proportion of growersadopting new varieties and practices over the past two years due to GRDCactivities, identified through an ongoingtracking survey of graingrowers||The 2005-06 national graingrowers survey (based on 1,151 telephone interviews) found that 26% of all growers had been influenced by the GRDC in the adoption of new winter cereal varieties in the previous two years, an increase from 22% recorded in the 2005 survey.|
|An increasing level of customersatisfaction with GRDC organisational performance as a whole, and with thedelivery of new and relevant information,products and services in particular, assessed by annual survey of GRDCstakeholders||
The 2005-06 survey of graingrowers found that:
A new question in the 2005 government stakeholder survey found that 62% of government stakeholders rated their interaction with GRDC as 'good'.
In 2005-06, attendance at grower and adviser research updates grew by 4% nationally.
|Greater utilisation of GRDC training and travel awards, and enhanced communication and extension of the knowledge and experiences gained||
In July 2005 the GRDC provided funding to enable a journalist to travel with an Australian expedition to Armenia to search for genetic traits in ancestral grasses. ABC Radio National, The Bulletin magazine and The Farm Weekly newspaper extensively reported the trip and outcomes.
Funding for Industry Development Awards was doubled in 2005-06, due to an increase in the number and quality of applications.
A case study on the 'Impact of various economic instruments on land use change for salinity mitigation of high value assets' by Tenille Graham (a GRDC grains industry research scholar) was presented at the GRDC-sponsored Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society Conference.
|Successful completion of an audit of skills, capabilities and research capacity presently available to support the domestic grains industry||The audit was not completed in 2005-06. Following an internal desktop audit and industry discussions, the GRDC determined that further analysis of the current scientific research capacity and skills was required. The first step will be a pilot research skills audit in the Western Region, to be completed by August 2006.|
|Publication of an audit report that accurately maps existing research capacity and identifies future needs, to include details of the levels and types of support available from all parties (the GRDC and research partners) that contribute to existing research capacity||Because the planned capacity audit was not completed in 2005-06, a report was not published. A pilot research skills audit and a report will be completed by the end of 2006. The report will be validated by industry partners at a workshop.|
|A new strategy in place to address the research capacity needs of the industry, specifying how research capacity is to be strengthened, by whom (responsibility) and by when (timeline); the milestones to be achieved along the way; and resourcing issues||The development of an industry strategy on research capacity will commence when the results of the pilot capacity audit planned for 2006-07 have been collated.|
|The research capacity requirements of GRDC stakeholders and research partners identified via consultation and incorporated into the new strategy||This was not achieved in 2005-06. Key information on the industry's research capacity requirements will be gained from the 2006 audit which will be validated through discussions with industry partners during 2006-07.|