Extending Innovation

Matt Kealley speaking during the conference

Matt Kealley speaking during the conference


This article was originally published in the Cassowary Coast Independent on 28 September 2017


In mid-September, the Asian Pacific Extension Network hosted its annual conference in Townsville. The conference brought together over 300 delegates from more than 40 countries to talk about the latest research and innovation developments coming out of extension practices right around the world.

A feature of the conference was the work undertaken in Australian extension settings, especially within the Australian sugar industry.

Matt Kealley, Senior Manager for Environment and Sustainability at CANEGROWERS, was one of the keynote speakers. Matt delivered an insightful presentation that highlighted not only the strong history of research and innovation in the history of cane but its commitment to continuing to evolve in the face of modern challenges.

Matt’s presentation focused on the need for the cane industry and the extension network supporting it to continue to ask questions about how practices can be adapted, technologies created and strategies implemented to enhance the industry’s social licence to operate through primarily a customer centric approach.

“Customer centric means responding to the needs, wants and desires of the market and of key purchasers when considering the entire sugar cane production process” he said.  

A second theme presented at the conference was the ways in which the extension network could better understand the needs, wants and behaviours of growers. It was suggested that there can often be a prioritisation of the technical aspects of extension over the more social, interpersonal and behavioural aspects that accompany modern extensions practices.

John Pickering from the Cane Changer project highlighted the need to put the growers first when designing and delivering any form of extension practices. Including large scale projects designed to enhance farming practice change.

In delivering his presentation Pickering spoke about the Cane Changer project’s activities underway in Tully and Innisfail, and how over 100 growers have signed up to the project across these two districts driven largely by its understanding of the grower prospective.

The conference provided indirect support for projects like Cane Changer that seek to adopt a collaborative, positive and supportive approach to working with agricultural landholders. Towards goals that are beneficial to the farmer, the community and the environment.

If you would like to find out more about the Cane Changer Project head to canechanger.com or speak to your local CANEGROWERS office.