Selling of Farming KnowledgeWednesday, Aug 8, 2001
A week after the Great Knowledge Wave Conference and farmers could rightly be wondering – so what?
Education, research, clustering, venture capital, all projected images of structures and intentions
of great growth and wealth creation, but is this a likely outcome for primary producers in NZ?
It could be that all that this conference will achieve for the rural industries is the commercialisation
of the informal knowledge systems that farmers have developed to manage their businesses. But
this commercialisation will be for export by the institutions and companies that originally were
established to service development at home. .
A report today of AgRresearch’s plans to develop “pathways for New Zealand technology to
get into Chile” is a good example of a “Knowledge Wave” development that would
please the conference promoters.
The interesting element of this proposal is that fact that all the “knowledge” listed to
be exported by AgResearch is based on existing practises in NZ which by simple packaging and pricing
will be provided directly to competing producers selling on our international markets.
An aspect that needs consideration in these “knowledge” marketing proposals is how best
a beneficial interest can be retained in the knowledge.
AgResearch seems in this instance to be acting as a wholesaler of free knowledge with an interest limited
to the delivery of a short term chargeable service. A service little different from that of
the shearing instructors of forty years ago, who travelled the world improving the efficiency of competing
wool producers for the price of a daily fee..
Capturing a longer term benefit from the “knowledge wave” seems to demand more than just
a casual distribution of the “knowledge” – in this instance NZ’s advanced
knowledge of pastoral production systems for little more than a consultant’s fee.
GlobalCo seems to have understood the structures needed to retain ownership of its “knowledge”
and by the use of joint ventures or wholly owned companies plans to return value to its farmer
owners from both the knowledge and an ongoing contribution from the efficiency improvement of
The task for AgResearch is more complex and may suggest that they are not the best organisation to “sell”
NZ’s pastoral knowledge because their current approach has a very short term
return of benefit primarily to its employees and the crown only.
Their approach is utilising existing farmer knowledge and avoids facing up to the need for ongoing proprietary
research and training which would normally be the major input of knowledge marketing companies.
AgResearch is taking on the pose of an export free loader when its primary mission as a CRI is to champion
the further development of an efficient NZ agricultural industry.