The #OFE2021 Pre-conference Webinar Series

In May 2021, the On-Farm Experimentation Community organised theopen access #OFE2021 Webinar Series, that discussed a range of key topics prepared by the Conference Organising Committee together with dedicated working groups.

Top: Dr Myrtille Lacoste, Dr Matthew McNee, Dr Nicolas Tremblay, Dr Osana Bonilla-Findji, A/Prof Louis Longchamps, Ms Claire Rhodes, Dr Anton Eitzinger, Prof Richard Tiffin, Dr Simone Van der Burg
Bottom: Dr Isabelle Piot-Lepetit, Prof Simon Cook, Dr Zelalem Lema, Dr Stephane Lemarié, Dr Véronique Bellon-Maurel, Dr Takashi Tanaka, Dr Medha Devare, Prof Leanne Wiseman, Dr Helen Hambly Odame, Dr Roger Sylvester-Bradley


Opening of the #OFE2021 pre-conference webinars

Myrtille Lacoste
Curtin University, Australia

The OFE2021 conference is inspired by a movement that could be of global significance:
farmers, researchers and other stakeholders are experimenting collaboratively on farms at meaningful management scales, as a means to drive change in
agriculture. This On-Farm Experimentation process, or “OFE”, takes different shapes and forms, but all initiatives share a number of key features:

• They occur on the farm and a t field scale

• They bring in participants who add value to an ongoing process of inquiry

• They focus on data, to develop insights AND to improve the inquiry process

• They emphasise farmer needs as a means to reveal paths to value for all

The farmer-centric philosophy of OFE does not conform precisely to top-down or bottom-up paradigms: OFE develops an additional pathway to create information and knowledge to those that currently exist. A process that might be thought of as a third way of creating value: anchored with farmers, and with scientists, but not only – and not either.
OFE offers a practical solution to the challenge of transitioning agri-food systems, by reframing questions, re-thinking relationships between farmers and scientists, and by opening new spaces for collaboration at the intersection of agricultural, social, and data sciences. OFE has risen incrementally, building on 200 years of experimental history and decades of participatory efforts. Contemporary acknowledgement of the potential for on-farm experimentation to drive change coincides with growing clarity about the need for:

• More inclusive research (because no one-size fits all)
• Open innovation that promotes fruitful exchanges
• Shared value propositions and new business models that align the varied interests of farmers, scientists and other stakeholders, around common grounds

Another striking change supporting the recent OFE momentum is the rise of digital technologies. The underlying motivation is two-fold. First, digital tools are powerful enablers of OFE, allowing to capture large amounts of information, scale processes to reach people, and share data and insights. Second, OFE could help test the relevance of digital technologies on farms with farmers.

And yet, OFE does not necessarily require digital technologies. In fact, it can be argued that the strongest enablers of OFE are people. This must be acknowledged as technologies have opportunity costs, in rare materials but also expertise. This conference must start to address these questions, for we must prioritise efforts to shape the future, rather than “work hard” and hope that will be enough to lead us where we need to be.

OFE is for everyone because it is evidence-driven. We know that solutions cannot solely be technological, but also must involve changes in culture, policy and governance – especially if we want to scale these solutions. Therefore, this conference addresses social and technical matters jointly. We need to ally different approaches, identify useful patterns, and share experiences and lessons to build momentum.


Theme 1: “People and processes”

Chair: Myrtille Lacoste – Curtin University, Australia
Co-moderator: Quentin Toffolini – INRAE, France

How can we ensure that digitally enabled On-Farm Experimentation avoids the classic “Technology Fallacy,” and instead centres transformation around people? Recent research from MIT demonstrated that “people are the real key to digital transformation” (Kane 2019). Change is as much about us and our organizations as it is about the technology. Change occurs when people change, transformation occurs when individual changes scale up through their networks and their organizations. The underlying change throughout is in knowledge and shared culture. This webinar will explore various examples of scalable change that apply to OFE, through lessons learned from thinkers and practitioners with experience in a range of institutional and business settings across the world. The webinar will focus on identifying interactions between digital technologies and these varied organizational environments that nurture (or impede) transformational change. Attention will be paid to pinpoint specific mechanisms supporting systemic goals of productivity, social and environmental sustainability, in both the Global North and the Global South.

1) Organising OFE while avoiding the “Technology Fallacy”
Myrtille Lacoste – Curtin University, Australia
2) Managing the Interface - Falkland Islands and Australia
Matthew McNee – Department of Agriculture, Falkland Islands
3) The GeoFarmer app: a modular platform for community based participation
Anton Eitzinger and Osana Bonilla-Findji
CGIAR CCAFS, Alliance Bioversity, CIAT, Colombia
4) Farmer innovation tracking: exploring for scaling and changing
Chloé Salembier – INRAE and FNCUMA, France
5) Farmer hybridising knowledge and technologies to develop new innovations: Timor-Leste
Rob Williams – AI-Com and ACIAR, Timor-Leste
6) Enabling co-creation, inclusion and scaling from farmer engagement in Northern Benin
Check Abdel Kader Baba – TMG Research, Germany
7) Multi-Party Innovation Ecosystem platforms, Ethiopia
Zelalem Lema – University of New England, Australia
8) Capacity for OFE people and processes
Helen Hambly Odame – University of Guelph and
CGIAR-CIP Board, Canada