IMPROVING innovation adoption in Australia’s sheep industry is the ultimate intent of a unique honours student project at the University of New England.
UNE Bachelor of Rural Science student and 2020 Agrifutures scholarship holder, Samarah Thrift, 22, is undertaking the project to determine if there is an association between learning style and personality type and willingness to adopt new technologies into a sheep production business.
Samarah is seeking the co-operation of sheep producers to undertake personality typing and learning style questionnaires and a survey investigating motivation and barriers to technology adoption.
“Hopefully, we will be able to see if there is a relationship between people’s personalities and learning styles, and what and when they adopt, and what motivates them to adopt.
“I hope to get some recommendations for the industry and how it needs to target marketing for different people,” she said.
“I think this is really relevant to the industry and addresses something that really hasn’t been answered.
“Given with what is happening in the meat and wool markets, and that flocks numbers decreased during the drought, we need to be aiming for our best production from the animals we have here,” she said.
“We need to be looking at the most efficient production from the animals that we have and I think the only way we are going to push that along is through the adoption of innovative practices and technology.”
Samarah said the project was working with the assumption that adoption of new technology in the industry could be improved, in comparison to adoption rates in other agricultural sectors such as cropping, beef and dairy.
The project brief states that while innovative practices are considered to maximise profit in Australian sheep production, it remains unclear why some practices are adopted, and others are less successful.
The potential benefit of the research is for sheep producers to have targeted adoption programs based on their learning style, motivation and understanding of risk management and improving farm profitability, rather than one style of communication to adoption programs. Applying the knowledge from this project to future innovation will ensure an increased uptake of research and development in the Australian sheep industry, the project brief states.
Samarah comes originally from Tamworth and has spent the last 3.5 years study at UNE Armidale. She said she has always been inspired and involved in agriculture from a young age, and has helped her father, who managed a large property on the outskirts of Tamworth. She is in the second year of her Agrifutures Horizon Scholarship, funded by Australian Wool Innovation. This has involved a week at Taminda Wool Trading in Tamworth and she will undertake a placement at Sustainawool. She also received the Pat and Rob Robertson-Cunninghame Honours Scholarship and is a recipient of the AWET Undergraduate Project Scholarship, with half of the funding going to her project.
“My passion for agriculture has continued to develop as I have grown, with my greatest passion lying within the sheep industry, specifically Merino production.
“My family and I run a small mob of Merinos which continue to fuel my passion for the industry.”
Samarah said her specific passion is for the genetics and nutritional sector of the industry, but also what research can be done to benefit the producer.
“I am currently in my final year of my degree and am taking on this honours project, under the supervision of Dr Emma Doyle (UNE), which is of significant interest to the sheep industry.”
Samarah said she would like to hear from producers willing to help her research and do surveys taking about 30-45 minutes.
UNE senior lecturer in sheep and wool science Dr Emma Doyle said Samarah’s research is being supported by UNE and the Australian Wool Education trust with the hope that other industry bodies might support a bigger study.