NOTICE: Hard copies of the Australian New Crops Newsletter are available from the publisher, Dr Rob Fletcher. Details of availability are included in theAdvice on Publications Available.
[These notes have been extracted from a brochure on new crops distributed to those attending new crops meetings addressed by members of the new crops group from the University of Queensland Gatton College]
New crops are those which are not normally produced in an area. If the new crop is being transferred from somewhere nearby, at least something about its production techniques and markets may be known. Otherwise, the challenge of new crops is to discover what they produce and how the product can be sold.
New crops will probably not be the immediate solution to anyone's current problems. They are a long term, high risk adventure into the unknown. There may be possibilities of better returns than current crops, eventually.
Indulging in the new crop adventure is like gambling. As with gambling, the thrill of the high risks involved can be exhilarating. One should only gamble what one can afford to lose.
Many of the most profitable crops now grown in Australia have been introduced as new crops since 1950 (Table 1).
Table 1. New crop industries established in Australia since 1950, with their estimated annual value, in $ million in 1992.
Oilseed poppy 10.0
Rice (WA) 0
[From Developing New Agricultural Industries by Ian Wood, Peter Chudleigh and Katrina Bond (1994) published as Research Paper Series 94/1 by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, PO Box 4776, Kingston, ACT; Telephone: (06) 272 4539; Facsimile: (06) 272 5877)]
Figure 1. The annual value of production (in $ million) for the fifteen most successful new crop industries developed in Australia since 1950 (Wood, Chudleigh and Bond, 1994).
The most significant recent new crop industry in Australia is cotton (Figure 1), with a current value of perhaps $1 billion.
The reason for growing a new crop is to make money. It is unlikely, however, that another single new crop industry in the near future will be as successful as cotton. On the other hand, one hundred new crops, each of a relatively modest size of $10 million, would be the economic equivalent of the cotton industry.
To achieve one hundred new crop industries, a change in the research infrastructure is needed. One possible approach might be for groups of primary producers with a collective vision, to develop particularly interesting new crop industries themselves.
These visionaries could follow a process of information gathering, cooperative planning and management to investigate how they would achieve their goals.
Professional researchers would fill the role of facilitators in this process. This process has been clarified in the thirteen steps for commercialising new crops, listed elsewhere in this issue of the newsletter.
Which new crops warrant research and development? Any new crop can probably be developed to the stage of being a useful industry, if unlimited development funds were available.
There are at least 220 new crops being considered for development or currently being developed in Australia and these were listed in the Australian New Crops Newsletter #3: 3-4.
There are at least 4591 potential new crops worthy of consideration for Australia (as identified in A Listing of Potential New Crops for Australia, Second Edition; by Dr R.J.Fletcher; published by The New Crops Program, The University of Queensland Gatton College in July, 1997; $50 including postage; 553 pages).
How should we approach the problem of choosing which new crops to commercialise?
There are seven basic types of human activity. The first two are simply staying alive and pursuing leisure.
With respect to farming activity recently in many parts of Australia, too much time has, by necessity, been spend on survival and not enough on leisure.
The five other human activities, described in terms of farming activities, are:
Our conventional approach to solving a problem arising in any of these activities usually comprises the following steps:
This conventional approach to solving problems is really only successful in the first two of the farming activities listed above. It is not very useful for designing new farming systems or for evaluating whether new systems have been successful.
The conventional approach to solving problems is not very useful for choosing which new crops to commercialise.
Gerald Nadler and his co-authors have described seven steps which broaden the conventional approach to problem solving and which should be useful in all the farming activities listed above.
"It is especially important to encourage unorthodox thinking when the situation is critical: at such moments every new word and fresh thought is more precious than gold." (Boris Yeltsin)
"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." (Anon)
Uniqueness: we need to accept that our particular situation is unique. Previous experience is not often going to be immediately relevant in new crop commercialisation.
"Great minds have purposes, little minds have wishes." (Washington Irving)
Purposes: we need to focus on the purpose of commercialising new crops since this directs our attention to the future, whereas focusing on problems directs our attention to the past.
To identify the appropriate purpose, try investigating the purpose of commercialising, then the purpose of this purpose and so on, until the most appropriate purpose is identified. This purpose will be the one to be focused upon for a solution and it will be the most achievable. How will you know that it has been achieved?
"When working toward the solution of a problem, it always helps if you know the answer." (Anon)
"Predicting the future may be impossible but ignoring it is irresponsible." (Eberhart Rechtin)
Solutions-after-next: consider ideal solutions for the purpose, then consider how the problem would also be solved at various times in the future.
"Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration." (Thomas Alva Edison)
Systems: develop a solution in terms of the system matrix of interrelationships, as described in the next article in this issue of the newsletter.
"We all get heavier as we get older because there's a lot more information in our heads." (Vlade Divac)
"When action grows unprofitable, gather information; when information grows unprofitable, sleep." (Ursula K. LeGuin)
Limited Information Collection: the biggest difficulty we always have is not being able to make decisions because we feel we have incomplete information. We need the information required for the solution, rather than the process to follow in documenting the problem.
"Information necessitating a change of design will be conveyed to the designer after and only after the design is complete." (Fyfe's First Law of Revision)
People Design: Everyone who will be affected by our solution should be given an opportunity to contribute to finding the solution (including the consumer)
Betterment Timeline: We should anticipate future solutions by identifying future purposes and solutions-after-next (just like playing a game of snooker or billiards, if we wish to win).
[This article is based upon "Creative Solution Finding: The Triumph of Full-Spectrum Creativity over Conventional Thinking" by Gerald Nadler, Shozo Hibino and John Farrell (Prima Publishing (1995) ISBN 1 55958 567 6). ]
[Quotations from Bartlett's Familiar Quotations at http://www.columbia. edu/acis/bartleby/bartlett/ and Stephen L. Spanoudis's Quotations at http://www.geocities. com/~spanoudi/quote.html.]
Any claims made by authors in the Australian New Crops Newsletter are presented by the Editors in good faith. Readers would be wise to critically examine the circumstances associated with any claims to determine the applicability of such claims to their specific set of circumstances. This material can be reproduced, with the provision that the source and the author (or editors, if applicable) are acknowledged and the use is for information or educational purposes. Contact with the original author is probably wise since the material may require updating or amendment if used in other publications. Material sourced from the Australian New Crops Newsletter cannot be used out of context or for commercial purposes not related to its original purpose in the newsletter
Contact: Dr Rob Fletcher, School of Land and Food, The University of Queensland Gatton College, 4345; Telephone: 07 5460 1311 or 07 5460 1301; Facsimile: 07 5460 1112; International facsimile: 61 7 5460 1112; Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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originally created by:GK; latest update 6 June 1999 by: RF