“I came here with a specific goal – to meet farmers to recruit into a new soils project – and I’ve achieved it,” a delegate from a major agri-research organisation commented on the REAP feedback form.
Another delegate, this time one of the region’s leading farmers, tweeted to a speaker in the Start-up Showcase: “Been keeping tabs on your development and then saw start up demo @AgriTechEast and thought what have I got to lose?”
And finally, “I should know everyone in this room – but I only know about 20% of them – it’s not the ‘usual crowd’ I always see at agricultural conferences.”
These quotes show the diversity of opportunities for networking and collaboration that emerged during REAP and other events held during Agri-Tech Week in November. They reveal the different ways in which new introductions are made and partnerships can form.
Innovation often occurs following chance encounters. This is well recognised by architects who include cafes, seating areas and co-working areas in the design of business incubators such as the Centrum on the Norwich Research Park, the Lawes Open Innovation Hub at Rothamsted, and the Kings Lynn Innovation Hub run by NWES.
However, for many farmers and growers, opportunities to bump into others during their working day is more limited – it mainly happens at events or conferences.
So, we recognise that maximising the chances of farmers meeting new and relevant people when they come to our events is really important so we’re thinking hard about how to make the connection process even more effective. A photo board to help you identify the person you’re looking for? Sophisticated pre-event partnering software? Speed-dating? Watch this space.
The social network
Social media also has an important role – providing global, national and local insights into new developments, and sharing challenges and experiences. We have seen Twitter being embraced by the community as quick way to ‘bookmark’ key nuggets of information.
However, seeing for yourself and talking face-to-face are still vital communication. We are looking forward to putting this into practical application through our new initiative with AHDB, which will create more on-farm interaction around themes of mutual interest.
Many thanks to all who travelled to, talked at, and tweeted from the conference – looking forward to more interaction next year!