Martina Dorigo, AHDB – Dairy4Future partner for England and Wales


New knowledge and innovation have always supported the evolution of agriculture, especially since the post-second World War, when agriculture was a key sector and its objectives were to increase the food supply to the population and to secure income for farmers. In the dairy sector, the use of new knowledge and innovation has allowed the productivity increase in the last decades and is now critical to improve resilience, competitiveness and sustainability, which are the core of the Dairy-4-Future project.

Dissemination of any newly created knowledge and innovation is necessary to a successful uptake: the AKIS (Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems) concept helps to understand better the generation and dissemination process, describing the organisations and individuals involved and the complex interactions among them.

As shown in this graph, universities, research centres, training organisations, consultants, supply chains, farmers’ organisations etc. are all AKIS players engaged in the task of creating, communicating and putting into practice innovative solutions for the dairy sector. Farmers are always the natural end users of these innovations, but they also play a critical role in creating and disseminating knowledge and innovation themselves.

Whilst the AKIS have historically developed differently across the Atlantic Area, with different levels of integration and strength, the common theme across countries is the continuous adaptation of the AKIS to the challenges faced by dairy farming: as such, they share common strengths and weaknesses, which have been highlighted in the Dairy-4-Future project by appointed experts in each country/region.

What are the main actions to increase the AKIS’ effectiveness in connecting science and practice and foster innovation? The 2019 EU SCAR Report “Preparing for Future AKIS in Europe” has identified four main actions for successful AKIS strategies:

  1. Enhancing knowledge flows and strengthening links between research and practice to support broad availability of independent advice and to maintain the researchers’ motivation through a more collaborative work with the other AKIS players
  2. Strengthening all farm advisory services and fostering their interconnection within the AKIS, allowing those closest to the farmers to easily access and transfer the latest knowledge and innovation, ideally by involving them in several stages of the projects.
  3. Enhancing cross-thematic and cross-border interactive innovation, to help access and develop new ideas and innovations.
  4. Supporting the digital transition in agriculture

Other suggestions coming from the dairy-4-Future experts are listed below

Resilience, competitiveness and sustainability will become increasingly important in the future years to ensure a thriving dairy farming sector: a strong, adaptable and innovative AKIS will be key to achieve these objectives.