APSIM IN THE MARKETPLACE: A TALE OF KITCHEN TABLES, BOARDROOMS AND COURTROOMS
The failure of model-based decision support systems to impact on management of the agri-food value chain provides the background to an ongoing ten-year-old participatory action research (PAR) program. This program investigated an alternate paradigm in which a cropping systems simulator, APSIM, was used in discussions with managers to construct new understandings and new management options in practice. The research commenced in 1992 with a pilot project to investigate the possibility of simulation having an impact on farm managers' capacity to cope with a risky production environment. Researchers added value to farmers' practical trials through monitoring of daily weather, soil water and soil nitrogen resources. Simulation was used to extend the application of the trials to other years and other management options. Reflection on the impacts of the project led to a scaled up effort to develop networks of farmer groups facilitated by agronomy consultants to engage in on-farm monitoring and use simulation to aid discussions on a wide range of management possibilities in what became the FARMSCAPE (Farmers, Advisers, Researchers, Monitoring, Simulation, Communication And Performance Evaluation) approach. With evidence of significant impacts on farm management, and a growing demand for a sustainable delivery system for APSIM simulations, we turned our attention to a FARMSCAPE training and accreditation program to enable agronomic consulting companies to offer their own FARMSCAPE services in a commercial environment. A parallel development, which emerged from reflection on an earlier "in-business" study, was an investigation of the feasibility of APSIM having a useful role off farm in other sections of the agri-food value chain. Case studies in portfolio management, financial assessment, and crop insurance and crop loss assessment helped us understand what it takes to invent a role for APSIM in these sectors. We share our wider vision for future applications; our observations on the efficacy of PAR methodology in this program; and suggest institutional changes to encourage the engagement of scientists and their models with practice.
Hochman, Z., Carberry, P.S., McCown, R.L., Dalgliesh, N.P., Foale, M.A. and Brennan, L.E. (2001). APSIM IN THE MARKETPLACE: A TALE OF KITCHEN TABLES, BOARDROOMS AND COURTROOMS. Acta Hortic. 566, 21-33
Simulation, cropping systems, value chain, participative action research