Ontario Agri-food Research Initiative (OAFRI) OAFRI projects are funded through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year, $3-billion commitment by Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments that supports Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sectors.
Bayer Grants4Ag is an annual global initiative that offers funding, expertise, and other resources to researchers developing novel solutions in agriculture.
With increasing environmental challenges, along with various political, social, and economic pressures, Ontario’s agriculture sector faces growing expectations to transition to a more sustainable model of production so that it remains viable and relevant in the ‘new’ economy of the 21st century. The agriculture industry across all commodities is seeking production practices that not only maintain the long-term productive capacity and economic viability of the agri-food system, but also address environmental stewardship objectives and preserve vital agri-ecosystem services.
BMPs have been linked to improved competitiveness, productivity, profitability, and ecological resilience. BMPs are also crucial to demonstrating the sector’s social responsibility and maintaining the public’s trust in the agri-food sector.
The primary problem to be addressed by this project is the inconsistent adoption of BMPs, which present a challenge to achieving sustainable production systems.
OMAFRA (2018) has highlighted the need for research that will “help the Ministry better target stewardship policies and programs…to better understand the drivers and determinants of adopting environmentally responsible management practices” (p.15-16).
This project will look at the role of knowledge mobilization in the adoption of environmental best management practices (BMPs) in Ontario’s horticulture sector. Knowledge mobilization is the transformation of scientific research into use through synthesis, exchange, dissemination, dialogue, collaboration and brokering among knowledge producers, intermediaries, and knowledge users. It is a proven strategy for making research findings more readily available and useful to farmers and the stakeholders who advise them.
The overarching goal of the project is to identify and evaluate the barriers to knowledge mobilization that impede the adoption of BMPs in Ontario’s horticulture sector and to recommend KTT strategies and approaches for overcoming the barriers. This goal will be achieved through the following objectives:
- Measure the extent of BMP adoption by the Ontario horticulture sector
- Develop a profile of the information-seeking behaviours of BMP adopters (knowledge users), by studying how they source, access, evaluate and use different types of information in their decision-making about adopting BMPs and their preferences for learning about new information related to BMPs
- Develop a profile of the knowledge mobilization strategies of BMP researchers, by identifying and describing the ways that BMP researchers (knowledge producers) share and disseminate the results and findings of their research and their understanding of the information needs of BMP adopters and their perceptions of what defines successful knowledge mobilization
- Develop a profile of intermediaries, by investigating how horticulture stakeholders use research and information to promote and support the adoption of BMPs.
- Identify potential misalignments among knowledge producers, intermediaries, and knowledge users
By comparing the knowledge seeking behaviours of knowledge users, the knowledge mediation process of intermediaries and the knowledge mobilization strategies of knowledge producers, we will identify the most effective ways of sharing and disseminating research about BMPs. Based on our finding, we will make recommendations for how knowledge mobilization might be used more strategically to improve the adoption of BMPs.
The rationale for this project is based on the argument that BMPs are knowledge intensive, research-based innovations and therefore adoption is directly linked to effective knowledge mobilization strategies and tools that create a web of connections among researchers, intermediaries and BMP adopters to enable and accelerate dissemination, uptake and adoption.
The project is comprised of four components:
1) Knowledge synthesis of the role of KTT in the adoption of BMPs
Knowledge syntheses are comprehensive, rigorous analyses of the literature and other forms of knowledge on a particular topic or issue. Knowledge syntheses support the use of evidence in decision-making, the application of best practices and the development future research agenda. They respond to specific needs of decision-makers and knowledge users for making sense of the challenges and issues presented across diverse fields and disciplines.
2) Online Surveys
We will conduct three online surveys from January – March 2022. The surveys will be targeted to:
Horticulture Producers growing any fruit, vegetable, or speciality crop in Ontario
Horticulture Stakeholders who work on and/or promote and support the adoption of BMPs in Ontario
Researchers/Scientists doing research on BMPs in Canada
3) Focus Groups
We will use focus groups to gain more in-depth understandings of the KTT-BMP adoption interface in a more naturalistic setting than is possible with survey data. The focus groups will bring together BMP researchers, intermediaries and adopters to develop a set of recommendations for making knowledge about BMPs more accessible and useable. In bringing together all stakeholders of the knowledge mobilization process, it is expected that different insights, perceptions and understandings of the barriers and challenges of KTT – BMP adoption interface will be captured.
4) Niagara Case Study – Adoption of BMPs by Grape Growers in Response to Grape Viruses
This component of the project will be undertaken by a Masters of Sustainability student, as their thesis research project. It will be an in-depth study of the knowledge mobilizations activities linked to BMP adoption by grape growers in Niagara in response to the challenges of managing new and emerging grape viruses. It will take a close look at the knowledge sharing/mobilization activities and relationships among researchers, intermediaries and adopters and will provide an opportunity to explore processes, challenges, barriers, and enablers of knowledge mobilization in the adoption of BMPs in a ‘real life’ scenario in ways that cannot be directly observed through the knowledge synthesis, surveys and focus groups.
Mobilizing Knowledge for the Adoption of Best Management Practices in Horticulture Production: A Guided Discussion
On June 17, 2022 we conducted a half-day workshop to engage knowledge producers, intermediaries/knowledge brokers and knowledge users involved in the Ontario horticulture sector. We discussed our three recent surveys about the role of knowledge translation and transfer (KTT) in the adoption of best management practices. The objective of the surveys was to understand how research about best management practices is shared, accessed, adopted, used and implemented. The surveys were part of an on-going project: Mobilizing knowledge for the adoption of BMPs in Ontario’s horticulture sector.
The workshop generated strategies for incorporating the survey findings into actionable policy and practice recommendations and propose appropriate knowledge mobilization activities for broadly sharing the findings with various end-user audiences.
The workshop was supported by the 2022 Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum as a local, in-person event.