A mindset shift
Given these idiosyncratic complexities “where everything is related to everything”, it was an “impossible ask to provide farmers with a tool that gave them a neat, prescriptive list of things to do to become more resilient,” says Georgia.
“Systems are changing very, very fast. The way things have been done in the past, may not work for what’s coming. That mindset shift is required for us to be prepared for that uncertainty.”
One farmer eloquently quoted Charles Massy, a pioneer of regenerative agriculture practices in Australia:
“The most important area of the farm you need to change is the six inches between your ears.” Indeed, resilience is as much mindset as it is action. “So it was about providing guidance to facilitate their thinking, rather than a specific formula for resilience,” says Georgia.
Pathways forward, with the best available science
That guidance comes in the form of adaptation pathways – case studies and advice that’s specific to the farmer’s region and commodity (e.g. cattle, fruit, vegetables, diary, grains).
“We worked really closely with the climate scientists on our team to make sure the advice was scientifically robust and based on the best available science,” says Lorrae.
Georgia explains that “alongside that ‘tried and true’ bucket of practices, we also had the ‘innovative, emerging’ bucket – practices to keep an eye on because farmers are going to need to transform.”
Having the two side-by-side was a deliberate design choice, intended to prompt farmers’ thinking and encourage them to self-experiment and take on their own research and development projects.
"The tool isn't trying to tell anyone what to do. It’s about building awareness and different ways of thinking,” says Lorrae. “All we can do is show what has worked for others. And let farmers decide. Because it's their farm, with their soil type.”
Sowing the seeds for change
From initial observations to clickable prototype through to launching a pilot and releasing ongoing improvements, the free digital tool now has over 850 users, a number that is set to grow as broader communication and adoption activities are rolled out.
While it will take more than one tool to meet the Herculean challenges ahead, helping farmers understand their resilience and providing pathways to spark curiosity, encourage experimentation and prompt them to re-make their futures is a crucial step in the right direction.
It signals a broader, seismic shift for the agricultural industry – and society at large – as we prepare for an uncertain future by looking beyond sustainability, towards regeneration and move towards a way to support the land and wellbeing of the person, while still supporting the financialoutcomes of the business.
The question is, are we willing to give it a go?