AHDB Pork: How research and sharing knowledge will accelerate innovation

What a challenging two months it has been! Moving from a knowledge exchange role, working with beef and lamb farmers, to pick up the pork reins as head of KE Pork has been a serious but exciting learning curve, writes Steve Dunkley.

My first job (after rolling up the sleeves) was to take a look at the structure of the team and get an understanding of how we’re set up to deliver knowledge to producers.

For the uninitiated, here’s my newly gleaned knowledge… our team manages the field trials programme and these trials are the test bed for generating and proving new ideas, tools and knowledge for the benefit of all. The team scour the pig industry at home and across Europe, taking the best ideas from both research and producers to understand how it can be applied here.

We also boast a dedicated KE officer, who focuses on training and pushes the industry to develop skills.

AHDB recently launched the Research and Knowledge Exchange (R&KE) Framework 2017-2020. It’s a cross-sector approach that groups our research and development programmes under six themes, one example being ‘driving precision technology into practice’. The theming aligns us more closely with the priorities of those operating in the research world, both here and globally, including funding bodies.

AHDB’s aim is to accelerate innovation and productivity growth through coordinated R&KE. We have two main routes for our pork knowledge exchange delivery: our Digital Platform and the Farm Excellence Platform.

In terms of digital tools, we have PigPro, PigHub, eMB, Think BioRisk, the Pig Practical App and a hatful of videos, business tools, technical factsheets and guides, all of which are easily available from the pork.AHDB.org.uk website.

We also acknowledge that producers listen most intently to other farmers. So to help producers benefit from farmer to farmer learning, we welcome the Farm Excellence Platform. For the pork sector we have Strategic Farms, which agree to test new ideas and technologies with the aim of sharing results.

Topic-specific technical events, like the recent gilt management workshops, will continue. We know that facilitating meetings where issues and new ideas can be openly shared, and where industry experts are made accessible, is a proven and valued format.

We run over 150 discussion groups and technical events each year and, for 2018, we are looking to add three new Strategic Farms to help demonstrate how productivity can be improved across priority areas such as animal performance, health and water systems.

Another new initiative, which we are currently inviting producers to join, is ‘Gilt Watch’, a national group that will help to identify why we lose so many gilts too early, which will explore ways to improve retention rates and lifetime performance.

If you are interested in either opportunity, please get in touch on steve.dunkley@ahdb.org.uk.

Dunkley, steveSteve Dunkley is AHDB Pork head of knowledge exchange, on a six-month secondment from AHDB Beef & lamb

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