How much or how little is knowledge transfer in agriculture being facilitated by social media? Commonly listed as one of the benefits of social media, where is it happening and what might the success factors be?
Two successful examples are discussed below.
Channel 1. Agricultural KT - Facebook Public Group
A successful example working across India and Pakistan is a Facebook Public Group (link: Crops Cost and Saving Discussion) dedicated to agronomy knowledge transfer with, thus far, over 14,000 members.
A review of the group's activity finds farmers discussing both immediate tactical husbandry:
Which variety of cotton is best?
What’s this disease on my grapes?
And longer-term farm strategy:
How does sugar beet compare to cane?
Is Stevia a viable commercial crop?
The questions and observations are posted (mostly) by farmers with responses to questions and additional comments being returned by farmers (peers), house agronomists, and product suppliers.
Channel 2. Agricultural KT - The Dedicated Forum
The Farming Forum (TFF) is a successfully example of knowledge transfer hub for UK farmers with 44% of a scientifically drawn sample of TFF posts by livestock farmers relating to agricultural knowledge transfer.
Farm knowledge transfer via TFF is much more likely to be of a peer-to-peer nature (i.e. farmer replying to farmer) than the Indian/Pakistan Facebook Group example.
Unlike Twitter, both media platforms (i.e. Facebook and the bespoke platform) facilitate long format discussion - something which is commonly used but certainly not exclusively so. There is a mixture of short Twitter-style conversations and longer more-detailed contributions.
Images and occasionally video are not a major part of agricultural KT, essential though for facilitating the identification of a crop disease. It is the facility for longer discussion points and supporting explanations that appears to be central to social media agricultural knowledge transfer.
An underpinning success factor?
Probably significantly, both the above successful examples are fully open to anyone including the completely anonymous casual browser.
That the supply of any personal details, an email address or Facebook identity is not required for an individual to begin learning appears to be an essential as individuals increasingly seek to guard their personal online privacy. Having to sign up to gain access appears too offputting an initial barrier, even with the prospect of gaining free knowledge.
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