Tracking the Value of an Innovation through the New Product Development Process: The IrriSat Family of Agricultural Decision Support System Tools

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Australasian Agribusiness Perspectives

The paper describes an attempt to improve the uptake of a new agricultural Decision Support System (aDSS). The approach was to design it with an understanding of the successes and failures of predecessors and of the changes in patterns of relevant technology use over time, the “usage context”. Even though its predecessor, IrriSatSMS, showed great potential in pilot seasons, that system failed to be commercialised successfully. An investigation into whether this failure can be attributed to “technicentric design” – an aDSS problem lamented by many authors of papers on aDSS in the 2000s – is undertaken. Some relevant aspects of the design of the new aDSS system, IrriSat, are outlined to illustrate how some of the commercialisation issues faced by IrriSatSMS and other aDSS may be overcome. Important considerations impacting the usage and uptake of aDSS include the changing landscape of IT, digital agricultural data and farming lifestyle since the 2000s. Finally, remaining and emerging issues faced by systems like IrriSat, are considered.

These considerations indicate that while commercialising a new aDSS is always going to be risky for an organisation, particular aDSS design choices that are now available, such as the use of cloud computing, can reduce running costs and staffing effort significantly, thus substantially reducing that risk for certain aDSS types. Also evident is that a step change in IT use in farming since the first trials of IrriSatSMS, in Australia at least, has seen the evaporation of many issues that once plagued aDSS use regarding farmers’ interactions with IT systems. However, new issues, such as data deluge, have surfaced. With these technology and technology usage changes, I conclude that the pessimism shown in aDSS papers in the 2000s was based on factors that are no longer dominant in the aDSS landscape; a paradigm shift has occurred. However, the new paradigm has its own issues. Experience in other areas indicates that this paradigm’s issues can also be overcome and thus the future for aDSS in general, and perhaps IrriSat specifically, looks bright. A number of challenges are revealed that can impact the development and commercialisation of new products. Central among them is the importance of tracking changes in the usage context of, and therefore competition for, the new product, and related impacts on product value to the user.

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decision support system
Cloud computing