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  • Publication
    Application of digital advisory tools and services within a farm advisory service context
    (University College Dublin. School of Agriculture and Food Science, 2022)
    Digital technologies are transforming the everyday lives and practices of many people across the globe, including how they operate in their working lives. This too has even translated to the practices of farm advisors and farm advisory services in how they deliver advice to their farmer clients. Digital skills are becoming an essential element of modern advisory practices and management as a growing amount of digital technologies and tools become available. While there is a wide variety of digital tools available to farm advisors, most of these are underutilised. As agriculture changes through digital disruption, farmers should have the appropriate support to allow them to adopt such technologies. Farm advisors play an essential role in providing this support and in motivating farmers to adopt digital tools. They are central in helping to bridge the digital divide experienced by farmers in adapting digital technologies; however, this digital divide is also apparent in farm advisory services. Therefore, focus must be given, first and foremost, to ensure that the farm advisory community are equipped to address this challenge and provide ongoing support to their clients. Hence, this research focused on identifying the main challenges and trends to embedding Digital Advisory Tools and Services (DATS) in farm advisory. This research is based on two multi-actor workshops and an online survey completed by 212 public (Teagasc) farm advisors. The workshops involved a broad group of actors who had a vested interest in and/or an in-depth experience in embedding DATS in Irish agriculture. Some of the key themes that emerged in these workshops were then incorporated as constructs into a modified behavioural model survey along with the main constructs from the Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen, 1991) and The Technology Acceptance Model (Davis, 1989). The findings of the study uncovered some of the important characteristics of DATS to make them attractive to farm advisors to aid their uptake such as being simple, easy to use, accessible and trustworthy. Accessibility and the interoperability of DATS in being able to operate and exchange data was also seen as key. The study also uncovered factors that influence farm advisors’ behavioural intention and attitude towards the use of DATS. Attitude, perceived behavioural control and perceived usefulness were found to be important determinants of a farm advisors’ Behavioural intention to use DATS. Likewise perceived usefulness was found to positively influence farm advisors’ attitude towards DATS. Ultimately the study recognised that digital technologies are integral to farm advisors meeting the challenges of an increasingly complex advisory system and it is important that advisors have access to a continuous training programme to ensure they have a positive attitude and a high degree of self-confidence to use DATS in their work.
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