Bioplastics: The Extension Professional's Role in Linking Science to Practice


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  • First of all, I’d like to thank Bill and Jim for asking Ruby and I to collaborate on this project. I think it is indeed exciting that so much progress has been made in the development of a unique biodegradable nursery pot. In an age when sustainability is not only fashionable but a necessity, we are in a good position to be successful in our quest for funding. That said, Ruby and I would like to share with you our vision for how the Extension professional can be an asset, not only to gaining access to funding, but to integrating the technology into practice.
  • So what is the point of research – why do we do it? Beyond the fact that many of us enjoy the challenge….
  • There is a process involved in getting from the idea stage to direct implementation of the concept by stakeholders. The steps are usually the same but they do not always occurs in this order. There is a value to having producer input at the outset. We all think inside our ‘boxes’. Sometimes a producer doesn’t know there is a need (or isn’t aware of options). Sometimes the researcher isn’t aware of the practicalities involved in production
  • Example: planting trees
    No research to demonstrate, but it stands to reason, stakeholders who have had involvement early on are more likely to embrace a technology
  • Key producers = the ‘movers and shakers’ – looked to by others for direction
  • Generally, a very positive response from producers/retailers in southern Utah, where sustainability
  • Request for Information
    From my conversations with USDA folks, the bottom line is outreach cannot be simply an afterthought. It needs to be well thought-out, with a time-line and plan for implementation. It will be an integral part of a successful grant proposal.
  • In Extension, we like to talk about the “multiplier effect.” Our programs have a larger impact when we can “train the trainer.” In other words, we want to get our information to those who have the power to use that information to influence others (one ‘key producer’ may have an influence on 10 other producers, all of whom will influence their hundreds to thousands of customers)
  • Talk here about “impacts” and why they’re important to universities and granting agencies?
  • Bioplastics: The Extension Professional's Role in Linking Science to Practice

    1. 1. Bioplastics: The Extension Professional’s Role in Linking Science to Practice Dr. Heidi Kratsch Dr. Ruby Ward Utah State University Extension
    2. 2. What’s the point of research?  Journal articles  Grant funding  University recognition  Tenure/promotion  Advancing science  Information that influences producers profitability and risk
    3. 3. From problems to answers  Recognize a problem or opportunity  Devise idea(s) to solve the problem  Product/process development  Product/process testing  Refine product/process (and more testing)  Communication of concept/results  Implementation – leads to impacts
    4. 4. Technology Transfer: the challenges of integration  Process/product not practical  Unfamiliarity with product/process  Much to lose if product fails  Previous bad experience  Wait-and-see attitude Producer input – early and often – will result in a more successful integration
    5. 5. Why Extension?  Expertise in applied research  Expertise in adult education  Established relationships with key producers (those who influence other producers and consumers)
    6. 6. Input from Utah producers  Need to develop “brand recognition”  Terminology in marketing will be important  Would like to see pony-packs and liners  Need to test in the dry, sometimes low organic matter and/or salty soils of the Intermountain West
    7. 7. Input from Utah producers  Will be especially useful for woody plants  Potential use in simplifying the planting process for woody plants  Possibility for “custom” pots with different degradation rates?  Is their a way to include other nutrients besides N? (P, K, micronutrients?)
    8. 8. USDA Specialty Crops Research Initiative RFA  “…include explicit mechanisms to communicate results to producers and the public.”
    9. 9. Explicit Outreach Methods  Workshops (for producers)  Inservices (for county agents)  Field days  Articles in trade magazines  Producer involvement in product/process trials
    10. 10. Why include economics?  How does this idea influence a producer’s “bottom line”?  Weigh the associated costs against the value of potential benefits
    11. 11.  Can strengthen the argument for pursuing the research  Provides a way to assess impacts Why include economics?
    12. 12. How to include economics  Keep track of all costs:  Set-up  Recurring costs  Time for implementation  Cost of materials  Cost of other inputs
    13. 13. How to include economics  Assign costs to inputs  Dollar cost of production  Dollar cost of labor hours  Cost of materials  Cost of potential changes in processes or facilities to integrate the new technology
    14. 14. How to include economics  Assign value to new product or process  Process takes less time? Uses fewer inputs?  Can sell product at a better price?  Product is more marketable?  Product fills a niche?  Product creates a niche?
    15. 15. Questions? Comments?