Sustainable innovation adoption barriers: water sustainability, food production and drip irrigation in Australia

Steven Greenland, Elizabeth Levin, John F. Dalrymple, Barry O’Mahony

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    Purpose: This paper aims to examine impediments to the adoption of sustainable water-efficient technological innovation in agriculture. Farming is the largest water consumer and food production expansion in response to global population growth, combined with increasing droughts from climate change, threatens water and food insecurity for many countries. Yet, climate smart agriculture (CSA) innovation adoption has been slow, and in this regard, governments and the agricultural sector are not fulfilling their social responsibility and sustainability obligations.

    Design/methodology/approach: Barriers to water-efficient drip irrigation (DI) adoption in Australia were investigated via 46 depth interviews with agricultural stakeholders and a survey of 148 farmers.

    Findings: While DI water efficiency is recognised, this is not the key determinant of farmers’ irrigation method selection. Complex interrelationships between internal and external barriers impede DI adoption are identified. These include costs, satisfaction with alternative irrigation methods, farmer characteristics that determine the suitability of the innovation and the extent it is incremental or radical, plus various multidimensional risks. Government support of alternative, less water-efficient irrigation methods is also a critical barrier.

    Originality/value: A conceptual framework for understanding barriers to sustainability oriented innovation adoption is presented. Its insights should be applicable to researchers and practitioners concerned with understanding and improving the adoption of socially responsible and sustainable innovation in a wide range of contexts. Recommendations for overcoming such adoption barriers are discussed in relation to the research focus of water-efficient agriculture and encouraging uptake of DI.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)727-741
    Number of pages15
    JournalSocial Responsibility Journal
    Issue number6
    Early online date29 Aug 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2019


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