Institutional dimensions of deploying advanced bioengineering solutions in agriculture
Project duration: January 2023 – June 2024
Engineering biology solutions have the potential to revolutionise the agricultural sector—from increasing crop yield and enhancing breeding—to controlling pests and diseases and remediating land and water.
Australia is expanding in leaps and bounds when it comes to the scientific development and testing of advanced bioengineering solutions. However, there remains low understanding around the implications of institutional systems and arrangements for deployment of these technologies.
For example, institutional aspects such industry leadership, supply chain arrangements, education and training, policy and regulation and community engagement may all be required to effectively support the responsible deployment of engineering biology solutions.
In some previous cases, advanced engineering biology solutions were shown to be technically feasible but failed to be deployed, in part due to institutional factors such as regulatory constraints (e.g., CSIRO’s Landguard pesticide residue treatment).
Institutional requirements can be challenging for companies to navigate. As such, there is a need to proactively identify and understand key institutional aspects, including any associated challenges and disruptions, to gain insights into what might be required to launch engineering biology products responsibly and smoothly in this sector.
We are working to identify key issues and stakeholder perspectives to better understand this institutional landscape as it applies to deploying engineering biology solutions to the agricultural sector. This knowledge will help a broad range of stakeholder groups, including technology companies, agricultural industries, government agencies, and community organisations to develop appropriate strategies to meet the challenges.
This project will specifically involve identifying stakeholder perceptions of:
i. the appropriate role of key institutions and institutional arrangements, including any significant change required in these, and
ii. the expected challenges, constraints, or disruptive effects on institutions and institutional arrangements associated with introducing advanced engineering biology solutions.
The overall aim is to identify what significant changes and supports may be required in institutional systems when considering the future introduction of biotechnological solutions into agriculture. For example, in the education system, there may be a need to develop new curriculum to enhance agricultural consultants’ knowledge and skills around new biotechnologies.
Our researchers will apply principles and methods associated with institutional analysis, commencing with a review of existing literature on the institutional dimensions of introducing biotechnology in agriculture, and a stakeholder mapping exercise to identify relevant actor groups.
Representatives from these actor groups will then be interviewed. It is anticipated that key actors targeted will not just include the developers, users, and approvers of biotechnology, but also the facilitators (brokers) that enable its adoption, as well as those likely to be impacted or disrupted by it.
The project aims to gain an understanding of the broader institutional landscape and any changes required for the potential future deployment of advanced bioengineering solutions in Australian agriculture.
Proactively identifying these issues, from the perspective of key actors in the system, will help support the responsible deployment of the technology.