UNIT 1: INTRODUCTION TO SYSTEMS THINKING (10 HOURS)
This Unit introduces learners to the concepts and processes that support systems thinking. This will assist learners in appraising agri-foods operations and in finding solutions to identified agricultural problems or situations.
Definition of systems
Systems as an organised group of related objects or components that form a whole.
Definition of systems thinking
Systems thinking as a holistic approach to the identification and solving of problems where:
- the focal points are treated as components of a system and their interactions
- interrelationships are analysed individually to see how they influence the functioning of an entire system.
Types of systems thinking
Different approaches to support inquiry or research within a given field such as:
- systems thinking in business.
Systems thinking concepts
Principles that support the systems thinking approach such as:
Habits of a systems thinker
Techniques to help understand the ‘big picture’ and support effective analysis of system structures and outputs such as:
- observing how elements within systems change over time, generating patterns and trends
- identifying the circular nature of complex cause and effect relationships
- surfacing and testing assumptions
- identifying unintended consequences.
Thinking tools and processes
Strategies and processes to understand complex situations, enhance problem solving and project planning skills and support effective decision making such as:
- Political, Economic, Social and Technological (PEST) analysis
- Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis
- risk analysis and risk management
UNIT 2: ECOSYSTEMS (20 HOURS)
Soil, nutrients and water
- chemical and physical characteristics of soil/water
- the role of nutrient cycles in Australian agricultural systems including the nitrogen cycle and the carbon cycle
- the role of microbes and invertebrates in the decomposition of organic matter
- sources of water on a farm and water management in a farm system (e.g. marine/recirculating systems for fin/shellfish).
Factors contributing to the degradation of soil and water
- the historical development of Australian land and water use practices, from Aboriginal practices to the present day
- farming practices that have contributed to soil degradation such as salination, acidification, soil structure decline, loss of soil organic matter and erosion and the effects of these on soil and water
- practices that have contributed to changes in water quality and availability
- government policies and resource management.
Sustainable resource management
- sustainable techniques to maintain and/or improve farming environments
- the role of individual farmers, the broader community and government in reducing the harmful environmental effects of agriculture and in conserving water, protecting waterways and managing water quality
- tension between sustainability and short-term profitability in farming systems.
Australia’s variable climate
- causes of climate variability
- changes in climate that may be attributed to human activity
- management techniques available to the farmer to minimise risk and maximise opportunities from climate variability
- flexibility in land management
- appropriateness of climate for certain plant and animal breeds.
UNIT 3: PLANT PRODUCTION SYSTEMS (25 HOURS)
Plant production systems
- process of growth and development in plants
- processes of respiration, photosynthesis, net assimilation rate, water and nutrient uptake on the effects of plant growth
- beneficial relationships between microbes and plants including the fixing of atmospheric nitrogen in legumes
- the role of plant hormones on plant growth and development
- pasture production systems.
Constraints on plant production
- constraints imposed by environmental factors
- competition in plant communities
- complex interaction involving problem organisms (pathogenic microbe or invertebrate), the host and the environment in plant disease.
Managing plant production
- managing the constraints on plant growth and development to maximise production
- the interaction of genotype, environment and management
- responsible and strategic use of chemicals
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
UNIT 4: ANIMAL PRODUCTION SYSTEMS (25 HOURS)
- digestive systems (e.g. ruminant, monogastric, bivalve)
- beneficial relationships between microbes and animals including the role of microbes in animal digestion
- the fate of energy in animal nutrition
- managing the nutritional requirements of animals in terms of their digestive physiology
- relationship between animal feed practices and impact on the environment.
Animal growth and development
- changes in the proportion of muscle, fat and bone during the life of an animal
- management practices to optimise growth and development.
Animal reproduction and genetics
- the role of hormones in the regulation of animal reproduction and behaviour
- factors that limit the fertility of farmed animals
- breeding systems and their genetic basis to improve quality and production of animals.
Animal pests and diseases
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
Animal ethics and welfare
- ethics, welfare, and legal issues and requirements.
UNIT 5: AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGIES (40 HOURS)
The impact scientific research and associated technology has had on agricultural production and marketing:
- current areas of development in biotechnology
- ethical considerations in the use of biotechnology in agricultural production
- issues relating to research and development
- developments in agricultural technologies:
- computer technologies (e.g. climate/weather forecasting, laser technologies and computer record keeping systems)
- biotechnologies (e.g. genetically modified organisms)
- electronic identification systems (e.g. National Livestock Identification System (NLIS))
- robotics (e.g. milking, shearing and animal management)
- marine farm based or land based recirculating aquaculture systems
- Precision Agriculture technology:
- satellite technologies (e.g. global positioning systems, global and regional imaging)
- farm equipment technologies (e.g. vehicle and implement guidance, variable rate application, yield measurement)
- drone technology (e.g. stock and crop monitoring)
- computer mapping and data modelling systems (e.g. input/yield mapping, site-specific management)
- marketing of technology developments
- reasons for adopting technologies
- moral and ethical considerations with adopting new technologies.
An overview of engineering systems and their potential application to agri-foods industries such as:
- Biomedical Engineering (e.g. veterinarian)
- Aeronautical Engineering (e.g. drones)
- Telecommunications Engineering
- mechatronics and robotics
- Aquaculture Engineering technologies.
Engineering Design Cycle
An introduction to the engineering design process and skills and techniques that support the resolution of design ideas such as:
- the Engineering Design Process (EDP)
- standard drawing practices to communicate ideas graphically
- use of mathematical, scientific and graphical methods, and computer simulation and other digital tools, to analyse and solve problems
- properties and selection of materials and processes for engineering solutions
- communication of decisions based on engineering principles
- evaluation and modification of engineering/design solutions.
UNIT 6: AGRIBUSINESS CASE STUDY (30 HOURS)
The farm as a business
- the place of the farm in the wider agri-business sector.
Decision-making processes and management strategies
- factors of quality and quantity that influence decision-making
- the impact of financial pressures on farmers.
- components of a business plan for a small agricultural and/or horticultural business project, including production, marketing and financial strategies
- strategies for production to meet requirements of local, national and international markets with consideration of market specifications
- tools and strategies for monitoring the cost of production
- business analysis for value adding opportunities in the supply chain
- routine and regular activities that need to be performed to operate the business
- factors influencing the productivity and sustainability of the business, including risk analysis
- strategies for managing a production system to appropriate quality standards for the small business
- health and safety issues associated with the small business
- methods of reporting on the progress of a small business against its business plan, including written and photographic evidence of production.
- agricultural commodities, markets and supply
- marketing strategies/targets
- the marketing chain for a product
- government and other influences on production and marketing
- quantity and quality criteria for a product
- the importance of product specification in the marketing of a product
- problems that may occur in meeting market specifications of a product and methods used to meet requirements
- processing raw agricultural commodities
- the nature and potential for value adding to a product
- the role of advertising and promotion in the marketing of a product
- supply of and demand for a product
- evidence of market research
- marketing and corporate social responsibility
- public and private advocacy for the agricultural sector.