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Insights into the drivers of community trust and acceptance for the horticulture industry

Publication date: 14 July 2020

This webinar shared key community insights following baseline measurement of Australian sentiment on the drivers of trust and other relevant issues across rural industries.

Past event (Thursday 23 July, 2020)

Watch the webinar recording


Questions were submitted prior to the webinar and during the webinar. For questions and responses, see below.

Question 1 

How has the salmon industry in Tasmania addressed this expectation v experience?

Response: The Community Trust in Rural Industries project has not examined specific industries or case studies within these in its first year – there will be more action on this front in its second and third years.

Question 2

Like you I also was in CSIRO Plant Industry and we were deeply interested in the methodology of communicating and engaging science issues. The issues of trust around science information and engagement are many especially around climate change but also more applied issues like GM and Glyphosate for example. How do you suggest we best approach contentious issues where there are clear beliefs in the value of what is at stake? Those for and against glyphosate both feel their perspective is the right one. How do we reach a consensus?

Response: The big question. I would start by lowering expectations of achieving consensus around complex issues like these and work instead on the mechanisms for dialogue and incremental steps toward strongly regulated application (as is the case of course). These processes have been used very effectively in very contentious issues, sometimes localised sometimes at larger scales, to transparently and constructively articulate, dialogue and address the components of complex issues in ways that are a bit more manageable. The bigger challenge is willingness of stakeholders to participate in these dialogue processes in good faith and adhere to whatever comes out of them, and designing processes that genuinely reflect the interests of constituent groups. One of the key drivers of trust in this RI work (responsiveness, or in the literature ‘procedural fairness or justice’) has been shown to be fundamental in the acceptance of new technologies, like nuclear energy for example. Where people feel the process of decision making is fair and transparent they are more comfortable with the outcomes even when they run against their personal beliefs – so some kind of formal assessment, dialogue and decision making process is ideal. I would also say that tackling emotional topics with a battery of factual information is very unlikely to succeed in any context – the modes of thinking and affective states are fundamentally misaligned and leads quickly to frustration.

Question 3

For the Acceptance model, what the variance of the three predictors explaining variable trust? and the variance of trust variable explain variable acceptance?

Response: The model explained 40% of the variance in trust, of which 41% was environmental responsibility, 31% was responsiveness, 5% industry products, and the remainder other factors like perceptions around regulations and animal welfare, each of which explained 5% or less. The model explained 35% of the variance in acceptance, primarily through trust, though some other factors were allowed to directly contribute explanatory power. In the social science world, this is a strong set of numbers. If we only allow trust to be predicted by the top three factors then the percentage of variance are even higher (36% of the variance in trust but then 53% of that by environment, 38% by responsiveness, and 9% by products).

Question 4

Does acceptance translate into a decision to engage / consume the product by the community?

Response: This is a really complex issue – the attitude-behaviour relationship is convoluted and not easy to disentangle. E.g. people say free range is their preference and informs their purchasing decisions but independent of that cage eggs are bought in higher proportions than these preferences would suggest. A different way to think about community trust though is to think about people acting as community members versus acting as consumers. As community members we shape the context within which industries operate through a range of mechanisms (e.g. pressure on policy makers, directly through social media, through research like this project) but this is often different to how we behave as consumers where other pressures influence our decisions (e.g. price, advertising, normative pressure, affective state). However, what’s put in front of us as consumers is shaped by how we act as community members, so I think about the same people operating in two different spaces at both ends of the production-consumption value chain. So yes, acceptance and consumption are connected but in a complex way.

Question 5 

There are group of politically active people who you cannot influence in a positive way - they don’t accept science of logic. How would you try to influence such people?

Response: Direct influence is best achieved through influencing their friends and family to engage them but these people are likely to have at least some overlap in approach to information – lots of evidence for seeking confirmatory evidence for personal views – so it’s hard. For those that are just hard critics I don’t think you want to be influencing them – it’s a lot of effort for little return. My thinking is that industries should try and reduce the influence of these people rather than change their mind, and to do that by showing those they are seeking to influence where those views sit in the context of the larger population. So by placing unreasonably critical perspectives in a larger context their power to influence is reduced because the constituency they represent or reflect is clearly smaller than it may seem without that broader understanding of what the population thinks. My sense is that it is important to understand the goal of engagement and just very pragmatically think through the most efficient way to achieve those goals – changing the minds of rusted on critics is not an effective strategy in my view; reframing their criticism with those who may be tempted to listen seems to be a more sound approach (even if it’s hard not to be defensive when attacked). I think there may also be benefits over time in this strategy around shifting the ground from under hard critics – they may in turn shift their views to stay tethered to the population as a whole.

Question 6

What are your thoughts on fluctuations in trust in relation to time and drought - ie, grower stories during this time?

Response: That’s a tough one – I think stories can be really effective but can also backfire badly when they willfully ignore broader understanding of the sentiment they’re seeking to communicate. A water intensive industry communicating stories about how hard it is for them during a drought is not likely to work as intended, for example. Mainly, these misfiring approaches occur because of thinking way back down the line, often typified by a comment I’ve heard many times in many industries/companies, “we just need to tell our story better and they’ll like us”. This is almost never the case because the starting point is ‘ours is the story that needs to be told, and current understanding about us is wrong’ – well thanks for that, but you telling me that I’m wrong is not a great place to start a conversation, as we have all experienced. What do community want to know about you? What are they interested to understand more about in relation to your industry? How can you highlight how industry participants are tackling the same issues that are on the minds of community members? And in ways that reflect their interest/concerns? In a lot of ways you’re trying to tell your story with the audience rather than to the audience.

Question 7

Is there any data or insights into trust / acceptance for rural industries during covid, in regard to consumer concern about food supply?

Response: Yes, this was an area of focus for the COVID-19 pulse survey we conducted. Broadly, Australians feel overwhelmingly that our RIs can maintain food supply throughout covid and feel comforted when they see a strong, steady supply of fresh food throughout this period. Interestingly, this faith is so high that only 44% of people indicated they had considered (or already were) growing their own fruit and vegetables to help ensure personal food security (compared to 34% disagreeing and 27% choosing a middle score), which I think again indicates strong faith in existing supply chains. In addition, concerns were heightened around food safety but then so was confidence that rural industries, including horticulture specifically, were doing a good job on this front. There was also some interesting detail in there that people were willing to be part of creating additional environmental impacts in the short term through additional packaging to ensure their confidence around safety was maintained.

What was the webinar about?

To understand this challenge, Hort Innovation is part of a cross-sectoral initiative to examine the main drivers of community trust in and acceptance of Australian rural industries. This initiative also aims to determine a baseline of Australian community attitudes toward a wide range of issues related to Australian rural industries.


  • Key community insights following baseline measurement of Australian sentiment on the drivers of trust and other relevant issues across rural industries
  • Exclusive insights specific to Australian horticulture
  • How industry can engage the Australian community most effectively.


  • Introductions to topic, the panelists and housekeeping
  • Brief overview of the Community Trust in Rural Industries Program 
  • Brief presentation from Kieren on the survey data on community trust in horticulture
  • Questions from Anthony to Kieren
  • Q&A from the participants
  • Summary, closing and ‘What’s next?’.

The host and guest presenters

Dr Anthony Kachenko, General Manager of Extension & Data, Hort Innovation

Dr Anthony Kachenko's team includes the Extension function, which is charged with amplifying the outcomes of levy investments, and the Data & Insights unit, which is responsible for providing data, knowledge and insights to underpin all business activities.

Anthony has lived and breathed Australian horticulture for more than 20 years, having extensive experience along the agribusiness value chain. He holds a PhD in Agricultural Science, a Masters in Agribusiness, an Honours Degree in Horticultural Science, and a Diploma of Quality Auditing. He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and is a Director of the Australasia-Pacific Extens

Dr Kieren Moffat, Co-founder and CEO, Voconiq

Kieren is a social scientist committed to building deeper, more reflective relationships between communities, companies, industries and governments. Prior to co-founding Voconiq he was a Senior Research Scientist with CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.

Over the last fifteen years he has worked across a broad range of industries in more than twenty countries using quantitative social psychological research methods to reveal the pathways to deeper community trust for companies and industries, and to provide a voice for community members in decisions that affect their lives. Kieren was awarded a PhD from The University of Queensland in social and organisational psychology in 2008.


About the Hort Innovation Insights webinar series for growers

The Hort Innovation Insights webinar series connects you with the people closest to the research and investments you want to know more about. Each short online session features subject matter experts, project delivery partners and Hort Innovation staff discussing key topics, opportunities and challenges for horticulture growers.

Grab a cuppa and attend a live session to ask questions and discover essential insights and tools to implement in your business today. Webinar recordings are also be available after each event if you can’t join us live.

See more here