From tree to truck: The diffusion of the pongamia technology

Samuel, Sharon (2017). From tree to truck: The diffusion of the pongamia technology PhD Thesis, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2017.452

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Author Samuel, Sharon
Thesis Title From tree to truck: The diffusion of the pongamia technology
School, Centre or Institute School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2017.452
Publication date 2017-03-27
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Peter Gresshoff
John Harrison
Paul Scott
Total pages 249
Total colour pages 49
Total black and white pages 200
Language eng
Subjects 060705 Plant Physiology
200101 Communication Studies
200199 Communication and Media Studies not elsewhere classified
Formatted abstract
Pongamia pinnata is a medium sized legume tree that is native to a large region extending from India to northern Australia. Pongamia produces a non-edible, seed-like crop with high oil content. This oil is easily extracted and can be used as a feedstock for biodiesel production.

This transdisciplinary research project examines the diffusion of the pongamia technology, viewing this process through both a communication and scientific lens. This approach offers a contribution to knowledge not apparent to researchers working within a single paradigm. The main factors inhibiting the diffusion of this technology, as identified by this study, can be grouped into three categories. These are logistical/political issues, research issues, and communication issues. These are all pressing issues affecting not only the diffusion of the pongamia technology, but the diffusion of biodiesel at large.

The analysis presented in this thesis will build upon the theoretical foundation of Everett Rogers’ work on the diffusion of innovation, and uses this framework as a foundation to begin to understand the diffusion of the pongamia technology. Following the principles of real-time technology assessment, all research activities were completed simultaneously with the aim of influencing social values associated with the pongamia technology.

This study is the first to define the pongamia technology and analyse it using Evert Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation theory. By doing so, I have been able to forecast the diffusion of the pongamia technology and predict which adopters will fall into the defined adopter groups.

Work undertaken, as part of this study project has added to the scientific knowledge about Pongamia pinnata. A particular focus on the practical application of the pongamia technology was considered and research questions were designed in an attempt to address the concerns of investors and potential adopters. Research into minimising the costs of production through optimising biological processes was undertaken resulting in the processes of nodulation and nitrogen fixation in Pongamia pinnata being characterised.

Finally, a campaign aimed at engaging stakeholders of the pongamia technology was implemented. While a change in stakeholder’s perceptions of the pongamia technology was not reported, data on the attitudes and opinions of stakeholders towards renewable energy was presented and a foundation for future engagement campaigns was laid.

Overall, this study demonstrates that the pongamia technology has potential to supply Australia with feedstock for the production of biodiesel. While there are a number of relative advantages and benefits in adopting this innovation, the complex factors explored in this study means these benefits alone will not lead to diffusion. Instead, strategic communication aimed at reducing the risk of investment, repositioning the technology in the public consciousness, and establishing a functioning supply system are needed to bring the use of the pongamia technology to fruition. If the adopters of pongamia are able to overcome these issues and large acreages of land are dedicated to cultivating Pongamia pinnata now, Australia could begin benefiting from this crop within the next 10 to 20 years.
Keyword Pongamia pinnata
Diffusion of innovation
Biological nitrogen-fixation
Science communication
Additional Notes Pages to be printed in colour: 18, 43, 46, 47, 52, 54, 69, 71, 72, 75, 78, 79, 81, 89, 91, 93, 94, 95, 98, 104, 107, 108, 112, 114, 122, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 156, 158, 159, 162, 163, 164, 166, 168, 169, 171, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 182, 231, 232, 233,

Document type: Thesis
Collections: UQ Theses (RHD) - Official
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Tue, 07 Mar 2017, 06:48:39 EST by Sharon Samuel on behalf of Learning and Research Services (UQ Library)