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11.3 European Agriculture in Transition

Thursday, June 29, 2023
15:45 - 17:15


Stefano Bertorini
Phd Student
University of Groningen

Crafting Regenerative and Distributive Agriculture Business Models, Looking Beyond the Industrial Agriculture Era


This research aims to learn how to design and influence business models in agriculture to transition towards a more sustainable and profitable agriculture. Niche innovations, such as agroecology, organic agriculture, and regenerative agriculture, have been proposed as solutions. However, they have been blocked by different mechanisms, including inadequate economic incentives and resistance from the current regime. Niche innovations alone are not sufficient to overcome blocking mechanisms because these barriers are often deeply ingrained in the existing system, constituting systemic problems.

The study proposes the Regenerative and Distributive Agriculture Business (RADA) concept, which combines sustainable agriculture niche practices, business model design, and their dynamic interactions with institutions. The model explains how the Business Model Template (BMT) (Jonker & Faber, 2021), Deep Design of Business (Sahan et al., 2022), and recognition of Institutions (Hoffman, 1999) are interrelated and contribute to the functioning of these businesses in the current regime (Bidmon & Knab, 2018). Additionally, this paper situates RADA as a participant with dynamic interactions within the framework of the Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) on socio-technical transitions (Geels, 2011; Geels & Schot, 2007).

Paper 1 proposes a theoretical foundation for understanding how RADA works, introducing the three components that compose it. Paper 2 examines the obstacles that sustainable farmers must overcome when transitioning away from industrial agricultural practices. Paper 3 explores the dynamic interactions between institutions and RADA. Paper 4 focuses on the application of the DEAL guide to redesigning businesses in a series of Doughnut Economics Core workshops (Sahan et al., 2022).
Prof. Guy Robinson
Adjunct Professor
University of Adelaide

Revisiting Multifunctional Agriculture


Drawing on recent research in Australia and China by way of comparison and contrast, this presentation revisits European conceptions of multifunctional agriculture (MFA) in exploring agricultural futures and transitions. It considers drivers fostering the growth of MFA in different policy contexts, including in the absence of direct supportive policy. MFA embraces the concept that besides food and fibre, farming also produces agri-environments beneficial to biodiversity protection, socio-economic development, landscape conservation, and amenity. Both MFA and multifunctional rurality have been influential in European rural development since becoming integral to the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy over the past two decades. However, there is ongoing debate regarding the nature of multifunctionality, its role in rural development and associated policy frameworks. In the context of MFA can policy deliver agricultural activity that shapes the landscape and provides environmental benefits (such as land conservation, sustainable management of renewable natural resources and the preservation of biodiversity), while contributing to the socio-economic and cultural viability of rural areas. How can farms best contribute to rural development through provision of goods and services (e.g., food processing, tourism and recreation, environmental services). China provides a policy-driven model, with MFA an explicit goal within the contexts of rural revitalisation, poverty alleviation, and building an ecological civilisation. In contrast, Australia lacks explicit policy support for MFA, but, especially in peri-urban fringes, on-farm tourism and processing activities are playing a major role in transforming rural economies. What can Europe learn from these diverse experiences?
Michaël Bermond
University of Caen Normandy

Crossing organic agriculture and short supply chains: evolution of the geography of transitional agriculture in France (2010-2020)


In front of decarbonization objectives of agriculture, biodiversity protection, economic farm sustainability and food security, European and French policies, around Farm to fork strategy (Guyomard et al., 2020 ; Moschitz et al., 2021), support a deep transition of agri-food systems. In this context, transformation of agricultural systems become a necessity.
We aim to present a geography of farms in transitions, and its evolution between 2010 (Bermond et al., 2019) and 2020. Our typology articulate the mode of farming production (organic or not) with the mode of short supply chains sale (direct sale or not), based on agricultural censuses. We propose a socio-economic characterization of four types of farms (farmer’s age and gender, working group, education level, economic size of farms...). Then, we analyze their location at large scale (based on National Institute of Economic Studies and Statistics’ district, more accurate than NUTS 4). Our mapping shows severals transitions paths over the last decade, opening the discussion on the factors favouring the emergence of one type over another.
With our maps, a complex agricultural geography is drawing, articulating economic sectorial factors (local pedoclimate adaptation, public policies …), socio-historical drivers (role of food supply chains, weight of alternative farming networks …) or local factors, between territorial public policies or socio-residential dynamics (urban proximity, housing migrations, socio-economic level of inhabitants, tourism, …). Those results encourage discussing on the potential extension of this typology at the European scale, with the Eurostat data, to test the genericity value of agricultural transition drivers.
Héloïse Leloup

Institutional agroecology at the practice level: the case of economic and environmental interest groups (GIEE) in France


In France, agroecology has become the spearhead of the agricultural policy launched in 2012. It is applied at a local level through various mechanisms that aim to structure farmers' groups. Among the policy instruments created, the economic and environmental interest groups (GIEE) are farmers' groups who commit to "a sustainable project to modify or consolidate their agricultural practices, aiming at an economic, environmental and social performance". They are considered a fundamental mechanism for agricultural transition in France. Our research focuses on the effects of GIEEs in the implementation of agroecology in the farms involved in those groups. By analyzing two groups that have received the GIEE label and by interviewing the members and coordinators of these groups, we sought to determine the role of this instrument in the changes in farmers' practices compared to other factors. We used an innovative mixed method for data collection and analysis, the quantified narrative method (Polge and Pagès, 2022; Grossetti et al., 2011) to characterise the trajectories of change of each farm and to distinguish between resources originating from the GIEE and resources originating from other providers at the different stages of this trajectory. Thanks to this method, we've been able to compare trajectories of the farms towards agroecology, to quantify the role of the GIEEs in changes in practices and thus to show in what measure this instrument reinforces an already existing dynamic of change or creates a new one.

Session host

Martijn van der Heide
University of Groningen



Contact for questions about abstracts or registration: groningen@congressbydesign.com 

Contact for questions about the content of the programme: ruralgeo2023@rug.nl