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Tracking farmers’ innovations to stimulate the design of agroecological systems. Lessons from 14 R&D initiatives.

Thursday 10 September 2020 - 14h-15h15 - Webinar

Tracking farmers’ innovations
Chloé Salembier, post-doctoral fellow in the IDEAS network, will present the tracking of farmers’ innovations to stimulate the design of agroecological systems, discussing the lessons learned from 14 R&D initiatives.

This webinar is co-organized by IDEAS and AFA (Association Française d’Agronomie).

Association Française d'Agronomie

In a growing number of initiatives, agricultural R&D actors are currently seeking to learn from farmers’ practices that they describe as innovative, out of the ordinary, deviant or promising. We refer to these initiatives as innovation tracking. They are emerging in a context where projects such as agroecology are becoming institutionalized, which calls for rethinking ways of producing, and for the free circulation of innovations and knowledge. However, while diagnoses or typologies of practices are now well known, the same does not hold true for the particularities of innovation tracking methods and how they contribute to the design of innovative farming systems. We undertook research to explore these issues by studying 14 innovation tracking projects in France, led by actors from different R&D networks. The data collected (interviews, documents, participant observations) were analysed using frameworks from agronomy and the management sciences.

The three outcomes of this work are:

1)     The identification of specific features of tracking methods, namely that they all relate to the study of farmers’ singular practices which are unknown to the study pilots, who deem them desirable for the future of agriculture.

2)     The characterization of five key processes, which structure the innovation tracking process: defining a tracking project, identifying on-farm innovations, discovering them, analysing what has been discovered, and stimulating the design of farming systems. I also highlight different ways of carrying out each process.

Finally, the highlighting of three tracking strategies: targeted tracking, exploratory tracking, and prompted innovation tracking. This work contributes to the theorization of innovation tracking, thus enriching agronomy methods to support the design of agroecological systems, particularly by showing that they give rise to creative anomalies. The results offer more than a turnkey method: they provide a basis for imagining innovation tracking methods tailored to different R&D situations; they support the institutionalization of this method; and they open up avenues for studying the contributions of agronomy methods to open innovation in farming.

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