Numerous signs underline an urgent need for innovation in the current agriculture and food industries. However, even though the components of the agrifood systems are all strongly interconnected, the design processes to improve their sustainabilities are still mostly managed separately. This frequently leads to innovating in one domain in order to adapt to the constraints or specifications of the other, such as tweaking the farming systems to address processing issues, or the other way round. The objectives of this paper are first to show the limits of such an organization, and second to provide a heuristic framework to organize the design of coupled innovations, by reconnecting the dynamics of innovation in agriculture and food, with a view to improving the whole agrifood system.Our framework highlights that working at this level requires designing in raw production, exchange, processing, and consumption, while taking into account synergies or antagonisms between upstream and downstream. Thus, the innovations are not only technological – e.g. concerning cropping systems or processing – but also organizational and institutional. Based on several examples, in the cereal, linseed, legume, and market-gardening productions, at the junction of agriculture and food sciences, we also show that this perspective of designing coupled innovations calls for a renewed research agenda. Three main domains are thus questioned. First, coupling requires an innovative design process for radical innovations, challenging the coordination of exploration in both domains. Second, the development of “innovation niches” outside the dominant sociotechnical regime, in order to bypass the lock-in from the dominant system, faces the difficulty of favoring the building of renewed networks of actors, which were used to working separately so far. Third, the necessity to share expectations and knowledge, and to design together innovations that suit all sides, leads to making several recommendations for the governance of the design process. Finally, we conclude that the need for innovation in the agrifood systems requires going beyond the historical specialization of skills, and the usual forms of coordination between designers.
Agricultural Systems – Elsevier
Published: Oct 1, 2017
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