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Moving Beyond Competition in Crop Diversification Niches

Abstract : To transform the dominant agro-food regime, which is locked in a specialisation logic, innovation niches supporting crop diversification can play a major role in experimenting, developing and learning about new technical and organisational practices that could be adopted or adapted into regimes, involving mainstream actors. One example is the DiverIMPACTS (DI) project, comprising no less than 25 so-called case studies in 11 European countries. Within this project, we seek to draw on the ideas and experiences of pioneering innovators to further analyse the agricultural, processing, retail, research and other practices implied in crop diversification, and to explore the structural embedment they need. In a second step, by feeding our understanding back into the case studies and turning them into recommendations for public policy actors, as well as other regime actors, we aim to help these pioneers to establish and scale up their ideas further and to facilitate adoption of diversification by the mainstream sector. However, in doing so, in a variety of case studies as to the level and scope of transparency in sharing knowledge about their practices, pioneer actors are suspicious of competition with other niche actors or big players of the dominant regime. This situation raises a dilemma between sharing as part of a strategy to develop the innovation through network formation versus the risk that mainstream actors appropriate the innovation. The latter may imply various risks, from “dilution” of the innovation if it gets appropriated too early or too incompletely by mainstream actors to unfairness: while a niche has worked hard to develop an innovation, benefits are lost in favour of a mainstream player. Furthermore, local knowledge gained through developing the innovations could potentially get lost under such circumstances. This dilemma may be overcome, in principle, by developing strategies that make limited adoption less likely or less attractive, in some way or another. To reflect on this, we will combine several insights from transition studies literature, amongst others in regards to transition pathways (Schot & Geels, 2008), translation dynamics (Smith, 2007) and niche protection (Smith & Raven, 2012; Ulmanen et al., 2012; Ulmanen, 2013) to understand the dilemmas as they express themselves in case studies from the DI project. We will follow a theory-generating case study design, drawing on data collected through participant observation and interviews. We will explore strategies to overcome the previously introduced dilemmas, using notions of transparency, sharing, (em)powering and the role of reframing the problem to raise new perspectives and reflect on variances across cultural contexts. In doing so, we aim to provide more insight into the risks and possible pathways for overcoming those, for pioneers within the transition towards a diversified food system.
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Contributor : Kevin Morel <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, September 22, 2020 - 3:30:36 PM
Last modification on : Saturday, May 8, 2021 - 3:25:25 AM
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  • HAL Id : hal-02945762, version 1


Barbara Koole, Kevin Morel, John Grin, Philippe Baret. Moving Beyond Competition in Crop Diversification Niches. Conference on Crop Diversification,, DiverIMPACTS, Sep 2019, Budapest, Hungary. 3 p. ⟨hal-02945762⟩



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