Farmers doing it for themselves: how farmer-inventors are frustrated by their interactions with the Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System

Notwithstanding recent policy commitments to formally involve farmers in innovation through initiatives such as the European Innovation Partnership (EIP-AGRI), the traditional perspective of the policy and academic literature in Europe has been that agricultural innovations are provided by others for farmers to adopt. In this context there has been relatively little research on the approaches of farmers who independently invent useful products and processes for themselves. This paper presents an analysis of Irish farmers’ inventing processes as a form of user innovation, using data generated from in-depth interviews with farmer-inventors and semi-structured interviews with key informants from agricultural organisations. The farmer-inventors mostly use tacit knowledge and practical skills to create their inventions with the objective of increasing efficiency as a means to improving family farm viability. Farmer-inventors with entrepreneurial intentions were less inclined to share their ideas freely and described financial and temporal constraints in commercialising their inventions. The Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS) concept was used to frame an analysis of farmer-inventors’ interactions with innovation support organisations from the perspective of the farmers themselves. This allowed appraisal of the Irish AKIS’ support of farmer-led innovation relating to the positioning, visibility, and representation of farmers’ knowledge, inventions, and networks. This study contributes new knowledge about user innovation in European agriculture as EIP-AGRI co-production structures become established. It is proposed that farmers are a hitherto underappreciated source of independent knowledge and inventions in agricultural development and are poorly supported by AKIS institutions.
Year of Conference
Conference Name
13th European IFSA symposium - Farming systems: facing uncertainties and enhancing opportunities
International Farming Systems Assocaition