How Social Innovations in Farming Fuel Agricultural Democratisation

Hands in field symbolising solidarity and social innovation. This illustrates the point of the Farmtopia blog, which is social innovation in farming

Farming is more than a job for many – it’s a way of life. Especially for small farmers who, for instance, run their operations as a family business. Social innovations in farming help these small-scale farmers stay afloat in today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape.
Social innovations are those that help bridge the gap between the farmers and the new technology, leading to a more fair and democratic agricultural landscape.

In this blog post, we will take a closer look at how social innovations in farming help individuals and society.

What are Social Innovations?

Social innovations refer to design and implementation of fresh ideas and solutions that are both good for society and enhance its capacity to act. These innovations are products, services, or models that deal with (often systemic) social and environmental issues by meeting the needs of individuals and communities.

They can range from digital solutions that make life on the farm easier, to trainings that provide new insights to small farmers.

Role of Social Innovations in Farming

Social innovations in farming focus on the socio- and economic wellbeing of a number of actors of the agrifood value chain. From individual small farmers, agricultural cooperatives, to end users – different actors can be targeted by social innovations.

Social innovations should present solutions for revitalising rural communities, better health and well-being of farmers, better social inclusion on farms, etc.

Two farmers in field, illustrating collaboration in the field, which is needed for social innovation

How Social Innovations Help Small Farmers

Ever wondered how social innovation can rejuvenate small farmer operations, making them not just sustainable but robust?

Let’s explore the transformative impact of integrating Agricultural Digital Solutions (ADSs) to enhance both the economic and environmental performance of these crucial contributors, bridging the digital gap for a brighter agricultural future.

The social innovations in farming planned by projects such as Farmtopia have the potential to create an interconnected ecosystem which can lead to a more efficient European agricultural sector and also:

  • Improve farmers’ ability to use ADSs
  • Improve their working conditions
  • Lead to better farm management
  • Reduce costs of ADSs and related farming activities
  • Support alternative business models that are sustainable by nature
  • Help create additional revenue streams
  • Provide access to different services

For instance, one way Farmtopia plans to provide low-cost services to farmers and better farm management is by granting them access to an open source, interoperable and extendable Digital Fieldbook and User Interface.

Farmtopia aims to successfully meet social needs, creates social relationships and form new collaborations by:

  • Networking: Farmtopia will support small- and medium-sized farmers throughout Europe and associated countries by facilitating connections, fostering mutual learning, and encouraging the exchange of experiences within DIHs networks.
  • Competition: Leveraging the DIHs support facility, Farmtopia will encourage farmers to enhance their competitiveness by utilising digital technology, specifically through the implementation of ADSs, to improve their products and services.
  • Ecosystem: Through Open Calls and funding nine external SIPs, Farmtopia will commit to broadening the dissemination of the project’s Sustainable Innovation Pilots (SIPs) and knowledge transfer using a multi-actor approach. This strategy aims to enlarge the established ecosystem and maximize its overall impact.
  • Impact: Farmtopia aims to evaluate the impact of its ADS solutions across scientific, economic/technological, and societal dimensions, sharing insights and benefits with a network that spans Europe and extends to more than 225,000 farmers.
  • Exploring: Farmtopia has brought together scientists, technological providers, and farmers from various countries. The project plans to extend its reach to additional countries through the aforementioned nine external SIPs. The objective is to explore new ideas, applications, and fields for further development.
farmer looking at laptop in front of tractor, illustration social innovation in farming

Importance of Consumer Initiatives

Farmtopia relies on the expertise and insights garnered from consumer initiatives like PETA, one of the partners on the project, that advocates for the ethical entitlement to understand the origins, production methods, and sources of our consumption.With the ability to collaborate effectively with various stakeholders, including such initiatives, Farmtopia aims to optimise the potential of ADSs and proactively tackle challenges before they manifest in the marketplace.

The PETA initiative has the tagline “Who’s the Boss?” and was created by consumers in Greece to take back control of their food. They do so by being actively involved in its creation – from the field and farm to the marketing. The initiative aims at the sustainable developments of the Greek economy and the agri-food sector, while supporting the environment and society.

Importance of Social Innovations in Policy Making

The European Parliament (EP) recognised the lack of ADSs uptake by small farmers as a policy issue. In their 2017 Precision Agriculture in Europe study, the EP has stated that small-scale farmers “benefited the least from [the] boost in production”.

As uptake of ADSs by small farmers is a social action, it should be considerably embedded in policy measures. Farmtopia will create a set of policy recommendations tailored to the needs of small farmers. It will do so by using insights and evidence from a bottom-up dialogue with the 18 SIPs of the project, and from an analysis of the European policy and regulatory structures.

Conclusion

Even though the agricultural industry takes great interest in ADSs, we have demonstrated in the blog above that their adoption among small farmers remains limited. In the Farmtopia project, we strive for a future where ADSs cater more to the needs of small farms. We are working towards creating and deploying such ADSs that are cost-friendly. As a Horizon Europe project spanning three years, our goal is to democratise digital farming, making it accessible to all.

Further Reading:

Democratizing Digital Farming for All – FARMTOPIA’S PATH TO EMPOWERING SMALL FARMS WITH DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES

Project Coordination:

Mr Dionisis Solomos

NEUROPUBLIC AE PLIROFORIKIS
& EPIKOINONION

Methonis 6 Kai
Spiliotopoulou 18545,
PEIRAIAS, Greece

d_solomos@neuropublic.gr

Project Communication:

Prof dr Mladen Radisic
CEO
Foodscale Hub
foodscalehub.com

Narodnog fronta 73,
Novi Sad 21000, Serbia

mladen@foodscalehub.com

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