Swiss College of Agriculture, Zollikofen

Rural innovation networks: from knowledge to development

When do agricultural producers invest in new harvesting technology, change the rotation of crop and fertilisation, reorient their production or use new marketing channels? Over the last years the use of advanced knowledge and technology in agriculture has become more and more important. Farmers, as well as agro-industry companies that provide agricultural input or buy, process and market agricultural products, are forced to innovate; otherwise they would not stand a chance against competitors in local and international markets. Meanwhile the wheel of technical change seems to be spinning faster and faster and for farmers, rural communities and entire regions it is becoming more and more difficult to keep up with the pace. But how do famers and the agricultural sector in general gain and use new knowledge and technologies? Is it enough to have the agricultural adviser visiting the farm or to read through professional journals? New insights from the field of innovation studies indicate that this is, in fact, not enough. Rather, a range of factors must come together simultaneously: the innovations must be profitable and easily perceived as such, there must be sufficient economic and socio-psychological capacity to adopt them and conducive political and institutional framework conditions must be in place to enable the creation and use of innovations. The social connectivity between the famers and also with various in the agro-industry and in research and development is an important parameter in determining the innovative behaviour of farmers. The rule is: he who networks is more innovative..

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