AgriLink The role of advisory services in farmers’ decision making for innovation uptake: direct marketing. - AgriLink

The role of advisory services in farmers’ decision making for innovation uptake: direct marketing.

Italy, Udine
Region

The focus region Friuli Venezia Giulia (specifically Udine province, ITD42) has been chosen as an example of small and geo-morphologically variegated area, where the agricultural sector is very advanced for certain sectors (viticulture) while arable systems, even with some very high productivity, suffer for structural limitations and the lack of organized processing in the region.

Region map.

The conformation of the landscapes and the conservative mindset that is characteristic of the rural economy also due to the limited share of young farmers, influenced the business setting of agriculture in the area. The average agricultural enterprise is familiar and small-medium scale, with an average utilized area of about 10ha per farm, even if larger and innovative farms are more and more frequent. In this context, the interest for social innovation in agriculture is consistently growing.

The collective marketing case in Focus Region has been selected as it was recently developed as an answer to the need of farmers on one side, who look for better placement of their organic products through direct contact and building of relationships with consumers and, on the other hand, to the request of consumers for a deep knowledge and relationship with the farmers who supply their food. Moreover, this system is aimed to facilitate the logistics and consequently enable products supply to be constant and continuative and not driven by occasional purchase of customers, as it is often the case for buyers’ groups or farm-gate markets.

Study focus

Access to independent and affordable advisory systems for small diversified organic farms in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region (Italy) is very limited. One of the few organisations that has tried to close this gap is the regional branch of AIAB (Italian Association for Organic Agriculture); it has done so by developing a network aimed to offer continuous support to farmers, based on peer-to-peer support.

AIAB established a system for collective direct marketing of local organic products to help farms build a solid customer base and at the same time create a community where actors are co-responsible for the sustainability of the local food systems. This social innovation was a pioneering work that drew knowledge and resources from farmers and other members of the organisation, but relied also on non-agricultural actors on topics such as legal and fiscal management.

The system, which involves 45 farmers, relies on an online platform for gathering orders, and on four locations for product distribution. The system aims at facilitating farmers’ access to market, but it also has a strong positive side effect: it contributes to strengthening the network of farmers and consequently to amplifying the effects of the peer-to-peer support system. This highlights the importance of social innovations in supporting peer networks, especially in instances when an independent advisory system is lacking.

Full report is available here.

Partner and responsible person contact

Vinidea SRL

Davide Zimolo, info@aiab.fvg.it

Vinidea srl (VIN) is a micro-enterprise founded in 1999 that provides information transfer and innovation brokerage for the wine industry.  VIN looks for scientific and practical news from all over the world and then makes it available to agronomists and enologists.  They make full and effective use of all available tools to promote the sharing of information among the different categories of wine specialists: from classic conferences to webinars and internet tools, study trips, written articles, audiovideos, translations from and into different languages and surveys.  VIN is publisher of the journal Infowine (Internet Journal of Enology and Viticulture) which is available in 6 languages and read by 40,000 wine professionals worldwide.

Lessons learned
1 The main advice-provider also has a hands-on role in the organization of the innovation.
The main factor of success of a specific advisory system can be identified in the fact that the main advice-provider (AIAB-FVG) also has a hands-on role in the organization of the innovation. This allowed for advice to always be practical and direct, which was always very much appreciated by farmers. Moreover, because the success of the innovation is dependent on positive cooperation between the farmers (also the advised) and AIAB-FVG (also the advisor), the environment in which information is passed on is inherently supporting an effective exchange.
2 The role that advice given by pioneer farmers to new adopters in this innovation was surprising.
Although peer to peer exchange of information is very common in the agricultural world, the role that advice given by pioneer farmers to new adopters in this innovation was surprising. In fact, pioneers were not only passing on their own experience to new comers, but they also adopted a role of active advice, guiding fellow farmers in the process (mainly for the initial steps).
3 Farms with no advisors were not able to obtain enough information and tended to not take on the innovation.
Failure stories can be identified especially when considering farms that were different in business structure and crop produced. In fact, when the network of fellow farmers was not present, and in the cases where AIAB-FVG did not have enough resources to give advice, such farms were not able to obtain enough information and tended to not take on the innovation.
4 The lack of advisors with expertise in both marketing/business administration and organic agriculture is the main gap.
For what concern this specific innovation, the lack of advisors (or the lack of the ability to find advisors) with expertise in both marketing/business administration and organic agriculture can be identified as the main gap. Many farmers would in fact benefit from help and resources in these areas, which are recognized to be very important when it comes to direct marketing of products.

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