AgriLink Making it easier for farmers and entrepreneurs to find the right information and advice - AgriLink

Making it easier for farmers and entrepreneurs to find the right information and advice

Latvia
The Latvian Living lab wants to improve the engagement of farmers and producers with the resources and facilities of the agricultural advisory system in Latvia.
The PROAKIS report on Latvia indicates that the national AKIS remains fragmented. Provision of advice in agriculture in Latvia is decentralised.

An increasing number of public, private and third sector organisations are involved in providing advice to farmers, and there is little evidence of widespread coordination among them. Few AKIS members perceive the Latvian AKIS as a coherent and unified system. Consequently, there are currently different methods of instruction and knowledge-dissemination in Latvia that allow farmers and horticultural producers to acquire the requisite knowledge to produce processed fruit or vegetable products. Nonetheless, many farmers and entrepreneurs do not have the time or skills to navigate the advisory system, while others do not always have a clear understanding of their professional needs and where they can get help.

Theme and target group
The primary target group of the Latvian living lab is small farmers and entrepreneurs who require professional assistance with processing techniques and marketing that AKIS agents could provide.

Our point of departure was that there was a “gap” in the services offered to farmers and small producers. There are freely available materials, and different methods of instruction and knowledge-dissemination are employed by FAS/AKIS organisations.

However, there are limited channels through which to quickly locate individuals or materials that provide knowledge and skills, which would allow farmers and producers to produce and market processed fruit or vegetable products.

Aim of the Living Lab

Improve the engagement of farmers and producers with the resources and facilities of the agricultural advisory system in Latvia.

Partner and responsible person contact

Baltic Studies Centre

Emils Kilis, emils.kilis@gmail.com

BSC is an independent scientific institute that employs five researchers and three research assistants. BSC undertakes action-oriented research strategies that frequently focus research on the needs of practitioners and support practical innovations towards sustainability. The facilitator is Dalija Segliņa, who is a senior researcher at the Institute of Horticulture. Dalija has extensive experience working in the field of horticulture and an excellent understanding of the field. Her knowledge and contacts greatly enhance the team’s ability to build relationships with key stakeholders.

The Living Lab story

While it was easy to identify the problem, the process of creating a solution tailored to the Latvian context proved to be complicated and required that we engage with stakeholders to make our ideas fit for purpose. Narrowing down the focus of our activities allowed us to create feasible solutions.

In late 2017, we started from the assumption that there was a “gap” in the services offered to farmers and small producers. After consulting with various experts, we agreed that there was a lack of assistance regarding processing and marketing that would ensure that farmers and small producers could adopt sustainable business strategies and ensure their livelihoods.

In order to address this issue, we came up with the idea for a new online platform. This idea was proposed during a meeting in January 2018 with experts in the field. The contention was that an online tool could potentially allow farmers and producers to easily identify areas where assistance is required and quickly and efficiently find where they can obtain it. Initially, we planned to cover horticulture in its entirety, but we gradually decided to focus on processing and marketing.

Many farmers and entrepreneurs whom we would like to engage use online facilities and subscribe to mailing lists to find about upcoming events of potential interest to them. Some agricultural advisors have noted that their clients are perfectly comfortable using apps. However, we were mindful that our platform could alter the way farmers and companies navigate the advisory system, and engaging farmers, who primarily interact with the advisory system via local advisors with whom they have established a good relationship, would be a challenge.

The majority of 2018 was spent trying to find an optimal way of engaging the potential users of the online platform. The platform was presented at several events attended by farmers and entrepreneurs during summer and autumn. The overall impression, based on the responses of participants, was that a more interactive approach was necessary to encourage feedback and input. We noted that people were not responding to the presentations in ways that challenged our assumptions.

At the end of 2018, we decided to create a visual representation of our idea. Visualising the platform for the purposes of the presentation was a valuable experience as it forced us to confront the fact that we had been working with a very abstract idea of what the platform would be. Furthermore, it made us aware of the fact that we will have to spend more time thinking about how to present the online tool. Nonetheless, the feedback we received from advisors and experts was useful and we have now moved ahead with building the actual platform.

Lessons learned
1 Participation and engagement
While active participation by different agents and stakeholders should be encouraged, the extent of their involvement will probably vary from living lab to living lab and may depend on the cultural specificities of the country in question.
2 Traditional ways
Appreciation of traditional ways of engaging the advisory system in the country in question can contribute to developing a solution that can build upon the strengths of the system whilst circumventing the need to introduce disruptions with unclear consequences.
3 Ambition
The living lab has had to constantly narrow down its ambition in order to come up with something that could work and continue to exist after the project has concluded.

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