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Enhancing uptake of new agrifood technologies and other innovations by Food Chain actors

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Prof M Dean, Prof M Mooney  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Exploring attitudes and behaviours of food chain actors on uptake and barriers to implementing current and future new innovations that could benefit productivity and mitigate environmental consequences of agrifood using an assessment matrix tool designed as part of the project.

Innovation is considered as one of the key drivers for a competitive and sustainable agriculture. In the last years, the Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS) studies agreed on the importance of a direct involvement of farmers in the innovation processes to identify the best response to farm issues and to improve the effectiveness of innovation (Botha et al., 2017; Fielke et al., 2017; Ingram et al., 2018; Leeuwis and Van den Ban, 2004). Direct involvement means that an interactive and practical collaboration of all actors (researchers, advisors, farmers, etc.) using appropriated tools to the target (Barcellini et al., 2015), allowing partners to verify the activity carried out and contributing to the change process.

Another issue related to the comprehension of innovation needs is the difficulty of identifying farmers’ needs. A survey conducted by DAERA with farmers found the current level of innovation uptake on the farms of NI to be low. This has enormous implications for the environmental, economic and social sustainability of NI farms in a time of climate change crisis.

Further, available assessment tools such as the one used by García-Granero with Spanish farmers (2020) only address the environmental aspect of innovation. These do not meet the needs of DAERA, whose strategy vision addresses an innovation ecosystem delivering for the environment, societal wellbeing and the rural economy. Therefore, an assessment tool wider than measuring Eco-Innovation is needed.

This project aims to expanding our understanding of farmer ‘behaviour’ in the acceptance and implementation of innovative tool and solutions. To do this we will design and validate a measurement tool to undertake the assessment; explore the barriers farmers face which stop implementation; assess how it is affected by social, psychological and organisational context; and how it can be influenced to enhance innovation uptake. Here ‘behaviour’ includes understanding the underlying determinants of behaviour and behaviour change, factoring in cultural, organisational and individual-level influences.

To date relatively few studies have developed and published innovation measurement tool development. Further, there is an urgent need to understand farmers’ perceptions, understanding and use of innovative tools and solutions as well as their barriers and enablers to enhance update.

Project objectives are to:

·       Map and design an innovation assessment matrix to be used within the Agri-sector in NI

·       Pilot and measure innovation implementation in NI Agri farms using the developed matrix

·       Explore farmers’ and processors’ barriers and facilitators to Innovation implementation

·       Identify trends in innovation uptake investigating demographic, psychosocial and other predictors

·       Formulate recommendations for enhancing innovation uptake on the farm

This project will be supervised by Professor Moira Dean and Professor Mark Mooney (Queen's University School of Biological Sciences/Institute for Global Food Security).

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Duration: 3 years

How to apply: Applications must be submitted via:

Funding Notes

This studentship is funded by the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy (DfE) in association with the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). Includes an enhanced student stipend.
Candidates must be normally resident in the UK for the three year period prior to 1 October 2022. For non-EU nationals, the main purpose of residence must not have been to receive full-time education. Non-UK or Irish nationals must also have pre-settled or settled status (EU nationals) or settled status (non-EU nationals).
Full eligibility criteria:
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