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Tracking down coupled innovations supporting agroecological vegetable crop protection to foster sustainability transition of agrifood systems
Agricultural Systems  (IF5.37),  Pub Date : 2021-12-20, DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2021.103354
Yann Boulestreau, Claire-Lise Peyras, Marion Casagrande, Mireille Navarrete


High pesticide use causes environmental and human health hazards. Yet, the change to alternative crop protection practices faces a web of interacting barriers that results in a sociotechnical lock-in. Designing “coupled innovation” has been proposed by agricultural scientists to overcome the barriers that prevent change in practices. Coupled innovations consist of developing jointly innovations both at the farm and the agrifood system level to overcome the lock-in.


In this study, we aim at characterizing how existing coupled innovations foster the implementation of agroecological crop protection in French vegetable systems.


‘Tracking down coupled innovation’ method consisted of six steps: (i) identification of the existing coupled innovations in vegetable systems across France; (ii) interview of their stakeholders; (iii) identification, based on the interviews and an analytical framework, of the sociotechnical levers involved in the coupled innovations and the functions the levers perform to foster agroecological crop protection; (iv) characterization of the conditions for the coupled innovation implementation based on 20 categorical variables; (v) typology of the innovations based on the lever functions they performed, using a multiple correspondence analysis followed by hierarchical cluster analysis on principal components; (vi) comprehensive analysis of one typical innovation per cluster, to understand in-depth how it was implemented.


We identified 40 coupled innovations, 17 sociotechnical lever functions and 5 consistent clusters of coupled innovations each implementing a specific combination of lever functions. The five clusters consist of: (1) co-developing and diffusing new inputs and related knowledge through specific knowledge infrastructure, (2) facilitating farmers' peer-exchange of knowledge, (3) (re)structuring the food value chain to support the implementation of agroecological crop protection, (4) pooling material and cognitive resources and (5) renting or exchanging fields to support crop diversification. Key conditions for innovation success were the support of intermediaries, a shared vision and trust between stakeholders, their active involvement, and a limited physical distance between them. The comprehensive analysis of the typical innovations illustrated, for each cluster, the complex relation between the sociotechnical levers, the functions they perform, the network involved, the ACP practices implemented and the conditions for successful implementation.


Tracking down coupled innovation produced knowledge that can support the coupled innovation design in other contexts, hence the sustainability transition of the agrifood systems. It can complement the study of innovative farmers' practices with capitalizing knowledge on the means to overcome barriers to the implementation of these practices.