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Innovation mechanisms in German precision farming

Abstract

In the precision farming (PF) literature on innovation activities, it becomes apparent that only individual aspects of the entire PF innovation process chain are considered, namely, the knowledge transfer and the adoption of PF applications. Therefore, this study seeks to analyze the innovation mechanisms in the entire PF innovation process chain. The paper identifies potentials, barriers and challenges for PF innovations in Germany and the respective agricultural subsector plant production. An in-depth understanding of innovation mechanisms is required to enhance innovation capabilities, overcome obstacles and bring further innovations to the agricultural field. A mix of qualitative and quantitative methods was applied—including interviews, an expert workshop and a Delphi survey—to explore innovation mechanisms and the role of heterogeneous actors. The research is based on the analytical framework of the sectoral innovation system approach. Key results are the identification of barriers in the later stages of the innovation processes (including validation, serial production and adoption), a gap in the knowledge transfer between science and practice, insufficient communication and co-operation between actors and the important influence of political and legal conditions. Furthermore, this study showed that farmers play an important role in the generation of innovations. For example, farmers are not only adopters or demanders but also impulse providers or co-developers. In conclusion, this study moves the PF innovation debate forward not only by providing adoption facts but also by presenting explanations for the complex interactions between actors throughout the innovation process chain.

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Acknowledgments

This paper presents selected results from a comprehensive study regarding the German Agricultural innovation system. The study received funding from the Innovation Support Program of the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV) based on a German Parliament resolution (Grant 123-02.05-20.0076/10-H). This study included a Delphi survey, in which 150 experts from plant production, live stock farming and horticulture were contacted. The results from these three groups were quite comparable. The authors would like to thank Dr. Sven Lundie (Doeninghaus, Walker & Partner, moderator of the workshops), Judith Emmerling (student assistant at the Humboldt-University of Berlin, Department of Agricultural Economics) and all experts for participating in interviews, workshops and the survey.

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Busse, M., Doernberg, A., Siebert, R. et al. Innovation mechanisms in German precision farming. Precision Agric 15, 403–426 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11119-013-9337-2

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Keywords

  • Innovation processes
  • Sectoral innovation system
  • Expert interviews
  • Delphi survey
  • Farmers