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Significant detrimental effects of agricultural intensification and specialization are becoming increasingly evident. Reliance on monocultures, few varieties, and intensive use of agrochemicals is a major factor in climate change, biodiversity decline, soil health deterioration, and pollution, putting our food system at risk. This requires sustainable agricultural processes, such as crop diversification, to be more rapidly and effectively tested, adopted, and scaled. While these processes are typi- cally introduced at niche level, they often struggle to scale and to induce broader sustainability transitions. In this study, we investigate how scaling may occur, focusing on institutional logics, their changes, and realignment over time. In particular, we applied an abductive research strategy to collect empirical evidence from two in-depth, longitudinal case studies of innovation niches related to crop diversification. Doing so, we show for the first time that, despite their many differences, scaling processes of crop diversification in both niches converge, presenting similar progressions in terms of institutional dimensions, and facing similar obstacles when it comes to value chain formation. While initial experimentation could still be implemented using organizational forms familiar to the lead actors, we discover that a systemic lack of adequate value chain arrangements obstructed the scaling process of crop diversification in both cases. These findings have been used to reflect on the role of value chain relations in scaling processes in sustainability transitions in agriculture. Keywords Crop diversification · Value chains · Sustainability transitions · Innovation niche · Institutional logics 1 Introduction 2020). Crop diversification, for example through crop rota- tion and/or intercropping, is increasingly seen as a process Increasing diversity in agricultural systems is now consid- to support transitions towards more sustainable food systems ered a starting point to mitigate the negative effects of agri- (Bonke and Musshoff 2020; Gurr et al. 2016; Rodriguez cultural intensification and specialization on climate change, et al. 2021; Struik and Kuyper 2017; Wezel et al. 2020), biodiversity decline, soil health deterioration, and pollution playing a significant role in many approaches targeting more (Meynard et al. 2018; Lanz et al. 2018; Rockström et al. sustainable agriculture, such as organic agriculture, eco- logical intensification, and agroecology (Duru et al. 2015; Garibaldi et al. 2019; Migliorini and Wezel 2017; Therond * Chiara Sophia Weituschat et al. 2017). Crop diversification targets the increase of the email@example.com number of different crop species in the same plot of land in a given timeframe. As such, it provides several potential Business Management and Organisation Group, Wageningen benefits, including increasing agro-biodiversity, decreasing University, Hollandseweg 1, 6706 KN Wageningen, The Netherlands the incidence of pests and diseases, enhancing carbon and water sequestration, and improving soil health and structure Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, P.O. Box 601203, 14412 Potsdam, Germany (Bedoussac et al. 2015; Ditzler et al. 2021; Magrini et al. 2016; Watson et al. 2017). In particular, when crop diversi- Business School and Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, ESI Building, Penryn Campus fication is associated with the (re-)introduction of legumes Cornwall, TR10 9EZ Penryn, UK in a farming system, their nitrogen fixation properties reduce Department for Innovation in Biological, Agro-food the need of chemical fertilization, and thus reduce pollution and Forest systems, Università degli Studi della Tuscia, Via and eutrophication (Bedoussac et al. 2015). San Camillo de Lellis snc, 01100 Viterbo, Italy Vol.:(0123456789) 1 3 25 Page 2 of 19 C. S. Weituschat et al. Source: The authors Fig. 1 Targeted rotation in BSF case: clockwise: tomato, peas, and here are examples of the wide variety of crops from which the EDL wheat straw after harvest (left) and diverse crops in EDL case; clock- farm builds its rotations. wise: lupines, potatoes with flower strips, flax (right). The crops shown These benefits are recognized by recent EU strategies on innovation niches develop over time, paying special atten- climate and biodiversity vocally supporting both crop diver- tion to the barriers and enablers of scaling crop diversifica- sification generally, and increased production of legumes in tion related to value chain formation dynamics (Meynard et al. particular (European Commission 2018, 2021). Despite the 2018; Weituschat et al. 2022). Drawing on extant literature, recognition of its benefits, and the political support, in the Euro- and in order to further enrich it, we have gathered empirical pean context, crop diversification remains a process confined to evidence from two longitudinal case studies: on one hand, so-called niches, where innovations are developed and tested we collected data related to a project of crop diversification at a small scale (Duru et al. 2015; Geels 2019; Ingram 2015). implemented within the wider Barilla Sustainable Farming In recent years, the investigations of enablers and barriers for (BSF) initiative. In this project, crop diversification has been scaling these niches, for example at a territorial or value chain introduced by farmers in the north of Italy (see Fig. 1, left), level, have provided novel insights, but the scaling process is supporting a socio-ecological innovation process in an exist- still far from being fully understood (Ingram 2015; Magrini ing industrial value chain where the Barilla Food Company is et al. 2016; Meynard et al. 2018; Morel et al. 2020). In fact, involved as a main buyer, and representing a case of a company- scaling niches in agricultural and food systems is considered led diversification process. On the other hand, we collected a relatively complex endeavor (Boulestreau et al. 2021; Wig- data from the Ekoboerderij de Lingehof (EDL) initiative in the boldus et al. 2016; Wojtynia et al. 2021), and in the case of Netherlands, a bio-dynamic farm and community-led approach crop diversification touches upon many dimensions, including where the process of crop diversification has originated at farm policies, markets, value chains, and farm management (Magrini level (see Fig. 1, right), but quickly stimulated the need for for- et al. 2016; Meynard et al. 2018; Voisin et al. 2014). Accord- mation of new value chains. Despite their differences in terms ingly, farmers cannot be considered to be in full control of the of socio-ecological and institutional conditions, in both cases, crop diversification process beyond the innovation niche level we observed actors engaged in the attempt to scale crop diver- (Bonke and Musshoff 2020; Boulestreau et al. 2021), particu- sification through value chain formation dynamics. larly when value chain formation, i.e., the creation of novel In the next section, we present and discuss this meth- market outlets and relationships for their products, is needed. odological strategy in further details. We introduce the con- Hence, the interplay between scaling and value chain forma- ceptual and analytical approach first, particularly focusing tion is an essential aspect to understand in order to stimulate on the role of institutional logics in sustainability transi- wider sustainability transitions in agricultural and food systems tions (Fuenfschilling and Truffer 2014). Then, we present (Meynard et al. 2018). This remains a key theme to investigate, and discuss the findings and develop the discussion section, and constitutes a still relatively less explored field of inquiry. where results are conceptualized in relation to scaling of Given this background, this study focuses on scaling of crop diversification and sustainability transitions. Finally, innovation niches engaging with processes of crop diversi- in the last section, we present the main concluding remarks fication. More specifically, in our analysis, we look at how of our study. 1 3 Understanding the role of value chain formation in the scaling of crop diversification Page 3 of 19 25 Niches are defined as protected spaces in which actors (e.g., 2 Materials and methods farmers) experiment and test novel practices, in response to pressures and opportunities in their wider societal and eco- In this section, we present our abductive research strategy. logical context (Hermans et al. 2016; Ingram 2015). While Usually, an abductive strategy is motivated by the need to in some cases actors operating in the niche do not intend explain a surprising set of evidence, given extant knowledge, to scale their innovative practices (Belmin et al. 2018), in or the initial theorization of researcher(s) (Schurz 2008; other cases there is the expressed aim for the actors to scale Philipsen 2018). In our case, the starting point was the realiza- beyond the niche, and trigger a broader shift in practices and tion that the crop diversification processes in the selected case technologies (Geels et al. 2016; Ingram 2015; Meynard et al. studies were expected to be rather different. To our surprise, 2017). Scaling is here understood as increasing the number they presented evidence of several similarities, for instance of actors (willing to) engage with a socio-ecological change. in terms of value chain formation dynamics in their scaling While scaling can initiate a sustainability transition, there attempts. Given the different objectives and contexts of the is debate about the conditions that enable this process to two projects, this was genuinely a puzzling outcome. The happen (Pigford et al. 2018; Wigboldus et al. 2016), particu- literature on sustainability transitions, in this case, offered a larly around institutional factors (Berthet and Hickey 2018; conceptual framework to begin with, but it did not offer an Hermans et al. 2016; Meynard et al. 2017). Scaling is a non- effective and clear pathway to understand the convergence of linear process, entailing tensions and negotiations between and similarities between these cases. Therefore, the need to the involved actors (Fuenfschilling and Truffer 2014; Geels expand extant knowledge became evident during the analyti- 2011). When tensions and negotiations are too severe or cal process, a condition typical for abductive research (Schurz complex, or actors are misaligned, scaling does not occur, 2008; Philipsen 2018). Since the initial conceptualization nor are transitions triggered (Wojtynia et al. 2021). failed to explain our empirical observations , the research Extant scholarship suggests that these tensions and nego- team embraced the abductive approach, and moved into tiations are guided by the (changing) institutional logics exploring a more suitable conceptualization, digging more under which actors in an innovation niche operate (Fuenf- decisively in the literature on scaling and innovation niches, schilling and Truffer 2014; Thornton and Ocasio 1999). and mobilizing the notion of institutional logics, using the Institutional logics are defined as “the socially constructed, latter as the theoretical lens for its conceptual framework (as historical patterns of (material) practices, assumptions, val- presented in section 2.1). The research team then moved into a ues, beliefs, and rules,” both formal and informal, which new analytical stage, re-engaged with the empirical evidence, “guide and constrain decision makers in accomplishing the and went back and forth, interactively, with this conceptual organization’s tasks and in obtaining social status, credits, framework to suggest a new conceptualization of the process penalties, and rewards in the process” (Thornton and Ocasio of scaling in relation to value chain formation dynamics (see 1999, p. 804). Therefore, focusing on institutional logics Sections 3.1 and 3.2). In what follows, we further present and mobilized by the different actors involved in the specific discuss the stages of our abductive research approach. innovation niche can help scholars investigate scaling pro- cesses, particularly in contexts of sustainability transitions. 2.1 Conceptual framework In our conceptualization, the scaling process is expected to be influenced by the institutional logics guiding actors In line with an abductive strategy, the conceptual framework to introduce rotation practices. Fuenfschilling and Truffer we present in this section has emerged in stages and through (2014) suggest to explore values, mission, technology, iteration between conceptualization and data analysis. Ini- actors, expertise, funding, and organizational form as key tially, our investigation engaged with extant literature on dimensions of institutional logics (see Fig. 2). In our study, innovation niches and sustainability transitions in agricul- we found this suggestion particularly useful in order to oper- ture, while subsequently we have focused particularly on ationalize institutional logics and facilitate their empirical institutional theories. In fact, our starting point was to iden- analysis. In this approach, farmers engaged in an innovation tify projects facilitating adoption and scaling of crop diver- niche can be driven by different sets of values and mission sification processes as innovation niches in sustainability which motivate why they are interested to implement and transitions. In literature, sustainability transitions refer to scale diversification processes. These values and missions fundamental, purposive changes to fulfil societal functions may be focused on protecting the environment, increasing more sustainably (Geels et al. 2016; Vermunt et al. 2020). biodiversity, improving soil health, maintaining productiv- ity, and/or increasing profitability. Based on their values and missions, they will identify which technologies and We, for example, tested a framework of system design based on practices to use and mobilize, such as adopting new crop Buchanan (2019), which failed to sufficiently explain our observa- rotations, new machinery, or IT systems. In this approach, tions. 1 3 25 Page 4 of 19 C. S. Weituschat et al. methodology that informed this conceptual approach in fur- ther details. 2.2 Research strategy and context In line with our analytical strategy, initial data collection was targeting actors (e.g., farmers) experimenting with crop rotation practices in two cases resembling the typical features of innovation niches. In particular, the aim was to observe and reconstruct the temporal process of scal- ing, and to identify the role of value chain relations in this process. The team followed an in-depth case study meth- odology (Eisenhardt et al. 2016; Eisenhardt and Graeb- ner 2007), and designed the research to seek a long-term engagement and commitment from and to these case stud- ies. We had the opportunity to select two case studies, as part of an EU-H2020 funded project, Diverfarming, in which the research team had been involved since its initia- tion (Diverfarming 2017). Specifically, we selected a pro- ject supported by the Barilla Sustainable Farming (BSF) initiative, in the north of Italy, and a project initiated by the Fig. 2 Proposed relations between key dimensions of institutional farm Ekoboerderij de Lingehof (EDL), in the Netherlands. logics. Source: Adapted from Fuenfschilling and Truffer (2014). Both cases described the establishment of crop diversifi- cation processes, including the introduction of legumes in technologies and practices include (farming) techniques, crop rotation as the key innovative practice. However, the such as crop rotations, intercropping, or precision fertiliza- contexts of the two projects were quite different. tion. To identify and experiment with these technologies and On one hand, the diversification project related to the practices, additional expertise may be needed. This expertise BSF initiative was initiated in the 2000s by the Barilla might be in terms of agronomic knowledge, understanding Group, a family-owned, multinational food processing of environmental effects, or financial considerations. In company with its headquarters and majority of opera- order to acquire or develop this expertise, farmers may net- tions in Italy (Barilla 2021c). It involved farmers already work, collaborate, and/or engage with other actors, such as engaged in commercial activities in the Barilla value chain. research institutes, policy makers, and value chain partners. The BSF initiative’s aim was to promote the company’s Crucial to the experimentation with novel technologies and brands, while simultaneously securing high-quality raw practices is the funding mechanism that may be internal or materials, and improving resilience and productivity of the come from external parties, such as subsidies or innovation farming systems contributing to its supply. While the com- grants from governmental agencies or investors. Yet, in order pany’s main focus was to improve the sustainability of their for both long-term viability and scaling of the experimented own supply chains, the BSF initiative revealed that to do technologies and practices, funding mechanisms will need to so, often the entirety of farmers’ cropping systems needed be internalized through forms of commercialization, which to be considered, and diversified. Since the beginning of will require new organizational forms at value chain level, the BSF initiative, Barilla aimed to work with their sup- such as new contractual arrangements, professional asso- ply chain partners, e.g., aggregators, storage centers, and ciations, or partnerships, providing the long-term funding producer organizations, to identify small groups of farm- mechanisms needed for scaling. ers, in different areas, keen to experiment with novel prac- The suggested conceptual framework (Fig. 2) offers an tices. For the purpose of this research, the team focused on opportunity to identify the key relations emerging from one specific project within BSF in which farmers located the investigated innovation niches, namely the BSF and in the north of Italy (i.e., Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, EDL projects, and to support the abductive analytical strat- Piedmont, and Veneto) were attempting to rotate soft and egy accordingly. More specifically, we used this lens of durum wheat with tomatoes and peas (illustrated in pic- institutional logics, and related dimensions, as it offered tures in Fig. 1). For many of these farmers, this was the the research team key analytical categories that could be first time to test crop rotations with legumes, given the observed over time, and highlighted the missing pieces existing industrial value chain in which cereal and wheat of scaling processes. The following section describes the production is dominant. While such crop rotations have 1 3 Understanding the role of value chain formation in the scaling of crop diversification Page 5 of 19 25 been more widely adopted since, it initially started with 2.3 Data collection niches of small groups of farmers, (Barilla 2020, 2021a, 2021b). Thus, while the company Barilla itself, given its In line with the abductive strategy, an iterative and longi- size and global reach, is unlikely to be considered a niche, tudinal process of data collection and analysis was under- this specific project within the BSF initiative is an inno - taken (Philipsen 2018). Data was primarily collected using vation niche. In line with the definition of a niche inno- in-depth, semi-structured interviews with farmers (EDL) and vation, practices were initially tested at small scale and company managers (BSF), who were asked to describe the those evidencing positive results were selected, and scaled origin of the innovation process, its key features and activi- to other areas and supply chains, e.g., through adoption ties, and how these changed over time. The structure and key of codes of conduct (e.g., the Barilla Sustainable Farm- elements of the interviews were adjusted, as necessary, to ing Handbook), decision-support systems, and contractual each interviewee and context Moreover, to enrich our pri- agreements (Barilla 2020, 2021a, 2021b). Barilla is not mary data, interviews with actors related to the activities in alone in this type of approach but in fact represents a wider the innovation niche, e.g., value chain partners (farmers and trend in agribusiness, where large multinational companies aggregators for BSF and buyers for EDL), and observational have committed to experiment with sustainable practices data were collected. All interviews lasted between 1 and 2 and processes through multi-actor and value chain-based h and were conducted within the timeframe of 2016–2020. strategies (e.g., Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2022a, b; The two EDL managers were interviewed during periodic Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform 2022), and thus farm visits (approximately once a year) and project meet- face the need to coordinate multiple sourcing streams, raw ings (approximately twice a year). Three of the Barilla man- material buyers, and other food companies, which poses a agers involved in the project (Global purchasing manager, novel and unique challenge to scaling processes. Agronomy R&D manager, Sustainable Farming specialist) EDL, on the other hand, represents a case of a niche have also been engaged in regular meetings, on average one farm, encompassing approximately 100 ha, in the region of every 3 months, and interviewed in the early stage of the Gelderland, Netherlands (Ekoboerderij de Lingehof 2020). project, during the mid-term review (2018) and towards the The farm currently carries biodynamic and organic certi- end of the data collection (2020). Singular interviews were fication and delivers their crops to regional, national, and conducted with additional company managers (see Table 1). European buyers. Since its establishment, EDL farm man- These engagements and interviews were conducted in Eng- agers considered agroecological principles and particularly lish since the interviewees were proficient in this language. the enhancement of soil health as a defining factor in crop However, there was always at least one researcher present rotations and in diversification processes, which eventually who spoke the native language of the interviewee (Dutch or extended to approximately 10–15 different crops each year. Italian), in order to clarify or translate terms if needed. For Rotations are now 6 to 7 years long and include 2 consecu- the BSF case study, we also conducted two focus groups tive years of clover for soil restoration, grains, and vegetable with farmers and suppliers in Italian. Finally, we integrated crops like pumpkins and cabbage. However, root crops like and triangulated information from the cases with secondary potatoes and onions, which are heavier on the soil, still played data according to the specific needs suggested by evidence an important role in rotations. To further balance pressure on from the field (Eisenhardt and Graebner 2007). Both cases the soil, EDL farm managers aimed to give legumes, such as had an inventory of documents and information related to lupines, a more regular role in rotations. Driven by their own their key activities, as well as a website. Table 1 reports an ambitions, and with the interest of other farmers, who were overview of all consulted data sources. also involved in the biodynamic and/or organic movements, EDL engaged with supply chain partners, such as buyers and 2.4 Data analysis large retailers, interested in expanding their sourcing from organic producers. In particular, the commercialization of We manually coded the contents of interview and meeting legumes, such as lupines, triggered an interest for scaling transcripts and notes, and triangulated with a comprehen- crop rotations to other farming systems, and to work together sive collection of documentary data (see Table 1 above). with other farmers to achieve critical mass of production . In line with the abductive strategy, and consolidated prac- tice in qualitative case study analysis (Eisenhardt and Graebner 2007), the conceptual framework presented in Fig. 2 provided the final thematic codes for both primary Biodynamic agriculture assumes the farm, soil, and ecosystem to and secondary data (see Fig. 3). As common and often be a living organism, and diversity in rotations with a focus on soil health is a key factor in biodynamic farming. Sources: Biodynamic Association (2022); Demeter (2021). 3 4 Further information on the case studies is presented in the Appendix. An example of an interview guide is presented in the Appendix. 1 3 25 Page 6 of 19 C. S. Weituschat et al. Table 1 Overview of data sources. Category Barilla Sustainable Farming Ekoboerderij de Lingehof Interviews Global purchasing manager (GPM) Farm manager (1) (FM1) Agronomy R&D manager (ARD) Farm manager (2) (FM2) Purchasing director for raw materials (PDM) Value chain partner 1 (SCP1) Sustainable Farming specialist (SFS) Value chain partner 2 (SCP2) Marketing manager (MM) Brand equity manager (BEM) Purchasing soft wheat manager (PSW) Observations Internal strategic meetings (ISM) Farm visit 1 (FV1) Farm visit 2 (FV2) Focus groups Famers focus group Parma (FGP) Jeffersonian dinner Wageningen (JDW) Suppliers focus group Parma (SFG) Jeffersonian dinner Parma (JDP) Documents Barilla Sustainability reporting inventory (BSI) Report – Lupine project (LPR) Reports and presentations on sustainable raw material initiatives Presentation – Crop rotation design related to crop diversification (SRMI) Diverfarming Wageningen (CRDW) Barilla strategic reporting (BSR) Secondary data sources MSc thesis reports Farm website repository Academic papers Barilla corporate website Fig. 3 Coding trees based on final conceptual framework. Legend: and institutional actors. In light yellow, the time-related codes of our left to right: in blue, codes referring to the seven dimensions of analysis, answering the analytical question of 'when events happened'. institutional logics adapted from Fuenfschilling and Truffer (2014); Three set of codes have been identified: a point-time event related to a in light red, codes referring to the process-related dimension of our specific date, a timespan related to a given year, and any other point- analysis, namely key events, activities and choices made by farmers time relative to a specific event. needed in abductive research, the conceptual framework their respective extracts in chronological order, using a was not finalized until after data collection, and interview process analysis approach, thus creating a timeline of key guides were thus not specifically aimed towards the given events, activities, and choices (Langley 1999), accounting dimensions. Instead, once the pattern was recognized, we for coherence, tensions, and changes of the identified insti- purposefully analyzed and categorized all data sources for tutional dimensions and relations in the two cases. Based indications of and relations between the different dimen- on this process reconstruction, we identified temporal sions of institutional logics indicated in our conceptual stages characterizing the scaling process in the two niches. framework, namely values, mission, technologies and We describe the identified institutional logics at play in practices, actors, expertise, funding, and organizational each of the case studies and discuss how the order of key form. At the same time, we organized these codes and events creates specific institutional dynamics. Results 1 3 Understanding the role of value chain formation in the scaling of crop diversification Page 7 of 19 25 Table 2 Overview of changes in dimensions informing each innovation niche. 1 3 25 Page 8 of 19 C. S. Weituschat et al. were validated by respondents from each case study. The The BSF initiative had started with a shift in the strategic quotes used are marginally adjusted for conciseness and focus of Barilla, as captured in their corporate motto “good readability. for you, good for the planet.” When confronted with the need to operationalize this vision, the company needed to re-think its value chain organization more profoundly. The company was already confronted with issues of reduced productiv- 3 Results and discussion ity, coupled with increased uncertainty for sourcing raw materials, like cereals, both nationally (from Italian farm- 3.1 Findings ers) and globally. The (re-)commitment to the company’s stated values and mission led to these institutional dimen- In this section, we present a detailed account of the insti- sions being more firmly implemented as guiding principles. tutional logics and their chronology as emerging from our Since these principles were previously not fully aligned with data analysis. We have identified common stages char - current practices, this re-commitment led not only to the acterizing the temporal development of both niches, and re-shaping of the marketing of the company’s products, but identified the key “turning points” of their scaling path- also to the introduction of a more “place-based” sourcing ways, from project to value chain level. First, Table 2 sum- strategy, increasing the sourcing from local/national (Italian) marizes the changes in the institutional dimensions as they farmers through the BSF initiative. This is evidenced in one occurred across the different stages of the scaling process. of the statements of the supply chain strategist: Then we discuss each stage of the scaling process in more detail, relating them to the different dimensions of insti- Until the mid-90s we have been operating through a tutional logics, according to the conceptual background portfolio of sourcing options, from spot markets to presented in section 2. international brokers, to support our global brand in the pasta segment. We then realized we needed more 3.1.1 Stage 1—Commitment to values and mission leads diversity in our sourcing, and a more careful, region- to changes in technologies and practices alized approach. We had moved into a ‘good for you, good for the planet’ approach, and what was good for We now present each stage in Table 2 in more detail, relating the planet we needed to figure out and control more it directly to our primary data. In stage 1, in both innova- carefully [PDM]. tion niches, the process of engaging with crop diversification Among many pressures, the need to enhance soil health started through the need of reconsidering the set of values of had taken a pivotal role in the introduction of the Barilla the involved organizations. BSF was launched in the early Sustainable Farming initiative as a framework to experiment 2000s with the aim of learning about the environmental foot- with farmers’ sustainable practices. The need to improve print of the Barilla Group’s sourcing, production, and value soil fertility also triggered the idea to engage with a wider chains (Blasi et al. 2015). Initially, the company focused on set of stakeholders, and to create partnerships, for sharing life cycle assessments of its products, which highlighted the practices and knowledge, beyond managing value chain need to engage with the supply chains’ agricultural produc- relations. tion (Blasi et al. 2015). Subsequently, the company engaged in the design of a systemic initiative: We needed to design and implement guidelines and procedures, rapidly learning from farmers and prac- We looked at our values – good for you and good for titioners, but trying to still govern a complex and dis- the planet [the company’s mission statement] – and we persed supply chain [ARD] thought we were not always consistent. We needed a I remember the agronomist from Barilla mentioning long-term view, and to mobilize ideas and create con- a new decision system and guidelines to be used in versations from the retailing shelves to the farmer’s our farm. I thought, here we go again; they’re coming gate, and beyond [ISM] to squeeze us. But instead, we started discussing best BSF was soon defined as a strategy to re-shape the wider practices, reducing fertilization, crop rotation. I felt sourcing of the company, connecting it more closely to its engaged to be honest, perhaps for the first time [SFG] core values, and re-embedded in a place and locality, and This led to the establishment of specific projects with working more closely with farmers and local suppliers. groups of experimental farmers and supply chain partners, Reference to the Mediterranean diet has been always particularly cooperatives and farmers associations operating very important in our business values. We recognized in the north of Italy. Therefore, while maintaining business that this starts by looking carefully at the sourcing of operations remained first priority for Barilla, the commit- your raw materials [PDM] ment to environmental values and the associated mission 1 3 Understanding the role of value chain formation in the scaling of crop diversification Page 9 of 19 25 supported by the BSF initiative and its related projects of actors including value chain partners, such as aggrega- changed how that aim was to be achieved. tors and millers operating in the durum and soft wheat mar- In the other case, our findings indicate a similar shift, kets, other suppliers, food companies interested in sourcing although from a different perspective. Arable farming is tomatoes and peas, farmer associations, research centers, the core activity for EDL, a farm located in the Gelderland universities, public institutions, and NGOs. region, in the Netherlands. When taking over the farm in We had considered several agronomic practices, but 2005, the founder of the Ekoboerderij de Lingehof imme- we needed a wider understanding of how these prac- diately initiated the transition to organic farming. In subse- tices could be introduced and implemented, which quent years, however, the farm managers wanted to move incentives to use and where to apply them. We needed beyond organic and embraced biodynamic farming. to start collecting data and partners who knew how to I was looking for a way of making the soil come back do it. That’s when we opened to collaboration with to life, to experiment with new crops, to embrace universities and [farmer] associations [SFS] nature in my daily farming decisions [FM1] In 2008–2009, BSF took the shape of a multi-stakeholder Learning how to manage multiple crops was my initial platform based on formal rules and procedures to improve challenge, but there was no alternative, we needed to go the sustainability of the durum wheat supply chain. This back to the basics and see this as a new project [FM2]. move was due to the need of scaling extended crop rotations Becoming an active member of the biodynamic move- and sustainable practices among Barilla’s supply base, and ment, EDL started its innovation journey by recognizing the to identify drivers for their adoption. As part of this platform need to engage with crop rotation as part of a shared ecologi- and related interactions, actors negotiated the interpretation cal worldview and value system. Becoming an “artisan of and operationalization of the values and mission put forward the soil” meant focusing on restoring and improving the soil by Barilla. As an outcome of these consultations, the Barilla and thus further diversifying the crop rotation. However, the Sustainable Farming Handbook was officially launched. The mission to remain a functional farm meant aligning rotations Handbook represented the first moment where Barilla and with financial and marketing considerations. Which crop to its value chain partners codified practices, including crop introduce in the rotation, its duration, and adaptation to the rotation, into a form that could be shared more easily (Blasi agro-ecological conditions of the farm had to be combined et al. 2015). The final BSF Handbook organized rules and with the need to ensure the presence of a few cash crops, for best practices to support farmers in making the production example potatoes and onions: of durum wheat more sustainable: We were following a strict biodynamic calendar and Durum wheat has always been a very strategic crop planning for our rotations. You have to treat tuber for our company. [To set-up and develop the Hand- crops that are heavy for the soil very carefully, but book] We focused on small scale and territorial clus- we needed some more to make the long rotation [eco- ters where quality programs to improve the protein nomically] viable [CRDW] content in durum were already in place. We needed an infrastructure and methodology to emerge, to be tested Both innovation processes started with a (re-)commit- and used. We needed data, not only stories. [GPM] ment to the core actor’s values and mission. Yet, the specific values and mission stated in the two cases were clearly dis- To facilitate the implementation of the Handbook, a tinct, with BSF focusing on profit and business operations decision support system was developed and farmers were while including environmental concerns, and EDL starting encouraged to use it free of charge. The Barilla Group had from an ecological focus that needed a business perspective already developed a network of extension services and to be maintained. Still, in stage 1 in both cases, the tension of strong value chain contract relations in various regions in values and mission being inconsistent with current practices Italy. led to the identification of new technologies and practices, Before crop-rotation and contracts were considered, including the adoption of diversified crop rotations, that we had experimented with various partners we could more closely adhere to these values and missions. trust. We started in Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy, where associations could help us to unpack the com- plexity of what we wanted to achieve. Then we looked 3.1.2 Stage 2—New, diversified technologies and practices for universities, labs and NGOs who could support a require changes in partners and expertise regionally-based multi-actor platform… that’s were all this started [JDP] In the BSF initiative, the need to combine soil fertility with productivity triggered the mobilization of a wider network 1 3 25 Page 10 of 19 C. S. Weituschat et al. Thus, in order to identify the necessary changes in prac- diversity as well as motivating other actors to do the same. tices, agronomic expertise was needed first, collected from BSF on the other hand, focused on reaching as many farmers internal R&D, as well as consulting university resources. For as possible and thus had to be careful to not ask for too big implementation among the supply base, extensive knowl- a change while still increasing diversity in farmers’ fields. edge on farmers and operations from different value chain Furthermore, the types of actors both niches involved were partners was needed. rather similar as both engaged with farmers and actors in In the same period, EDL had re-organized its manage- the respective value chains, as well as research institutions. ment by introducing a shared farm management strategy and However, as BSF’s activities were overall bigger endeavors entrepreneurial ideas, mostly by focusing on new crops with with more resources and actors involved, they managed to the intention of having long and diverse rotations. After few also engage public institutions and NGOs and were thus able trials, crops were selected that could be harvested in one go, to draw on a wider range of expertise. Still, for both cases, then stored on-farm or delivered directly to the customer, the engagement and consultation with their partners led to a often with a short value chain approach. The company continuous re-design of rotations to balance the co-existence moved more decisively towards biodynamic practices. of profitable cash crops with soil health enhancing crops. In summary, in stage 2, the companies moved to experimenting Experimenting with new crops, looking for new mar- with the identified technologies and practices, and in this keting channels and going to work with my machines experimentation phase realized the need for new partner- has been challenging and exciting at the same time ships and expertise for their intended activities. [FM1] Consumers are interested in where their food comes from, but it also needs to work for the farmers and it 3.1.3 Stage 3—Changing institutional logics require new has to be part of a supply chain approach. That’s what organizational forms and funding we do at [EDL] [JDW] Additionally, the farm began to design and experiment From 2013 onwards, the BSF approach was extended and with new machinery for manual and mechanical weeding further scaled up. To scale up and reach more farmers in to reduce the increased labor cost associated with their soil the supply base, the company’s sourcing strategy had to be health approach. On-farm experimentation and agronomic adapted. In order to extend support to farmers, more inten- expertise was complemented by mutual advice with a group sive coordination along the value chain was needed, and of farmers, as stipulated in the biodynamic approach. Along- BSF aimed for implementing (at times multi-year) contrac- side that, the farm entered research projects with a local tual arrangements with farmers and value chain partners. university and research center for mutual learning. These Since 2015, BSF had become one of the flagship initiatives collaborations included, for example, on-farm experimen- for introducing sustainable practices in the Barilla sourc- tation to support variety development for legumes, and the ing strategy, involving value chain stakeholders in different development of financial expertise connected to the profit- countries (Pancino et al. 2019; United Nations Global Com- ability of different rotations. This was necessary so that the pact Network Italy 2015). soil health–focused rotations would still maintain farm oper- We realized we also needed a strategy for mobilizing ations. Thus, EDL simultaneously engaged these new actors different departments, but without jeopardizing our and new expertise. It then moved to share this expertise with core operations – we needed to reach a different scale other farmers, enabling the attempt to reshape marketing too, without scaring anyone. [JDP] conditions. For example, sweet lupines were introduced We work with farmers to improve decision-making. due to their benefits for soil health. Yet, in order to improve Partners are engaged to support the change process the viability and profitability of this crop, engagement with too, since farmers struggle to change crop practices other farmers and the sharing of agronomic knowledge and engage with supply chain contracts [ARD]. on production were needed to create critical mass of local lupine production, with the aim to sell under better (bargain- However, with the scaling of operations and guidelines ing) conditions. across the value chain also came tensions related to the gov- Thus, while both cases included the element of extending ernance of this process, as BSF met resistance from its part- rotations and introducing new crops, the specificities of the ners with regard to the contractual arrangements. rotation to be introduced differed widely. EDL’s approach Farmers aren’t sure on how to go about these practices, was more ambitious in terms of crop diversity, while the and the data monitoring… it’s tricky, they want stabil- BSF approach kept the rotation simpler in order to reach ity but they seem to avoid long-term commitments […] a large number of farmers. For the scaling process, this they dislike multi-year contracts [SFG] implied that EDL wanted to increase their own level of crop 1 3 Understanding the role of value chain formation in the scaling of crop diversification Page 11 of 19 25 The scaling process of BSF stimulated a period of intense new initiative was needed to not only enable joint marketing, organizational experimentation, as the changes in the other but also create demand in the market place. Thus, similarly institutional dimensions were no longer aligned with the to BSF, EDL has been commercializing crops increasingly organizational forms in use at the time. From the early using value chain agreements and creating alliances with 2010s, the BSF initiative moved from experimenting with certification bodies and retailers. groups of associated farmers and dispersed regional pro- The demand for eco-friendly food products is boom- jects, into a more ambitious approach to redesign contracts ing, they [retailers] have to look into projects like our at value chain level, and across crops and commodities. farm more often than before [JDW] We wanted crop rotation introduced across borders, as However, the increased complexity of the value chain a way of increasing our brand value and reduce costs, relations had put some pressure on the farm managers too: stabilizing sourcing, and making a strategic alignment possible between marketing and supply chain govern- We should invest in an inventory and data collection, ance [PDM] as well as partnership contracts […] but we do not have the resources to do that. Also, quality standards In the end, contractual arrangements that prescribe agro- from retailers are tricky, we do not know if they’re nomic practices were needed in order to reap marketing ben- paying premiums or not. We need to invest in storage efits from sustainability activities and thus integrate consist- facilities and improve our bargaining power… this is ent flows of funding into the value chain. Thus, while limited sometimes nerve-wracking [FM2] internal and external funds, e.g., for research projects, were sufficient for experimentation, in order to scale up, finding Despite the increasing evidence that crop rotations could adequate agreements on organizational form obstructed the create the conditions to combine ecological benefits with continuous flow of funds along the value chain. economic gains, both the BSF and EDL initiatives quickly A surprisingly similar process was observed in the scaling faced a set of challenges, interfering with, if not blocking, of the EDL case. Starting in 2013, farm management at EDL any scaling process. The Barilla Group was interested in became particularly concerned with ensuring financial via- defining contract templates which could be used in vari- bility for the farm business operation while keeping a focus ous contexts and with different types of farmers (Blasi et al on soil health and fertility, combining biodynamic prac- 2015), while questions remained on how one governs this tices with the use of technology and precision agriculture approach in the absence of clear legal and institutional for balanced plant growth and efficient business operations frameworks. (Ekoboerderij de Lingehof 2020). While initial experimen- If you make a statement that the farmer will be able to tation was externally funded through regional development sell all the crops in a rotation, then you need to offer funds, research projects, and innovation grants, in order to them a contract and some forms of guarantee… but continuously keep rotations focused on soil health, fund- how you go about it if you are not the buyer of the crop ing needed to be integrated into the value chain. Therefore, but another company? [MM] EDL relied on an extended network of collaborations. EDL experimented with value chain partners and consumers for This was the central reason for Barilla to engage with many of their crops, for example by shortening the value such a variety of value chain partners, and it is an issue chain and opening the farm gates to consumers and partner- specific to crop diversification processes, as Barilla cannot ships with other farm managers and buyers. oblige other companies to buy the other crops in the rota- tion that they themselves do not need. To give farmers such When you operate in a niche you either need to cre- a guarantee, new types of “platform contracts” would be ate margins by getting closer to the consumers or by needed that include not only Barilla and their suppliers but protecting your bargaining power with buyers [JDW]. also other companies using other crops from the rotation Next to building partnerships with local farmers for man- which is rather uncommon, as well as legally complex and aging organic manure, and with various value chain partners, costly to negotiate. including a local mill for grains, EDL also continuously EDL needed to maintain some flexibility to continue to engaged with the biodynamic certification scheme Demeter experiment with crops and a long-term rotation while expe- (Demeter 2021; Ekoboerderij de Lingehof 2020). The farm riencing the pressure of using more formalized partnerships also created collective marketing agreements for crops such and contracts. Thus, both cases created new arrangements as potatoes and red beets, and contracts with processors or within their value chains to accommodate the new prac- retailers for others, such as red cabbage or pumpkins. In tices. Still, the type of value chain arrangements differed. particular, to enable other farmers to follow in their footsteps Due to its much larger business operations, BSF focused on and diversify with legumes such as lupines, a completely more uniform, replicable contracts that could be applied to 1 3 25 Page 12 of 19 C. S. Weituschat et al. Fig. 4 Three stages of niche scaling observed in the case studies. Source: The authors. a variety of suppliers. EDL, on the other hand, used a wider niche does not necessarily mean scaling (Geels et al. 2016), variety of arrangements, from direct consumer engagement and rigidity itself can be a barrier to the scaling of a niche to collective marketing, to tailor their value chains to their and associated transition processes (Smink et al. 2015). Our own specific needs. Still, in both cases, lack of standards and results show that changes and re-alignment in the dimen- labels for diversified farming systems, and lack of policy sions of institutional logics may be necessary in order to support for value chain formation also created concerns enable scaling of a niche. Specifically, in our cases, changes on how scalable both innovation trajectories could be. In in the lead actors (priorities of) values and mission lead to short, both organizations were confronted with the absence the quest for new technologies and practices. For experimen- of organizational mechanisms to facilitate their practices. tation and initial implementation, the lead actors engaged In summation, as the required agricultural practices crys- with researchers and value chain partners to gain the needed tallized following the commitment to values and mission, the expertise, while relying on innovation funding and grants. required expertise and the interactions between value chain Yet, when it came to further expanding the niche, and scal- partners and other actors changed, becoming more complex ing up, these funding sources were no longer sufficient. In and in need of novel organizational solutions. These path- order to support the scaling, long-term, continuous funding ways can be analytically distinguished into three phases sources were needed. Therefore, the focus of the lead actors illustrated in Fig. 4, as used to present our results. Our find- shifted to their value chains. In negotiation with their part- ings indicate a convergence of both innovation pathways ners, new value chain agreements needed to be formed to towards tensions related to organizational forms, where the internalize funding for new practices. Figure 5 shows this innovation practices and processes seem to be obstructed. process over time. Despite different institutional settings otherwise, these ten- Our findings also indicate that niches focused on similar sions currently seem to converge towards organizational practices, like extended crop rotations, may follow a rather solutions such as novel value chain arrangements. However, similar process of scaling, and face similar issues of value developing these solutions requires substantial efforts by the chain formation. For our cases, this was true, despite their lead actors involved. We further reflect on these processes many differences. One niche was embedded in a multina- in the discussion. tional company’s wider innovation strategy, the other an agroecological farming system. The niches had rather dif- 3.2 Discussion ferent values and missions as starting points. The specific crop rotations they targeted were different, as well as some Based on our findings, we are able to further discuss the of the actors they involved in the process. Finally, the types scaling of innovation niches through an institutional lens, of value chain arrangements they looked to as solutions were by looking at the dimensions of institutional logics and their also distinct. Still, both niches went through a process of internal coherence throughout changes over time. Our find- realignment of the dimensions of institutional logics under ings add to extant scholarship emphasizing the role of align- which they operate. We observed, for instance, that when ment of logics between the niche and the wider institutional these dimensions are not aligned, the scaling process is context (Fuenfschilling and Truffer 2014; Smink et al. 2015; stalled (see Fig. 6). When logics start to be reframed around Turner et al. 2017). What our study highlights in addition is a novel set of values and mission, then a continuous need for the relevant role of how these logics are formed, negotiated, reconfiguration becomes conducive for a wider redesign of and defined through processes involving actors in the niche. niche technologies and practices, involving novel actors and In particular, we looked at how the internal coherence of expertise, and the need for new sources of funding. This pro- these logics affects the scaling of innovation niches, when cess results in emerging organizational tension which creates crop diversification is concerned. For instance, the impor - the space for discussing and negotiating solutions between tance of coherence for niche stability has been previously actors in the niche (Berthet et al. 2016, 2018). Therefore, in emphasized (Belmin et al. 2018), indicating that the more order to overcome these tensions, actors in both niches are internally coherent the dimensions of institutional logics aiming to form new value chain arrangements, showing that are, the more stable the niche. Nonetheless, stability of a such organizational innovations are essential in the scaling 1 3 Understanding the role of value chain formation in the scaling of crop diversification Page 13 of 19 25 Fig. 5 Adjustment process of dimensions of institutional logics over time. Source: The authors. process (Meynard et al. 2017). Looking specifically at our likely necessary for niches to adapt to changing conditions cases, it is value chain formation that is creating the condi- during the scaling process. tions for bringing crop rotation to scale. This finding is of In practical terms, however, this implies that actors may particular interest as it adds to extant literature in which need support to find and create suitable organizational solu- farmers’ agronomic knowledge is considered the key factor tions. This may be in the form of legal frameworks and/or in the adoption of crop diversification (Morel et al. 2020; subsidies that allow for experimentation with new arrange- Zimmer et al. 2016). Our analysis confirms that agronomic ments, as well as creating template solutions that cover the knowledge and technological innovation, while necessary, more complex approaches potentially needed for diversified is not a sufficient condition for scaling, but also attempts to cropping systems, such as platform contracts that involve explain why and how this occurs. In both our niches, the buyers for other crops. Extant literature has investigated lead actors aiming to implement crop diversification man- scaling processes through diverse socio-technological and aged to get sufficient agronomic expertise by experimenting organizational perspectives (Meynard et al. 2017, 2018; and collaborating with other actors. However, building value Seifu et al. 2020), often looking at how actors operating chain relationships that can sustain and scale crop diver- in innovation niches are engaged in developing logics and sification may be even more challenging. While a lack of their dimensions, aligned with actors operating outside the funding is also often cited as an obstacle of scaling (Bonke niche, in order to mobilize key institutional, technological, & Musshoff 2020; Rosa-Schleich et al. 2019), our approach and financial resources, and to facilitate the scaling process allowed us to identify that the absence of clear and effective (Hounkonnou et al. 2018; Seifu et al. 2020). The assump- organizational forms to manage relations in the niche, and tion is made that organizational forms emerge separately to maintain funding over time, is also a significant barrier. or because of the “success” of the innovation niche. Our We find that value chain formation is necessary to finance a findings suggest that identifying organizational solutions at scaling process from experimentation with crop diversifica- value chain level is part of development of innovation niches, tion at niche level, to diversification occurring at a wider and, as pointed out by Pigford and colleagues (Pigford et al. value chain level. Current organizational forms seem to be 2018) and Meynard et al. (2017), they should be considered supporting innovation pathways for productivity and agricul- more organically and systemically part of the niche scaling tural intensification (Dicecca et al. 2016; Duncan and Pas- process. Value chain partnerships and networks emerge as a cucci 2017; Seifu et al. 2020; Virginia et al. 2018), rather response to tensions among institutional dimensions in the than diversification. innovation niche, and they are necessary to push practices Hence, our research indicates that tensions in relation to such as extended crop rotations beyond the niche. To the best organizational forms are crucial to understanding pathways of our knowledge, this study is the first to show how these to transitions. Without adequate organizational forms, the tensions unfold similarly in fundamentally different niches innovation niche may struggle to operate, to scale, or even aiming to scale crop rotations, implying that these processes to survive. This echoes Meynard et al. (2017) who also may not depend on niche characteristics. Understanding the highlight the necessity of organizational forms changing “temporality” of this process, in relation to key dimensions alongside the engagement in crop diversification processes. in institutional logics, is a key factor in explaining (a lack These results show that during the scaling process institu- of) scaling processes, and therefore sustainability transitions tional logics change and realign, and that this flexibility is (Fuenfschilling and Truffer 2014; Pigford et al. 2018). 1 3 25 Page 14 of 19 C. S. Weituschat et al. Fig. 6 Institutional dimensions and scaling processes. Legend: from If the organizational change fails to identify suitable organizational left to right the different stages of scaling. Stage 1: crop rotations are forms for the value chain, scaling is stalled (bottom). When organi- experimented at small scale, involving experimental plots or farms. zational change is conducive to value chain formation, funding is pro- Actors seek alignment between values, mission, and technologies vided and the scaling is supported (top). Source: Authors’ adaptation and practices. Stage 2: Actors attempt scaling, changing organiza- inspired by Fuenfschilling and Truffer (2014). tional forms, to provide funding for the innovation process. Stage 3: how the absence of this realignment stalls it. Secondly, we 4 Conclusions contribute to the literature on crop diversification by analyz- The contributions of this study to the extant literature are ing the scaling process of diversification niches. For the first twofold. Firstly, our study demonstrates how the lens of insti- time, it has been shown that scaling processes of crop diversi- tutional logics can enhance our understanding of scaling of fication can progress similarly in different niches, whether the innovation niches. Our approach has relevance in terms of lead actor is a multinational company, or an individual farm. expanding existing conceptualization of institutional logics We indicate that struggles to find organizational solutions and their role in stimulating or impeding sustainability transi- at value chain level are connected to scaling mechanisms, tions from innovation niches. By analyzing the niches’ values, but originate from tensions internal to the innovation niche. missions, technologies and practices, actors and expertise, These tensions are indeed part of the innovation process, and, organizational forms, and funding sources, we gain insight to be better understood, can be investigated through an insti- into the niches’ institutional logics. When observing these tutional lens (Fuenfschilling and Truffer 2014). dimensions and their development over time, we can detect From a practitioner perspective, this analysis has shown how tensions between the dimensions can lead to changes that there is currently a lack of adequate organizational and realignment, which facilitates the scaling process, and mechanisms that allow actors to compensate the higher cost 1 3 Understanding the role of value chain formation in the scaling of crop diversification Page 15 of 19 25 of diversified practices that they are currently experienc- understand the complexity of agri-food systems and pro- ing, from within the value chain. This lack of organizational mote dialogue between scientists, institutions, private sector, forms blocks the scaling of crop rotation, as it prohibits the and civil society (Barilla 2020). The theoretical approaches trade-off between environmental benefits and economic developed by the BCFN also contributed to the company’s costs to balance out long-term and at scale (Meynard et al. new vision around the sustainability of food, looking at both 2017; Rosa-Schleich et al. 2019). Based on our findings, the consumption side, in terms of sustainable diets and the we can conclude that supporting only the experimentation production side. Considering specifically sustainable agri- phase of the scaling process, e.g., with innovation grants and cultural production, Barilla launched different sustainability subsidies, may not be sufficient to induce a sustainability initiatives for selected supply chains and raw materials. transition at scale. Scaling likely requires the internalization For example, in 2009, for durum wheat, one of Barilla’s of funding into the value chain. Support for value chain for- key raw materials, Barilla introduced a sustainable durum mation could take the form of creating legal frameworks and wheat project in collaboration with academic partners, spe- templates for new arrangements, as well as financial support cialized in agronomy and innovation in cropping systems. to compensate for efforts and experimentation in value chain Two tools were introduced to support the development of formation. Niche actors currently planning to scale practices more sustainable agronomic practices: The Handbook for the related to crop diversification should be aware that value sustainable farming of durum wheat and a decision support chain formation can become a significant obstacle. software (granoduro.net®,) which provides support to farm- This study is limited to two case studies, and while their ers in making technical decisions on e.g. field fertilization similarities in process despite differences in characteristics and crop disease treatments, taking into account previous give us confidence, our results remain exploratory. Similar crops and rotations. These tools also offer specific advice longitudinal studies should be conducted to draw conclu- on beneficial crop rotations that improve both soil structure sions from a wider variety of case studies. Furthermore, our and wheat quality, focusing on the inclusion of crops for oil findings are limited to the European context and may not production, such as sunflowers and rapeseed, and legumes. hold in different institutional settings where other limitations Multi-year agreements with suppliers, which require compli- may outweigh value chain formation as a crucial barrier cur- ance with specific guidelines concerning product quality and tailing the scaling process. We therefore suggest that future (sustainable) farming practices, have been launched at lim- research should further investigate the role of institutional ited scale (Barilla 2021b). For its soft wheat supply chain for logics, exploring multiple settings and indeed integrating the brand Mulino Bianco, Barilla launched a similar project, evidence from other cases. Moreover, we suggest to further in collaboration with universities, an NGO, and value chain exploring what measures are effective to support actors find- partners (Barilla 2020). This focusses on product quality, ing suitable, locally adapted organizational forms that allow crop diversity, controlled use of chemicals, and protection for the adequate compensation of diversified agricultural and for pollinating insects. In this project, diversity in the field food systems. is increased through the introduction of at least one legume and/or oil seed within a 3- to 5-year rotation, as well as the use of flower strips. It further aims to ensure the traceability Appendix of soft wheat during all stages of the supply chain, in combi- nation with third-party certic fi ation and a price premium for Case study descriptions wheat flour produced according to the given rules (Barilla 2021a). Barilla Sustainable Farming (BSF)—Barilla Group Using the same approach, the company also initiated sustainability programs for the procurement of other raw Barilla is a family-owned company founded in Italy in 1877, materials and for other brands, for value chains in Italy and and nowadays owns 18 different brands of food products, abroad, largely based on crop diversification, carbon neutral, from pasta to baked goods and sauces (Barilla 2021b). and regenerative practices. These include the Harris Paper, Barilla currently purchases and processes raw materials in for French grains in bakery products, a protocol for the 30 production districts, owns 15 factories in different coun- wheat-pasta supply chain in Greece, Turkey, and the USA. tries other than Italy, and sells their products in 100 coun- Furthermore, there is an initiative related to rye production tries across the world (Barilla 2021b). for the Wasa brand in northern Europe, and a project focused In 2009, Barilla established the Barilla Centre for Food on cocoa procurement in Ivory Coast for the Pan di Stelle and Nutrition Foundation (BCFN), whose objective is to brand (Barilla 2021b). 1 3 25 Page 16 of 19 C. S. Weituschat et al. Ekoboerderij de Lingenhof (EDL) category will reach a quantity sufficient for the farmer group to be an attractive trading partner for these processors. This arable farm of about 100 ha with organic and biody- The Ekoboerderij farm also uses more “experimental” namic certification is located in the central Dutch region of approaches to value chain organization in order to main- Gelderland. This farm illustrates some of the consequences tain or increase crop diversity on the farm. They entered an to value chains when soil health is the guiding premise of agreement with a local art college to grow flax for sustain- crop rotation design. Promoting soil health sets the limits able fibers for the college’s fashion program. Furthermore, of crop choice for each plot. Rotations are 6 to 7 years long the farm experiments with hemp production for a newly with a total of about ten to fifteen different crops on the farm established CBD factory, as well as using apple tree adop- each year, including onions, potatoes, grain, and lupines. tion by consumers for producing apples and apple juice. Such diversity in crops requires creativity in value chain In order to establish a crop that is good for the soil but relationships. This is illustrated by the variety of marketing not established in the local market, namely lupines, a more arrangements in just 1 year: extensive approach was chosen. It includes the establish- For some crops, rather straightforward contract farming ment of a company for marketing and communication to arrangements, using both written and verbal contracts, are consumers in cooperation with other farmers in order to used. In these cases, the aim is to build, and build on long- breed suitable varieties and increase production capacities, lasting relationships with buyers both nationally and at a and building relationships with the processing industry. European scale. For other crops, the Ekoboerderij farm uses This case study illustrates the entrepreneurial skills farm- more complex arrangements cooperating with other farmers. ers may need in order to diversify their crops with a focus In these, the farmers group pools their production and sells on soil health . the crop jointly and thus reaching different markets than they would have been able to as a single producer. For example, Example of interview guide companies processing red beets, a crop regularly grown on the farm, often need a particular range in size of beets. By Table 3 below shows an example of an interview guide as pooling production, beets can be sorted by size and yet each used for data collection in this study. Table 3 Interview guide BSF sustainable farming specialist. Questions Notes What exactly is your position and your responsibilities within Barilla? Based on your knowledge and your expertise, what is your understand- ing of sustainability and sustainable agriculture? What are Barilla's goals in terms of sustainable agriculture? How do What role does diversification play among those goals? you attempt to achieve them? What is your personal role in achieving them? Are you directly involved in one or more projects concerning sustain- What role does diversification play in any of these projects? able agriculture? How does Barilla engage with its suppliers in relation to the adoption To be more specific, how did and does Barilla engage with suppliers in of sustainable agricultural practices? the Barilla Sustainable Farming initiative? Has diversification played a role in the BSF programme so far? What lessons were you able to learn from the Barilla Sustainable Farm- ing Initiative? What challenges do you face when engaging farmers with regard to Are there particular challenges in engaging farmers with regard to sustainable practices, within and outside the BSF? diversification? Do you have any solution to face this challenge? In the future do you see diversification as a fundamental strategy used by Barilla regarding its productions? We are basically finished with the interview. As a last question, in What challenges are you expecting in relation to that? your personal opinion, what changes would need to be made to allow What role could Barilla play to facilitate the process? farmers in Italy to implement crop diversification practices? How do What consequences would it have for Barilla's supply chains? you think crop diversification practices could be facilitated? Are you expecting differences between northern and southern Italy? Is there anything you would like to add? Anything relevant to this issue that we missed? 1 3 Understanding the role of value chain formation in the scaling of crop diversification Page 17 of 19 25 Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank both the Barilla Barilla (2021c) We are an Italian family in love with good food. Sustainable Farming initiative and the Ekoboerderij de Lingehof for Barilla Group. https:// www. baril lagro up. com/ en/ who- we- are/. their time and continued dedication to this study. We would also like Accessed 7 Mar 2022 to thank Eleonora Sofia Rossi for her valued contributions during the Bedoussac L, Journet EP, Hauggaard-Nielsen H, Naudin C, Corre- data collection phase in Italy. Hellou G, Jensen ES, Prieur L, Justes E (2015) Ecological principles underlying the increase of productivity achieved by Authors' contributions Conceptualization and methodology: C.S.W., cereal-grain legume intercrops in organic farming: a review. S.P., and V.C.M.; investigation: C.S.W., S.P., V.C.M., and E.B.; formal Agron Sustain Dev 35(3):911–935 analysis: C.S.W. and S.P.; validation and data curation: S.P.; writing Belmin R, Meynard JM, Julhia L, Casabianca F (2018) Sociotechnical - original draft: C.S.W.; writing - review and editing: C.S.W., S.P., controversies as warning signs for niche governance. Agronomy V.C.M., and E.B.; visualization: C.S.W. and S.P.; supervision: S.P. and Sustain Dev 38 (5). https:// doi. org/ 10. 1007/ s13593- 018- 0521-7 V.C.M.; project administration: C.S.W., S.P., V.C.M., and E.B.; funding Berthet ET, Hickey GM (2018) Organizing collective innovation in acquisition: S.P., V.C.M., and E.B. support of sustainable agro-ecosystems: the role of network man- agement. Agric Syst 165:44–54. https:// doi. org/ 10. 1016/j. agsy. Funding This research was financed through the H2020 project Diver -2018. 05. 016 farming – Grant agreement 728003. Berthet ET, Hickey GM, Klerkx L (2018) Opening design and innova- tion processes in agriculture: insights from design and manage- Data availability For privacy reasons, qualitative raw data will not be ment sciences and future directions. Agric Syst 165:111–115. shared.https:// doi. org/ 10. 1016/j. agsy. 2018. 06. 004 Berthet ET, Segrestin B, Hickey GM (2016) Considering agro-ecosys- Code availability Not applicable tems as ecological funds for collective design: new perspectives for environmental policy. Environ Sci Policy 61:108–115. https:// doi. org/ 10. 1016/j. envsci. 2016. 04. 005 Declarations Biodynamic Association (2022) Biodynamic principles and prac- tices. https://www .biody namics. com/ biody namic- pr inciples- and- Conflict of interest The authors declare no competing interests. pract ices. Accessed 7 Mar 2022 Blasi E, Monotti C, Ruini L, Landi C, Avolio G, Meriggi P (2015) Ethics approval Not applicable Eco-innovation as a driver in the agri-food value chain: an empiri- cal study on durum wheat in Italy. J Chain Netw Sci 15(1):1–15. Consent to participate Consent was given by all participants, following https:// doi. org/ 10. 3920/ JCNS2 014. x014 the guidelines of the H2020 project Diverfarming. Bonke V, Musshoff O (2020) Understanding German farmer’s inten- tion to adopt mixed cropping using the theory of planned behav- ior. Agronomy Sustain Dev 40 (6). https:// doi. or g/ 10. 1007/ Consent for publication Consent was given by all participants, follow- s13593- 020- 00653-0 ing the guidelines of the H2020 project Diverfarming. Boulestreau Y, Casagrande M, Navarrete M (2021) Analyzing barri- ers and levers for practice change: a new framework applied to Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attri- vegetables’ soil pest management. Agronomy Sustain Dev 41(3). bution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adapta- https:// doi. org/ 10. 1007/ s13593- 021- 00700-4 tion, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long Buchanan R (2019) Systems thinking and design thinking: the search as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, for principles in the world we are making. She Ji: The Journal Of provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes Design, Economics and Innovation 5(2):85–104 were made. The images or other third party material in this article are Demeter International (2021) Production, Processing and Labelling: included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated International Standard for the use and certification of Demeter, otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in Biodynamic and related trademarks. 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Agron Sustain Publisher's note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to Dev 34(2):361–380. https:// doi. org/ 10. 1007/ s13593- 013- 0189-y jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. 1 3
Agronomy for Sustainable Development – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 1, 2023
Keywords: Crop diversification; Value chains; Sustainability transitions; Innovation niche; Institutional logics
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