Advancing AKIS with assemblage thinking

Lee Ann Sutherland*, Anda Adamsone-Fiskovica, Boelie Elzen, Alexandros Koutsouris, Catherine Laurent, Egil Petter Stræte, Pierre Labarthe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The establishment of effective national agricultural knowledge and innovation systems (AKIS) became a European policy imperative in the 2010s, lodged in a political ideology which emphasised the importance of innovation to economic growth. We argue that the recent deployment of the AKIS concept in EU policy presents important opportunities for the agricultural sector and associated academic research but has significant weaknesses in terms of the scale of analysis (over emphasis on national levels) and disconnection from academic thinking on innovation processes. In this paper we progress the AKIS approach by utilising assemblage theory. We argue that assemblage concepts – in line with other ‘more-than-human’ approaches - offer mechanisms for recognising and integrating the role of non-human actants in innovation processes. Inclusion of these actants highlight the co-constructed nature of farm knowledge and associated transition processes. Assemblage concepts of historicity and rupture demonstrate how the path dependencies of farming are embedded in the material conditions of production, and the learning processes which occur when path dependencies are interrupted. We illustrate these contentions with empirical case studies of the ‘microAKIS’ – self-assembled farmer knowledge networks and associated processes - characterising four innovations across Europe: the introduction of a new commodity (avocado) in Greece, mainstreaming of robotic milking in Norway, retro-innovation of direct marketing in Latvia, and outsourcing of (dehumanised) farm labour in France.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-69
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • Advisory services
  • Extension
  • Farming systems
  • Innovation
  • Knowledge systems
  • MicroAKIS


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