Design process outputs as boundary objects in agricultural innovation projects: Functions and limitations

L.W.A. Klerkx, S. van Bommel, A.P. Bos, H.C. Holster, J. Zwartkruis, N. Aarts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this article is to investigate the functions of design process outputs (such as design briefs, scale models, visualizations, animations) as boundary objects in the implementation of novel agricultural production system concepts. The case study analysis of the innovation process that led to the establishment of the Rondeel poultry husbandry system reveals that the interpretative flexibility of design process outputs as boundary objects helps in creating mutual understanding among diverse actors involved in the implementation of a novel agricultural production system concept, and in mobilizing support for it. In some cases, boundary objects allow for interpretative flexibility but remain stable in shape; sometimes, however, the boundary objects themselves change as a result of the redesign process they induce. Furthermore, implementers of novel systems may prefer to maintain a rigid interpretation of the boundary object, using such interpretative rigidity of the boundary object as both an inclusion and exclusion mechanism for actors and options in the innovation process. The results confirm that a design process output such as a scale model can be purposefully created to serve as a boundary object and support novel agricultural system concept implementation. However, the effectiveness of a boundary object cannot be predicted and fully planned ex-ante.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-49
JournalAgricultural Systems
Issue number2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • production systems
  • land-use
  • knowledge
  • complex
  • networks
  • models
  • policy


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