Upscaling grassroots innovation for sustainable agriculture: experiences from the Dutch dairy sector

F. Hermans, D. Roep, L.W.A. Klerkx

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperAcademicpeer-review


It is an open question how grass root innovations can have a wider impact beyond the people directly involved in their initial development. Processes of replication, scaling-up, but also translation and institutional entrepreneurship are likely to play different, but important roles in the institutionalisation of new innovations. However these processes, and the different actors involved in them (farmers, scientists and innovation brokers) so far have remained underappreciated in the literature. Our contribution to the workshop therefore has the aim to further explore these processes in which a local innovation becomes institutionalised on higher system levels. We will do this by presenting our study of the development and spread of the “kringlooplandbouw” (low external input farming) in the Dutch dairy farming sector. The concept of low external input farming got its start in the environmental cooperatives of the Northern Frisian Woodlands in the early 1990s and it a good example of grassroots innovation in which local farmers, together with scientists, civil servants, NGOs and farmer unions worked on the reduction of environmental loads and the improvement of the local landscape at the same time. Since that time, the concept of low external input farming has spread over the Netherlands and it has become somewhat of a catchphrase that has attracted the interest of farmers, researchers, consultants and politicians. As a result different networks in different regions have sprung up over the years that are trying different forms of low external input farming, sometimes even practices that contradicting and conflicting approaches. We will analyse the different actor coalitions that make up the different regional networks, alongside their different practices of low-external input. We will analyse these socalled “unfolding webs” (Van der Ploeg et al., 2008) and the overlap and contradiction between the various approaches and their typical sustainability discourses that accompany them. An important conclusion of our contribution is therefore that the model of adoption and diffusion is not an adequate model that is applicable on the spread of agricultural grassroots innovations. Instead, the political dimension of innovation networks and the negotiation processes between different groups of actors deserves more attention.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 11th European IFSA Symposium : Farming systems facing global challenges: Capacities and strategies
EditorsT. Aenis, A. Knierim, M-C. Riecher, R. Ridder, H. Schobert, H. Fischer
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Event11th European IFSA Symposium, Berlin, Germany -
Duration: 1 Apr 20144 Apr 2014


Conference11th European IFSA Symposium, Berlin, Germany


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