Farmer-led innovation, in which farmers play a central role in the generation of new knowledge, technologies and ways of working, is necessary to secure the social, economic and environmental sustainability of farming. But how does this innovation happen, and how are ideas shared?

The mainstream models of agricultural science and technology development consider it a centralized activity, undertaken by experts and diffused to farmers, but this is now being challenged. Increasingly, farmers are being supported to come together with scientists and engineers to learn together and co-develop new knowledge and solutions.

Despite the centrality of learning to farmer-led innovation, its role has yet to be systematically explored. In response, this paper looks to understand the forms of learning and their contribution to farmer-led innovation.

Highlights from the paper:

  • Farmer-led innovation is increasingly supported, relying on farmers and stakeholders learning together.
  • The forms of learning and their contribution to innovation are overlooked in research and practice.
  • Cognitive, normative and relational learning were mutually interdependent and equally significant in two farmer groups.
  • Learning was iterative, interleaving technology co-design with refinement of shared norms and values.
  • Opening spaces that recognize power and context allows negotiation of purpose and products of innovation processes.
Graphical representation of the abstract.

Graphical representation of the abstract. Graphic: SEI authors.