Encouraging young agricultural entrepreneurs to make sustainable decisions

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Abstract

The objective of this project is to design a product or product-service combination to encourage agricultural entrepreneurs to make sustainable decisions based on their decision-making process. This assignment was set up in collaboration with LTO Noord and the DAW to find what is withholding farmers from implementing sustainable agricultural practices to improve their support for agricultural entrepreneurs.

To accomplish this objective, first, literature on farmers’ decision-making, entrepreneurship and design anthropology is reviewed. Next, qualitative research was conducted, where a focus group, probes, participatory observation and a semi-structured interview were used to examine the decision-making of young farmers. Results of the qualitative research, note the characteristics of the young agricultural entrepreneurs, their stance towards choices, their decision-making process of a conscious decision, and the experiences of being a young farmer in a partnership. The most striking results where found considering the experiences of a young farmer in a partnership with older generations. The young and older generations have to run the farm together, having different beliefs and standards. This difference is especially experienced when the younger generation proposes a change; they feel they need practical proof to convince the older generation about this change. The results were used to set criteria for the design and develop a design brief: The to-be-designed product or product-service combination should support young farmers to convince the older generation in the partnership to make a step towards implementing a sustainable practice.

During the project, a preliminary design is realised: SoilMate. SoilMate is a tool whereby farmers can experiment with new (sustainable) measures on their (digital) farm. SoilMate embodies itself as an interactive screen in the canteen or kitchen. It simulates the farmer’s farm and the possible results of changes.