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Value creation for sustainable rural development – perspectives of entrepreneurship in agriculture
Halmstad University, School of Business, Engineering and Science, Centre for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Learning Research (CIEL). Hushållningssällskapet Halland, Halmstad, Sverige.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0002-0485
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Entrepreneurship and innovation are regarded as key factors in the development of society - not least in the development of sustainable rural areas, where they are emphasised by both authorities and research. This thesis is situated in this field of inquiry and studies entrepreneurship in agriculture. It explores how we can further develop both agriculture and sustainable rural areas. Farmers have traditionally played a significant role in rural areas and rural development, and still do. However in pace with societal development and the reduced number of farms and farm production, their role has changed. Today, they are considered as raw material producers, being the first link in a food chain, and active in landscape conservation in the countryside. However, agriculture plays a significant role in rural development and in Sweden, authorities strive for development of sustainable rural areas by encouraging economic growth and innovation within and between companies (business models, value chains etc.). They work with economic growth strategies, but both their management and results are criticised (OECD, 2019).This thesis states that greater contextualized knowledge is required to facilitate sustainable rural and agricultural development. Against this background, the purpose of this thesis is to explore entrepreneurship in agriculture from different perspectives, to find mechanisms affecting value creation for sustainable rural development.

To meet the research purpose, Swedish agricultural entrepreneurship was studied from different perspectives and data was collected with different methods enabling significant triangulation of data. Studies of challenges in entrepreneurship and sustainable rural development were conducted from individual farmer and business perspectives as well as from the individual and organisational levels of actors within the support system, actors such as advisors, authorities, policy makers and officials. Thus, it was possible to explore perspectives on entrepreneurship in agriculture and identify mechanisms and structures affecting value creation for sustainable rural development. Mechanisms can be explained as underlying, invisible and sometimes unconscious and non-rational factors, feelings, norms, values or attitudes that affect behaviour in various ways.

The key theories and literature covered included the concept of entrepreneurship with the intertwined sub-concepts of innovation and management at individual, business, organisational and societal levels.The thesis probed under the surface of rural development, exploring agricultural development at business level by using the concepts of Sustainable Entrepreneurship, Business Model Innovation and Barriers to Sustainable Business Model Innovation when exploring the challenges farmers face. The concepts of Self-leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Entrepreneurial Orientation helped to explore how challenges are approached, by for example understanding mechanisms concerned with feelings and mind-set. Further, the thesis also studied how entrepreneurship was encouraged and supported by the agricultural support system, and, with help from the Complexity Leadership Theory, established the urgent need of adaption to environmental changes and the creation of innovation within the system. The concepts of Agricultural and Rural Entrepreneurship and Embeddedness helped in understanding and shed light on the importance of considering the mutual influence and interplay between farmers, actors within the support system, embeddedness in context and rural entrepreneurship.

This thesis makes several contributions. It extends knowledge about entrepreneurship in agriculture by highlighting the importance of understanding embeddedness and the concept of agricultural sustainability, and by this providing evidence of the importance of including agriculture in entrepreneurship research. Consequently, this thesis has another viewpoint than previous research which states that farmers are not entrepreneurial and has overlooked agriculture in entrepreneurship research.

Firstly, it shows that farmers, to a very considerable degree, contribute to sustainable rural development and also play the role of enabler for rural entrepreneurship. Second, by exploring the support system, and thereby providing insights into the challenges within the system, in the organisations and betweenthe organisations, this thesis shows transparency and improved understanding of challenges in for example communication, trust, management and culture. Further, a model contributes suggestions for how to improve the system and create innovation to enable encouragement of entrepreneurship in agriculture. Third, this thesis contributes to business model research by illustrating the importance of including and reflecting on embeddedness in context and the understanding of agricultural sustainabilityin business model innovation. Hence, this thesis extends previous business model research which mainly considered agriculture as the first step in a food production chain, exposed to the same challenges as other non-agricultural companies further up the value chain. By providing insights about challenges to farmers’ entrepreneurship, and how these challenges can be approached as well as how entrepreneurship can be encouraged and supported in agriculture, this thesis can contribute to policies and strategies shifting focus from primarily trying to transform farmers into traditional entrepreneurs to taking advantage of the enabling role played by farmers. This thesis contributes to show the diversity in entrepreneurship, by providing understanding of entrepreneurship in agriculture, where value creation extends far beyond individual companies and competitive advantages, and hence impacts sustainable rural development.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Halmstad: Halmstad University Press, 2020. , p. 90
Series
Halmstad University Dissertations ; 68
Keywords [en]
Agriculture, farmer, entrepreneurship, value creation, sustainable rural development, support system, context, embeddedness, business models
Keywords [sv]
Lantbruk, lantbrukare, entreprenörskap, värdeskapande, hållbar landsbygdsutveckling, stödsystem, kontext, inbäddning, affärsmodeller
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-41377ISBN: 978-91-88749-44-4 (print)ISBN: 978-91-88749-45-1 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hh-41377DiVA, id: diva2:1385686
Public defence
2020-02-21, O103, O-huset, Linjegatan 12, Halmstad, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2020-01-16 Created: 2020-01-15 Last updated: 2020-01-29Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Barriers to Sustainable Business Model Innovation in Swedish Agriculture
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Barriers to Sustainable Business Model Innovation in Swedish Agriculture
2018 (English)In: Journal of Entrepreneurship, Management, and Innovation, ISSN 2299-7075, E-ISSN 2299-7326, Vol. 14, no 1, p. 65-90Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Sweden’s agriculture industry has faced many challenges in recent years. Among the most severe challenges are the decrease in the number of small and medium-sized farms, the decrease in the number of people employed in agricultural activities, and the increase in governmental regulations and legislation governing such activities. At the same time, the demand that agriculture contributes to sustainable social and ecological development has increased. Although research shows that sustainable business model innovation (SBMI) contributes to the creation of sustainable businesses and to the development of a sustainable society, Swedish agriculture has not been at the forefront in the use of SBMI. The purpose of this paper is to examine the barriers to SBMI in Swedish agriculture in order to understand why farmers seldom engage in SBMI. This qualitative study follows the Gioia methodology and data for the analysis were acquired in semi-structured interviews with entrepreneurs at six family farms in Sweden. The paper makes a theoretical contribution to the research on SBMI with its focus on sustainable entrepreneurship in the Swedish agricultural industry. The paper concludes that the barriers to SBMI are external, internal, and contextual.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Nowy Sacz: National-Louis University, 2018
Keywords
sustainable business model innovation, barriers, agricultural entrepreneur, sustainable entrepreneurship
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-39383 (URN)10.7341/20181414 (DOI)000431038600005 ()
Note

Financier: The Swedish farmers’ foundation for agricultural research

Available from: 2019-05-19 Created: 2019-05-19 Last updated: 2020-01-15Bibliographically approved
2. The impact of crises on innovation and strategic management – Learnings from the extreme drought in the summer of 2018
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The impact of crises on innovation and strategic management – Learnings from the extreme drought in the summer of 2018
2019 (English)In: 17th Rural Entrepreneurship Conference, Inverness, Scotland, June 17-19, 2019, 2019Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

As a complement to previous studies about barriers to development of business models (BM) and innovation in agriculture and agri-food, conducted in retrospective, this study were conducted during the pressure of an ongoing barrier in form of a crisis caused by the extreme drought of the summer 2018. The situation caused major challenges for Swedish farmers, and I was wondering how such an ongoing stressful situation affect strategic management and innovation of the farms? Hence, behaviours and thinking during the drought were studied by semi-structured in-depth interviews with six farmers in the southern part of Sweden. The paper answer to calls about further exploring how rural entrepreneurs absorb and recover from shocks (Korsgaard, Müller and Tanvig, 2014), and entrepreneurial strategies in agriculture to understand under what circumstances or among which type of farms an increased entrepreneurial orientation (EO) can lead to increased performance (Dias et al., 2019; Veidal and Flaten, 2014). Some general considerations appeared in the study. First, the farmers were hesitant about the word "crisis", as there are other things that have been much worse for them, both private and concerning not transitory business problems. Second, the mental stress was emphasized. Third, the effects of strategic planning, of both management, innovation, learning, and approach of stressful situations were illustrated. Mind-set, experiences and learning, and self-leadership were facilitating factors that emerged in the study. The study indicate that crisis creates new ways of thinking and acting, both in terms of new collaborations, innovative working methods, and product and process development, hence suggest that developed EO can lead to increased performance during stressful situations. Further, the importance of strategic long term discussions about both life situation and the business is emphasized. The paper also highlights some important factors when approaching challenges and strains, and complement previous research about barriers to BMI conducted in retrospective. This increased understanding is useful both for researchers and practice working with entrepreneurs and business development to facilitate prioritization of efforts and activities.

Keywords
Agriculture, strategic management, innovation, crises, business model innovation
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-41358 (URN)
Conference
17th The Rural Entrepreneurship Conference, June 17-19, 2019, Inverness, Scotland
Available from: 2020-01-10 Created: 2020-01-10 Last updated: 2020-02-24Bibliographically approved
3. Under the surface of the agricultural entrepreneurial support ecosystems: Through the lens of complexity leadership theory
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Under the surface of the agricultural entrepreneurial support ecosystems: Through the lens of complexity leadership theory
2020 (English)In: The RENT Anthology Book 2018 / [ed] Eddy Laveren, Robert Blackburn, Cyrine Ben-Hafaïedh, Cristina Diaz, Angela Gonzalez-Moreno, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Agricultural advisors have recently received much critique both in practice and in the literature for not answering agricultural entrepreneurs’ need for support in the ongoing industry transformation. Advisors expect to guide highly pressured agricultural entrepreneurs operating in complex settings towards sustainable businesses in highly competitive markets. The current study using complexity leadership theory goes beyond the surface of the agricultural advisors’ everyday work by exploring challenges faced by the advisors and considering how to overcome them. The advisors’ genuine intentions and common mission guiding the development of sustainable agricultural businesses and a vibrant countryside is not enough to achieve the goals. We identify an emergent need for innovation in the leadership of advisory work and conceptualize enabling mechanisms to accomplish such change. We suggest that the creation of adaptive space as a lubricant gives innovation the opportunity to flourish through enabling leadership.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-41362 (URN)
Note

Info from the editor: The book of 2018 will be ready in September 2020. Your chapter will be in the book. We are now finalizing the introductory chapter and making all the chapters following the guidelines of Elgar. In January/February 2020 we will know the title and the content. The production of the book will take almost 2 years.

Available from: 2020-01-10 Created: 2020-01-10 Last updated: 2020-01-16
4. A leadership development programme for agricultural entrepreneurs in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A leadership development programme for agricultural entrepreneurs in Sweden
2018 (English)In: The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, ISSN 1389-224X, E-ISSN 1750-8622, Vol. 24, no 4, p. 327-343Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose:

This article describes the five-phase process of a leadership development programme conducted with agricultural entrepreneurs who own and manage dairy farms in Sweden. The programme primarily focused on leadership of employees and on self-leadership. The article’s purpose is to present a template for leadership development programmes that can be used in the agricultural sector and in other industry sectors as well.

Design/Methodology:

The empirical data come from interviews with agricultural entrepreneurs, agricultural advisors and authors of a book on leadership in its various forms. Observations were also conducted of the instruction in the leadership development programme.

Findings:

First, agricultural entrepreneurs (and possibly entrepreneurs in other sectors) benefit from leadership development programmes in which the concept and practice of self-leadership are emphasized. Second, such programmes are more valuable to participants if other actors (e.g. academics and advisors) are participants. Third, coaches are useful as support for the programmes’ participants. Practical Implications: An implication of this study is the finding that working with the knowledge transfer and dissemination to advisors and entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector can enhance leadership competences in the industry. Role transformation (e.g. advisor to coach) can also enhance the transfer of such leadership competences.

Theoretical implications:

An implication for theory is to include a self-leadership module in leadership theories about learning leadership in development programmes.

Originality/Value:

Knowledge transfer and dissemination through leadership development programmes for agricultural advisors and entrepreneurs can have a beneficial effect on industry leadership and management. In addition to the traditional leadership skills that many leadership development programmes teach, such programmes also need to emphasize self-leadership.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis Group, 2018
Keywords
Leadership, self-leadership, education, agriculture, entrepreneur
National Category
Economics and Business
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-38569 (URN)10.1080/1389224X.2018.1473260 (DOI)000438447100004 ()2-s2.0-85049831872 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Knowledge Foundation
Available from: 2018-12-13 Created: 2018-12-13 Last updated: 2020-02-03Bibliographically approved
5. Farming beyond food: Effect of embeddedness and governance structures on farmers’ role in rural development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Farming beyond food: Effect of embeddedness and governance structures on farmers’ role in rural development
2020 (English)In: Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, ISSN 0898-5626, E-ISSN 1464-5114Article in journal (Other academic) Submitted
Abstract [en]

This article contributes to the debate on entrepreneurs’ role in societies as well as the consequences of rural embeddedness and engagement, or the role of farmers in rural development and entrepreneurship. A contextualized view of farmers embedded—both spatially and positionally— in the entrepreneurial ecosystems is applied. The study, based on interviews with 24 farmers, 6 observations, and 8 interviews with actors within the agricultural support system, uses the Gioia methodology for analysis, thus enabling inductive theorizing. We find that farmers’ multifunctional role and their impact on societal development are central to understanding farmers’ entrepreneurial endeavours as well as their engagement in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Hence, this article discusses farmers’ embeddedness in rural society and development processes. It highlights the multifunctional role of farmers in society, which we argue make them enablers for rural development, an important role that has been overlooked in both entrepreneurship research and policy work.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Abingdon: Routledge, 2020
Keywords
Farmers, entrepreneurship, rural development, embeddedness, agriculture
National Category
Human Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-41359 (URN)
Note

Funding: The Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry, and the Foundation CR Prytz donation

Available from: 2020-01-10 Created: 2020-01-10 Last updated: 2020-02-18Bibliographically approved

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