To successfully transform a system, we need to develop a deep understanding of the dynamics at play. If not, we risk instability and unforeseen effects, as multiple yet interconnected factors pull in different directions.
As part of the Deep Demonstration process, we ran several workshops with stakeholders to gather these deep insights, such as:
- Policy drivers for innovation vs. rigid and slow process for change;
- Economic benefits vs. environmental outcomes, now viewed predominantly as a cost;
- Uncertainty over policy and regulation causing inertia and hesitancy;
- Farmers’ limited negotiation power compared with other influential actors in the value chain;
- The need to foster collaboration and trust;
- Increase in renewable energy production vs. burdensome planning permissions;
- Traditions and cultural norms vs. the need for change.
The power imbalance and resulting lack of trust across some value chains has come out strongly as a key area to be addressed. The role of policy to potentially drive innovation, as opposed to the perception of being a barrier or lacking in agility to respond to needs in a timely way, also emerged strongly.
Farmers’ perception is that ‘they are unduly picked on’. Business models that reward farmers for environmental services and changes in land use are needed, while balancing and recognising their strong cultural ties to the land and livestock. These are not incompatible goals, and engagement with farmers in developing solutions is critical to foster their sense of ownership and commitment.
The team behind the Ireland Deep Demonstration project identified the needs, assets, resources and competences, as well as external conditions, required to achieve the vision of a sustainable food system by 2030. This mapping returned a 360-degree picture:
- The overall need for healthy soils, to produce nutritious food.
- Better metrics and frameworks (that can embed a holistic approach) for a more accurate reporting on the impact of activities on the ground.
- Importance of collecting data on the current situation to support a sustainable business model for carbon farming.
- Investment and financing to support the range of interventions needed.
- New circular business models that reinforce the future vision for the sector.
- Education and knowledge management as important enablers to managing the change.
- Understanding and respect of the local population, culture and tradition.