A method to design coupled innovations for the agroecological transition

A method to design coupled innovations for the agroecological transition. Implementation for soil health management in Provencal sheltered vegetable systems

2023 - Yann Boulestreau, Marion Casagrande, Mireille Navarrete


  • Transition to agroecology is hindered by a lack of coordination between agrifood system stakeholders.
  • We tested a method to coordinate the design of agroecological innovation across stakeholders, on vegetable production.
  • Our method is based on innovative design, participatory approach, progressive exploration, and object-based intermediation.
  • With the participation of 34 stakeholders, we designed 40 coupled innovations both original and adapted to our context.

Graphical Abstract :


Abstract :


Transition to sustainable agriculture is in many cases hindered by a web of interconnected barriers across agricultural system levels (cropping, farming and agrifood systems), involving a diverse range of stakeholders (e.g., farmers, marketing companies, input providers, R&D). This calls for the coordinated design of innovations across levels to bring about major changes towards agroecological practices.


In this study, we devised and tested a method for the design of coupled innovations on soil health management in sheltered vegetable cropping systems, in south-eastern France.


We developed a workshop-based approach grounded on 4 principles: (1) innovation design relying on generativity, combination of independent knowledge sources, and creation of open social spaces; (2) participatory design with researchers-facilitators and stakeholder-experts; (3) progressive exploration of the problem complexity; and (4) use of intermediary objects to facilitate linkages across levels and stakeholders, and the evaluation of the innovations. Following a 3-steps approach, we explored innovations at increasing levels of complexity and diversity in participants, with each step's outcomes feeding the next one.


With the participation of 34 stakeholders, we progressively designed three final coupled innovation prototypes targeting three key areas for innovation in our case study: (1) crop diversification; (2) application of biologically active amendments; and (3) integration of agroecological techniques and its optimization. We asked the participants to evaluate these three prototypes based on stakeholder criteria that we had previously characterized. We also produced complementary resources to move from the refined innovation concepts to their implementation: (a) 16 ‘simple’ innovations and 37 complementary ‘coupled’ innovations, both original and adapted to the context of our case studyand (b) knowledge gaps to be filled. Examples of designed coupled innovations are: (i) organic mulching cropping system combined with on-farm organic mulch production (farm coupled innovation); (ii) crop diversification combined with plot exchange with neighboring farmer (farmer-farmer coupled innovation); and (iii) making soil health status explicitly transparent in field transactions combined with agroecological soil health management (agrifood system coupled innovations).


This workshop-based method is the last component of an original approach to support the agroecological transition of agrifood systems, initiated by a sociotechnical analysis and a tracking for coupled innovation. It enables the coordination of the innovation design across system levels and the agrifood system's stakeholders.

Voir aussi

Article complet : Yann Boulestreau, Marion Casagrande, Mireille Navarrete, A method to design coupled innovations for the agroecological transition. Implementation for soil health management in Provencal sheltered vegetable systems, Agricultural Systems, Volume 212, 2023, 103752, ISSN 0308-521X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2023.103752. 

+ d'info sur la thèse de Yann Boulestreau : webinaire IDEAS sur sa soutenance de thèse le 01/04/2021

Date de modification : 20 septembre 2023 | Date de création : 20 septembre 2023 | Rédaction : TL