Understanding regional agri-food systems and their\ud supply chains: a socio-technological systems approach

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Adams, Marc Robert
  • Subject: HM | HT | T1 | S1

This thesis investigates the development of regional agri-food systems and their supply chains to understand how they affect the sustainability of rural regions. It argues that the existing dichotomies of alternative-local and conventional-global do not provide a sufficiently nuanced understanding of the dynamic transitions and interactions that occur in regional agri-food systems. Deploying and extending socio-technological systems theory, the thesis explores the interaction between nested levels of sectoral and general agri-food regimes and reconstructs the emerging logics of interaction. Against this background, it analyses how alternative agri-food supply chain innovations evolve and assesses their various degrees of success.\ud \ud The meat, dairy and horticultural sectors in SW Wales are investigated as case studies, using a mixed methodological approach combining secondary data analysis and interviews with key stakeholders and supply chain actors. The research finds three sub-sectoral systems with highly differentiated socio-technological configurations and equally diversely configured niches. Using the socio- technological systems framework the: socio-technological configuration, degree of system stability and the future transitional pathways of the each sub-sectoral system is examined. This framework also creates the basis for an assessment of how likely their innovations are to be adopted or absorbed by the conventional agri-food system in SW Wales. The thesis finds that meaningful interactions occur not only within each sub-sector and betweentheir niches but also between sub-sectoral systems.\ud \ud The thesis ultimately provides a nuanced analysis of SW Wales’ agri-food systems that shows the complexity of regional food systems and critiques possible sustainable responses from public policy. It demonstrates that a socio-technical regime perspective can uncover the manifold relations between local and regional agri-food innovations and the dominant, multi-layered agri-food system. This constitutes a major empirical and conceptual contribution to the debates on sustainable food and rural development.
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