Exploring digitalisation in the agri-food sector and its paradoxes: Evidence from a comparative study with small French companies
This paper discusses the results of a study on the digitalisation of the agri-food sector in a French region characterised by small- and medium-sized farms. Our results, which rely on a survey comparing digital practices in the agri-food sector with other sectors, reveal a paradox. While digitalisation is mostly perceived as a panacea capable of increasing agricultural productivity while respecting the planet, it is not widespread in the agri-food sector and even less than in other sectors of the same size. At the same time, the perceived impact of digitalisation is also lower than in other sectors. To increase the digitalisation of this sector, two elements emerge from our results: both the implementation of a global digital transformation strategy and membership of a professional association are required. Here, we refer to a broad definition of digitalisation, which includes organisational and social aspects, and does not only address technological dimensions. Our study challenges the technocentric and productive vision of digitalisation. It suggests that farmers’ institutional environments and policies need to take a more holistic view of digitalisation to provide increased sense and generate engagement.