In Focus: Case studies for Sustainable Innovation

José A. Gutiérrez and Caroline van der Weerdt
Collaborations of: Andreas Stylianou, Dolores Ordóñez, Vukasin Orsić, Maja Žikic, Natasha
Ristovska, Deirdre de Bhailís, Dinny Galvin, Áine Macken-Walsh, Dimitra Perperidou.

The Ploutos H2020 project works with 11 Sustainable Innovation Pilots (SIPS) in
13 European countries, implementing & testing sustainability-oriented innovations (SOIs).
These SOIs are based on 3 pillars: behaviour innovation, collaborative business models
and data-driven technology. In each one of those SIPs there is a unique range of expertise,
knowledges, and insights between all the various actors and stakeholders involved.

The exchange of knowledge between SIPs is crucial for learning from each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Case studies are one of the tools used to facilitate this exchange and horizontal learning process, along with initiatives such as the Ploutos Innovation Academy.

Case studies allow us to better understand the challenges of each of the 11 pilots;
implement or slowly transition towards sustainability-oriented innovations; and
access experts’ support for evidence-based decision-making processes.

They are also utilized to collect data for Work Package 2 in the Ploutos project, (Behavior and SOI), and to uncover deeper layers of motives, beliefs, and values that drive behaviors. The insights gained from these case studies and fieldwork provide a comprehensive knowledge of the actors involved in the SIPs, their motivations, their contexts, and the behavioral challenges they face.

Selection Criteria

Case studies were selected in order to represent various projects’ goals: multi-actor engagement, expertise in engaging and working with different actor cohorts. Four SIPs were selected to highlight their sustainable practices and related behavioural innovation challenges. They were selected based on criteria such as how divergent they are between them, culturally, socially and technologically. Overall, the SIPs selected were: SIP5 (Ireland); SIP7 (Cyprus); SIP9 (Serbia & North Macedonia) and SIP11 (Balearic islands). Today, SIP5 (Ireland) will be presented in detail.

Smart Farming on rural farms benefit the wider agri-food community and foster the creation of new food products and services

Corca Dhuibhne (the Dingle peninsula), is a scenic region in South-western Ireland, in Co. Kerry, and a stronghold of Irish heritage and traditions. Gaeilge is still widely spoken in the region by over half the population, many as their first language. Because of its breath-taking beauty and the persistence of traditions, Corca Dhuibhne received well over 1 million tourists per year, dwarfing the local population of about 12,500 people. Tourism generates €650 million in revenue for the Kerry economy and it is the main economic activity for a large segment of the county population: over 10,000 people are employed in tourism and the hospitality sector.

Like in many other regions, the traditions that attracts so many tourists, are nurtured and preserved by rural communities whose economic activities revolve around agriculture. There are over 2,000 dairy farmers in Kerry, producing approximately 9% of all milk production in Ireland. There are also many sheep farmers in the region, as well as beef producers. In total, nearly 6,000 people are employed in the agricultural and related activities in Kerry (just over 8% of the population). Kerry’s agricultural production is €385 million yearly, just about less than a half of the revenues of the tourism sector. Many of the farmers are struggling at present, as one participant in the project, Ronán Siochrú, told us: “Stress is high. We expected money to pay the bills, but we didn’t (…) know if we would get it or not. The single farm payment is getting smaller, and regulations are getting bigger (…) but problem is the price of the product, we are being underpaid. I am concerned about farming, milk prices are stagnant, but costs are going up every year”.

It is widely accepted that farming is the mainstay of rural areas, as employment in and income form this sector directly benefits the locality. The integration of farming enterprises with related value chains such as agri-tourism or food tourism would have positive cumulative effects. Thus, an efficient, vibrant and diversified approach is required by farmers in terms of the way in which the farming business is managed and in terms of how the food production business of farming can integrate with other actors in the value chain, in order to provide a sustainable industry in a specific geographical area. The focus here is to progress this strategy through a SMART farming approach.

This will involve capturing and using ‘real-time’ data to improve, and communicate about, efficiencies in farm management, and in turn improving sustainability in terms of environmental and profitability performance indicators. These improved parameters will act as incentives to integrate the farming sector into more diverse value chains (mentioned above) to leverage different forms of value, for different actors, across the chains.

Dingle Peninsula
The data will be used to support new food and food tourism products and services with evidence-based credence attributes

The Solution

Initially a subset of sensors was tested on 6 Ambassador farms, so that ‘real-time data’ could be collected, analysed and used to develop models and effective decision support tools for farmers. Then, a toolkit of robust, reliable and verified sensors was envisaged, together with the most appropriate local Smart Farming solutions, and this toolkit was rolled out to a larger farmer group. Sensors have now been installed in 36 ambassador farms, where farmers have agreed to pioneer this SOI. The idea is to gather and analyse data related to weather and soil conditions in real-time, to develop effective decision-making support tools for the farmers.

This toolkit will support farmers in optimising their businesses, in proving the sustainability/ low environmental impact, and consequently support a high market value for their produce. Furthermore, the data will be used to support new food and food tourism products and services with evidence-based credence attributes, which will be co-created with the local actors (through Enterprise Ireland). Lastly, a brand for the Dingle Peninsula will be built to secure the region as a destination of choice, supported by data proving low food miles and low carbon footprints.

The Innovations

Technological: Selection of tested sensors; more efficient production methods arising from the use of ‘real-time’ data for precision decision-making.

Social: New collaborations across different modalities due to data sharing (food production & agro-tourism). Strengthened social networks in rural areas. New/enhanced livelihoods in a marginalised rural area.

Organisational/Entrepreneurial: New products with novel data providing credence attributes; new forms of marketing supporting the brand of the Dingle Peninsula.