A challenge for the strategic management of farms
Asking the question of what part agriculture has to play in the bioeconomy boils down to considering agriculture in its three dimensions of sustainability. It also involves examining how agriculture interacts with the rest of the economy and, as such, its integration in society. We must ask ourselves how each farmer will integrate this new dimension into the management of their agricultural business.
The bioeconomy, as well as the movement towards a more sustainable agriculture, will almost certainly lead to greater complexity in agricultural systems. Because of a desire for short-term efficiency, the trend since the end of the second world war was towards greater simplicity. That often translated into technical specialisation at the level of farms, leading to a concentration of basins of production in a limited number of sectors. However, one of the main directions of travel for the future is diversification, which represents a complete U-turn. In this way, rotation patterns will be extended. Now, farmers are even starting to grow several crops on a same plot or section of countryside.
Furthermore, the bioecological approach involves a longer-term view of the agricultural business (not just one or even three years). The aim will no longer necessarily be to optimise a single criterion. Performance will increasingly be measured according to several criteria and will therefore be increasingly complex to assess. Performance will still need to involve turning enough of a profit for the business owner to make a living and for the business to keep going. But effects on biodiversity or soil carbon sequestration, for example, will also be measured.
Necessary social and managerial innovations
The ambitions of the bioeconomy will lead to changes in agricultural techniques but also in ways of managing agricultural production systems. The same will go for processing industries. In reality, the change goes even further. It will affect the entire management of production sectors and territorial activities. Innovations in management and governance will therefore be required. Behind all of this, a crucial development in the entire chain for supporting the agricultural economy, public or private, is taking shape.