Traditionally, technology was associated with physical artefacts. Today, it increasingly applies to knowledge. In other words, innovation applies as much to things as it does to systems. The increased complexity of science, technology and innovation and the business organisation is behind the change from a product to a systems-centric innovation. Some key characteristics of systems-centric firms include 1) greater focus on cumulative knowledge, 2) accumulation of value-added innovation capacity, and 3) a division of labour. The transition from subsistence farming to global food supply chains creates innovation demands on postharvest management, food processing, distribution and marketing to optimise the economies of scale and scope. This transition also leaves supply chains vulnerable, as we have seen with the recent pandemic.

Modern innovation and engineering demands increasingly draw on and create science to serve its needs. With their different direction of fit, tacit knowledge and scientific understanding are used to reduce costs associated with reverse salients, lead times and uncertainty. However, the investment in technology and ancillary artefacts, resources and supply chains results in a lock-in of ideas, investment and policy. This inertia comes at the expense of agility and radical innovation.

Modern agriculture relies heavily on costly mechanisation and inputs, often reinforced by public policy. There is a need for professional and independent entrepreneurs in combating inertia in large firms. DE LA TIERRA can work with farming communities and firms in unlocking the potential for productivity gains.

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