Agricultural innovation: it’s not just about a new technological approach but also the business one

One of the goals of the SPARKLE Project – Sustainable Precision Agriculture: Research and Knowledge for Learning how to be an agri-Entrepreneur- is to create a training program for companies that want to take up PA, as well as for researchers and students of agriculture, in order­­ to enhance business-oriented skills and entrepreneurial activity in a smart environment.

We started by asking ourselves what kind of business model is typical of companies that adopt PA, and if management tools could be borrowed from other fields. For this purpose, we tried to use Business Model Canvas methodology. This methodology is being used successfully in other sectors and can help identify the company’s value propositions, making its operations visually understood.

In December, the staff of the University of Florence in collaboration with Euroteam Progetti concluded the first phase of the analysis of those examples of excellence that have successfully introduced advanced solutions of Precision Agriculture in their production system.

The Sparkle project made it possible to photograph and analyse six cases of business models, which differ notably from one another both in terms of size and in terms of type of activity. They are Siro Pacenti winery and Copernico company specialized in High Tech Farming services, both from Montalcino (SI); Marchesi Mazzei and Ruffino Tenuta Gretole wineries, in the Chianti Classico area; Giuliano Donato of Alberese (GR) and Co-op Il Raccolto, from S. Pietro in Casale (BO).

These representatives of best business practices in the field of innovation included small family-run firms alongside large companies owned by multinational corporations, Brunello and Chianti Classico wineries together with cereal and horticulture businesses.

Despite being very different from each other, these business systems share the same success factor: they have all chosen PA innovative solutions to leverage their growth.

When interviewed, all the entrepreneurs explained that this choice was driven by the need to improve the already high quality levels of production – the companies that we examined are all specialized in the production of fine regional wines and agri-food delicacies – and to increase productivity over time and therefore profitability.

In addition, they all acknowledged the deep impact that PA has had on the production system in terms of better business rationalization and efficiency. As one of the entrepreneurs, Giancarlo Pacenti, put it: “PA is a jewel that makes everything work like a Swiss watch”.