Thesis subject

Scientific tinder: finding the perfect match between farmers’ profiles and design steps

One of the core activities of the Agricultural Biosystems Engineering group (formerly known as the Farm Technology group) is design of sustainable future farming systems. Using structured design methods like Reflexive Interactive Design (RIO), we design future systems in collaboration with different stakeholders. Currently, for example, we are working on a project about regenerative agriculture with a group of twenty very progressive farmers, to see how we can implement regenerative practices on a larger scale (or even make it the standard in The Netherlands).

What struck us, is that many of these very progressive farmers strongly believe in a certain, often their own, concept. From this we hypothesized that farmers at both the conservative and progressive ends of the spectrum are both relatively inflexible in thinking about the ideal way of working. That would mean that progressive farmers can help generate new solutions, but may not be the best to experiment with these solutions, as they probably will not be very flexible towards changing them when the results are not as good as expected. So when setting up living labs, or selecting farmers for a design workshop, you might not want to select the so-called 'innovators', but rather farmers with an open attitude towards change, regardless of the solution. In our design workshops, however, we currently often opt for the real frontrunners.

We would like to test this hypothesis by looking at the relations between different personality traits and capacity to innovate of various farmers in the spectrum. From there, we would like to build a set of criteria to help us select farmers for the different steps in the design process. Depending on the starting date of the student, we would preferably do this in a real-life setting, so linking it to an existing design process.

We are looking for a student to:

  • Explore the frameworks that are available around the relation between personality traits and innovation capacity;
  • Translate these frameworks to an agricultural setting;
  • And test the hypothesis as provided in the description.

    Our group will support you in explaining the design methodology and the agricultural context. A supervisor from the Knowledge, Technology and Innovation group (to be defined) will support you in finding, interpreting, and adjusting the existing frameworks.

    For more information, you can contact Marjolein Derks, assistant professor at the Agricultural Biosystems Engineering group, by email: (add in the CC).