The evolution of the role of agricultural cooperatives

Research Area: Innovative models
Scientific coordinator: Carlo Borzaga
Project Manager: Eddi Fontanari

Project status: on-going

Description

At this time, agricultural cooperatives are the most significant and common cooperative form. So far, their economic role has been identified primarily in their ability to generate economies of scale for the benefit of individual farmer-members and to overcome failures of the specific market. The literature has, meanwhile, neglected the role of agriculture cooperatives in land conservation and maintaining populations in particularly disadvantaged areas.

Objectives

This research project proposes to examine the real potential of agricultural cooperatives, explaining their survival and analysing their impact on rural development.

The study wants to bring attention to a different interpretative approach, concentrated on the effectiveness of knowledge management. Indeed, a knowledge-based approach allows an understanding of the significance of the socialization of (tacit) knowledge – centred precisely on the cooperative ownership structure – in generating a competitive advantage that allows a constant investment in research and development and the generation of new knowledge and innovation, in the agricultural sector as well as others. Additionally, this interpretation allows a better understanding of the role of cooperatives of agricultural producers within local economies.

Taking as its starting point these hypotheses about the relationship between effectiveness in knowledge management and management of the link between members and the agricultural cooperative, the research intends to integrate the existing literature on the role of agricultural cooperatives and to test it using case studies. Additionally, an attempt will be made to prepare a methodology for determining not just the economic but also the social impact of agricultural cooperatives, so as to manage to capture the positive externalities generated for the benefit of the local area.

Main results

So far the research activities have produced an additional new economic justification of modern agricultural cooperatives based on knowledge-based theory. A satellite account has been set up for agricultural cooperatives in Trentino and Italy which includes both the cooperatives and the enterprises they control. This tool has allowed an in-depth analysis of these businesses and the calculation of the economic impact of the agricultural sector in Trentino.

Finally, a theoretical framework, divided by macro-areas of impact, has been developed for the externalities produced by agricultural cooperatives in their local areas.

Regarding the knowledge-based approach, a questionnaire will be submitted to a sample of agricultural co-operatives in the province of Trento. The survey aims to test the role of the modern agricultural co-operative in facilitating processes for introducing and disseminating innovation in the agri-food chain.

Publications

Borzaga C., Fontanari E. (2014), Le cooperative vitivinicole tra tradizione ed efficienza: Una riflessione sul caso italiano, Euricse Working Papers, n. 64|14.

Fontanari E. (2015), “Il vero valore del settore agricolo”, in Cia-Agricoltura trentina, n. Gennaio, (pp. 14-15).

Fontanari E., Nuhanovic S., O’Leary R., Tortia E. (2015), ‘Agricultural Co-operatives in Australia and Italy’, in Anthony Jensen, Greg Patmore, Ermanno Tortia (a cura di), Cooperative Enterprises in Australia and Italy Comparative analysis and theoretical insights, Firenze, Italy: Firenze University Press, p. 113-132.

Fontanari E., Borzaga C. (2015), ‘Quanto vale la cooperazione agricola italiana?’, in Euricse, Economia cooperativa. Rilevanza, evoluzione e nuove frontiere della cooperazione italiana. Terzo Rapporto Euricse, Euricse Edizioni, Trento, cap. 4.

Fontanari E. (2015), ‘Cooperazione agricola e aree marginali: una riflessione sull’esperienza della Provincia di Trento’, in Veneto e Nordest, Territorio e innovazione, n° 43 – 2/2015, Mestre, pp. 91-110.

Questo progetto fa parte della linea di ricerca sulle Nuove forme cooperative e nuovi ruoli della cooperazione nel contesto italiano e internazionale.

Nel corso degli anni le imprese cooperative e sociali hanno assunto diversi ruoli e forme e l’interesse per le potenzialità di queste forme imprenditoriali ha registrato un’accentuazione, soprattutto con riferimento ad alcuni settori (come quelli dei servizi sociali e di interesse generale) e alla capacità di affrontare, in particolare, problemi occupazionali e di tenuta competitiva delle piccole medie imprese.

Queste nuove forme di impresa sono tuttavia spesso definite in modo approssimativo, anche a seguito della mancanza di una regolamentazione specifica. Assume quindi rilevanza particolare lo sviluppo di un’attività di ricerca finalizzata a comprendere le forme cooperative e di imprenditorialità sociale emergenti.

Con riferimento soprattutto al contesto italiano ed europeo, gli altri progetti di ricerca portati avanti da Euricse riguardano:

Imprese e cooperative sociali e di comunità;
Le nuove cooperative di produzione e lavoro e il fenomeno del workers buyout; 
Cooperative di lavoro, nuove evoluzioni e regolamentazione.

Partner

University of Trento
University of Liege
Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve
University of Toronto
CFI
Confcooperative Italia
Centro Studi Lega Coop Bologna
International Study Group on Utility Cooperatives
University of Missouri

Tag
agriculturecooperativesInnovations

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