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Behavioural Change & Innovation

Behavioural change and innovation

We are a multidisciplinary team with expertise in behavioural modelling and innovation systems.  Our aim is to create behavioural change within rural land use sectors in relation to the uptake of sustainable technologies to mitigate animal disease and environmental footprint, prevent and mitigate food waste, improve animal welfare, and lead to eco-environmentally efficient land use.  Our work spans the sustainable intensification of agriculture and the uptake of agro-ecological methods, such as integrated pest management and nutrient management to reduce chemical inputs into agriculture.

We work in both developed and developing country contexts, with expertise in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.  We also lead the current Scottish Government Research Stream on Uptake of Best Practice and Prevention of Food Waste and provide support for innovation systems science for a range of clients, including Defra, the EU, UK research councils and industry bodies.   We also design and administer large-scale surveys.  Both the 2013 and the 2018 Scottish Farmer Intentions Survey were administered by us and these are the largest surveys of rural land use ever conducted in Scotland (Barnes et al. 2016, Toma et al. 2018, Sutherland et al. 2016). 

Our work is focused on research and analysis of farmer uptake of technologies which will lead to a ‘low carbon’, ‘climate smart’, ‘low waste’, ‘high welfare’, ‘low disease’ future. We have studied farmer attitudes/ perceptions/ behaviours to a range of stimuli related to this, such as climate change, animal welfare/health, water quality, food waste and other agricultural policy instruments.

We also investigate behavioural change as regards sustainable consumption, namely public attitudes/behaviours related to food waste, animal welfare and environmental/climate change impacts. 

Recent examples of our work include

Assessing the barriers to uptake of Integrated Pest Management in Scotland: A report entitled ‘Assessing the barriers to uptake of Integrated Pest Management in Scotland’ (click here to download) was produced and the information will be used influence the design of future decision support tools for IPM in barley in which the needs of the processor and consumer are considered. View video.

Managing uptake of Bean Breeding and Adoption in Colombia: This multi-institutional project, with Universities of Leeds and Bristol, and the Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), explores the potential for adoption of climate and nutrient smart bean breeding technologies in post-Conflict zones.

Low Input Farming and Territories (LIFT): This work looks at the structural, behavioural and policy transformations for uptake of agroecology within European farming systems. The team lead the work package on uptake of agroecology with farming and supply chains.

Transition paths to sustainable legume-based systems in Europe (TRUE): This work uses micro- and macro-economic methods such as spatial econometrics, behavioural economics and sectoral economics models to determine the economic performance of legumes at the farm and EU level for conventional and organic production systems. The team lead the economics work package.

Uptake of Nutrient Management:  We have, since 2008 been heavily involved in initiatives for adoption of nutrient management in projects funded by the Scottish Government (Barnes et al. 2009, 2011, 2013)

Uptake of sustainable intensification and integrated farm management with supply chains: (SIP report).

Food waste along supply chains: As part of our research funded by the Scottish Government (2016-21) we use behavioural economic models and efficiency analysis to identify ways to prevent and mitigate food waste along the supply chain (Beausang et al. 2017, Toma et al. 2017, Thompson et al. 2018).

Animal disease and welfare: We have been conducting research to analyse consumers’ and farmers’ behaviour towards improving animal welfare and disease in Scotland in a number of projects funded by the Scottish Government (EPIC), Defra and Food Standards Scotland projects for the past ten years (Toma et al. 2011, 2013, 2014, Barratt et al. 2018).

Environmental efficiency and technological uptake: As part of our research funded by the Scottish Government (2011-16, 2016-21) we have been conducting research on farmers’ technological uptake behaviours and farm environmental efficiency using behavioural economic modelling (Barnes and Toma 2012, Toma et al. 2018, Daxini et al. 2018) and data envelopment analysis (Barnes et al. 2009, Barnes et al. 2011, Shortall and Barnes 2013, Toma et al.. 2013, March et al. 2016).

Mitigating Agricultural Impacts through Research and Knowledge Exchange


Professor Andrew Barnes is project partner at SRUC

Prof Andrew Barnes

Team Leader - Behavioural Change & Innovation

Address: Land Economy, Environment & Society, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), Peter Wilson Building, Kings Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG.

Telephone: 0131 535 4042