Alternative agro - food networks

Innovative integration of sustainable eating habits and food production?

NRP 69 "Healthy Nutrition and Sustainable Food Production"

This project is interested in innovative forms of agro-food system based on the principle of proximity. It proposes to approach these systems in an anthropological perspective with a specific focus on the consumer - producer’s relation.
The research topic concerns a specific form of alternative agro-food system that has developed in Switzerland within the last 30 years: agriculture contractuelle de proximité (ACP) (contract-based agriculture of proximity). Indeed these initiatives associate consumers and producers in small associative structures with a common project: organizing food supply based on proximity, sustainability and economic solidarity.

These movements will be studied by looking at the changes and impacts they have on the food habits of their members as well as on the agricultural production. This research will also analyze how these networks incorporate in their daily practices and ways of functioning their objectives of promoting and offering the conditions for sustainable food habits but also of improving the sustainability of agricultural food production and supply.

The project will be articulated around three main research directions with the aim of understanding the ACP system in its organisation and its implications for the main concerned actors groups. First, we propose to examine the creation and organization of an initiative in order to understand how its members propose, create and manage it. Secondly, we will analyze the impacts of the subscription and participation in an alternative food network on the consumer’s food habits and practices. Thirdly, we will look more specifically at the producers’ perspective and the consequences of the ACP system in terms of its sustainability (environmental, economical and social aspects) and participation to the food production.

The research on the ACP system in francophone Switzerland will be based on three case studies. The research plan will be based on an ethnographic fieldwork research of ACP networks. A comparative approach will be implemented in order to establish the emerging conditions and management practices of ACP networks in different contexts.

This study shall allow us to understand the ACP system and its effective capacity to integrate both consumers’ and producers’ expectations, from a perspective of proximity, collaboration and participation of both parts. Our research will explore the potential relevance of the relation between producers and consumers in terms of acquaintanceship, dialogue and information exchange. It will highlight to what extent the simple mode of an association may reinforce sustainable alimentary habits on one hand as well as sustainable agriculture production on the other hand. Most importantly, the imperatives of a sustainable alimentary behaviour may be appropriated and reformulated in a creative way by these initiatives insofar as they consist in an innovative proposition of the consumption mode, associative engagement, commodity and practicality of food supply.



alternative agro-food network; agriculture; food habits; sustainability

Equipe de recherche

Prof. Marion Fresia (co-investigator)

Prof. Jérémie Forney (co-investigator)

Julien Vuilleumier (co-investigator; PhD Candidate)