The agri-food industry has traditionally been considered as conservative, mature and with low level of innovation (Costa and Jongen, 2006; Sarkar and Costa, 2008; Klimczuk-Kochańska, 2018; Triguero et al., 2018). Especially micro and small enterprises, which represent the majority of agrifood companies worldwide, Italy included, are not innovation-oriented, mainly because of the lack of internal and external resources, i.e. qualified staff, R&D activities, collaboration, information sources and public financing (De Martino, Magnotti, 2018). Nevertheless, global trends for the future of the agri-food system – such as sustainability, climate change, food safety and health, etc. – pose a major challenge and force companies to make major transformations (European Parliament, 2019). These trends have been exacerbated by the pandemic that has been affecting the entire food system and, in the FAO’s words “has laid bare its fragility” (FAO, 20207). In this context, innovative startups, i.e., newly-created, innovation-based enterprises, have come into the spotlight as a key driver of innovation. They are deemed a great chance to increase the innovativeness of agri-food system (Biancalani et al., 2021; Graziano, 2020). However, the purpose of innovation and startuppers’ motivations to introduce innovations in this sector have not yet been investigated. In particular, it is unknown whether agri-food startuppers pursue typical business goals – cost reduction, product improvement/differentiation, etc. – or goals aligned with the megatrends characterising the evolution of the agri-food system at the global level. Moreover, it would be interesting to investigate whether and how Covid-19 has contributed to speeding up or slowing down the startups' innovation processes. To fill this gap, this research explores new entrepreneurial initiatives in the agri-food industry, in order to understand how and why food safety, health, environmental and social sustainability issues are really incorporated into business models. Specifically, we aim to answer the following RQs: 1) What objectives guide innovation in agri-food industry? 2) Which are startuppers’ motivations behind innovation in agri-food industry? 3) How has the pandemic impacted on the startups innovation?

Do sustainability and food safety stimulate innovation among agri-food entrepreneurs? The experience of Italian innovative startups during the Covid-19 pandemic

Annalisa Sentuti
;
Francesca Maria Cesaroni
2021

Abstract

The agri-food industry has traditionally been considered as conservative, mature and with low level of innovation (Costa and Jongen, 2006; Sarkar and Costa, 2008; Klimczuk-Kochańska, 2018; Triguero et al., 2018). Especially micro and small enterprises, which represent the majority of agrifood companies worldwide, Italy included, are not innovation-oriented, mainly because of the lack of internal and external resources, i.e. qualified staff, R&D activities, collaboration, information sources and public financing (De Martino, Magnotti, 2018). Nevertheless, global trends for the future of the agri-food system – such as sustainability, climate change, food safety and health, etc. – pose a major challenge and force companies to make major transformations (European Parliament, 2019). These trends have been exacerbated by the pandemic that has been affecting the entire food system and, in the FAO’s words “has laid bare its fragility” (FAO, 20207). In this context, innovative startups, i.e., newly-created, innovation-based enterprises, have come into the spotlight as a key driver of innovation. They are deemed a great chance to increase the innovativeness of agri-food system (Biancalani et al., 2021; Graziano, 2020). However, the purpose of innovation and startuppers’ motivations to introduce innovations in this sector have not yet been investigated. In particular, it is unknown whether agri-food startuppers pursue typical business goals – cost reduction, product improvement/differentiation, etc. – or goals aligned with the megatrends characterising the evolution of the agri-food system at the global level. Moreover, it would be interesting to investigate whether and how Covid-19 has contributed to speeding up or slowing down the startups' innovation processes. To fill this gap, this research explores new entrepreneurial initiatives in the agri-food industry, in order to understand how and why food safety, health, environmental and social sustainability issues are really incorporated into business models. Specifically, we aim to answer the following RQs: 1) What objectives guide innovation in agri-food industry? 2) Which are startuppers’ motivations behind innovation in agri-food industry? 3) How has the pandemic impacted on the startups innovation?
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11576/2703050
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