Technological innovation in agricultural co-operatives in China: Implications for agro-food innovation policies

Jianli Luo, Hongdong Guo*, Fu Jia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Technological innovation has become a major source of farmer co-operatives’ competitive advantage, however empirical research on co-operatives innovation in a developing country context is rare. We adopt an ethnographic case study method collecting data from 32 co-operatives managers of four exemplar co-operative cases and agricultural experts in China and collected much archival data. In addition, a Delphi study was conducted to collect data on the innovation performance. Based on the distinctive characteristics of co-operatives, we found that first knowledge spillovers and technology acquisition modes are two constructs which best capture the dynamic of technological innovation in co-operatives and develop a typology based on them. Second, grassroots and social innovation in a Chinese co-operative context have their own characters and indeed a hybrid of capitalism (e.g., agribusiness) and New Rural Re-structuring principles (i.e., similar to ICA ones). Third and finally, we provide detailed agro-food policy implications for each of the four types of co-op innovation. The results of the research may be learned by co-ops and policy makers in other developing economies who face similar challenges as in China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-33
Number of pages15
JournalFood Policy
Early online date19 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Agricultural co-operatives
  • Agro-food policy
  • Case study, China
  • Technological innovation

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