The Project

The Project

The importance of reconsidering European food systems in a global context has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic; it has it made evident that the global food supply chain—highly concentrated and operating on a just-in-time supply basis—is prone to falter in the face of shocks. Climate change and the resulting transformation pressures are an additional key challenge for agriculture. Our current food system also suffers from the overuse of chemicals in food production, monoculture cropping systems, and adverse environmental impacts of intensive animal farming on land and at sea, resulting in soil degradation and a negative impact on water and biodiversity. The Green Deal, notably the Farm to Fork (F2F) and Biodiversity strategies, climate action, zero pollution ambition, and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are policy responses to tackle these challenges. There is an urgent need for a substantial shift in the food system to make agriculture more sustainable in economic, environmental, and social terms.

VISIONARY aims to improve the sustainability of agriculture by promoting those practices in food production systems that are more environmentally friendly, economically viable, and socio-culturally appropriate, and helping to remove the barriers to their adoption.

Project objectives

To characterise

To characterise and assign relative importance to the comprehensive set of behavioural factors (including proximal and distal) influencing farmers’ decisions about moving to, staying in, or abandoning more sustainable farming systems, as well as to set out how to shape and utilise those factors which act as drivers (levers) to overcome barriers (lock-ins) (WP 2-5);

To investigate

To investigate, via a ‘fork-to-farm’ approach, how the preferences of different types of consumers result in demand for sustainable and climate-friendly food, and how this is translated along the value chain to condition farmers’ behaviour (WP2, WP4);

To understand

To understand how targeted policies and collective entities involving farmers can shape a socio-territorial setting that enables the adoption (both individual and collective) of more sustainable farming practices and is better linked to value chains (WP3, WP4, WP5);

To launch

To launch and develop initiatives of science-policy interfaces (SPI) involving relevant food system actors at local, regional, and national decision-making levels, as novel platforms for knowledge exchange to better inform policy design and implementation of tools regarding the role and use of behavioural factor for the adoption of more environmental- and climate-friendly farming practices (WP6);

To identify

To identify those public policies, standards, and regulations that act as barriers to sustainable food production and identify which actors have the spatial, temporal, economic, and political capacity to change them, combined with recommendations for an effective policy mix with better policy alignment (WP2, WP3, WP5, WP6);

To improve

To improve the understanding of contributions (and limitations) of experimental and behavioural methods when embedded into a systems approach, as well as testing the combination of a foresight approach with behavioural economics (WP3-WP6).

Work packages (WP)

Work package 1 – Engagement, communication, dissemination, and exploitation

The overall objective of WP1 is the communication, dissemination, and exploitation of project results to ensure that the project and its results have a wide reach and a high impact on science, policy, and practice. Appropriate activities will be tailored to specific audiences and planned early to provide a strategic approach to support the project and partners. Objectives include the creation of a Dissemination, Exploitation, and Communication plan and the establishment and management of a project website to ensure visibility, findability, and access to resources. User-specific dissemination materials will be produced, and dissemination events organized. Also, research data and results will be prepared for open science formats for exploitation after the project is completed. Tasks include providing a quarterly online Newsletter, organizing dissemination events, cross-country visits to case studies, and at least two on-the-ground workshops, as well as generating peer-reviewed publications. The work package is led by FiBL (Sabine Ersing) and co-led by Global Nature Fund (Eva Schellenbeck).

Work package 2 – Mapping levers and lock-ins in the food system

WP 2 will provide the conceptual and analytical framing for the whole project to ensure the fitting and synergies between the several WPs. Namely, the analytical framework, a literature-based mapping of levers and lock-ins to behaviour change, and a refinement of the case studies will lay the foundations for the empirical work of WPs 3, 4, and 5. This WP will also produce a conceptual framework that will be enriched based on the outcomes of the projects. The work package is led by Universitat Politècnica de València (Dionisio Ortiz Miranda) and co-led by the Institute of Agricultural Economics Nonprofit Kft (Gábor Király).

Work package 3 – Agri-environmental policy experimentation

WP 3 seeks to identify the key factors determining farmers’ behavioural responses to policy initiatives to promote transitions towards sustainable farming systems. We focus on the three key sustainability transitions to climate neutrality, halting biodiversity decline, and good ecological status of freshwater and marine waters. We analyse what policies in the food, rural and agri-environmental domains look like that may promote the needed changes in behaviour. We identify how behavioural approaches and experiments in particular can help identify the most effective policy interventions in different socio-ecological contexts across the EU. The work package is led by the University of Copenhagen (Mette Termansen) and co-led by Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (Bettina Matzdorf).

Work package 4 – Value chain initiative and business models

WP4 investigates private initiatives among operators in agri-food value chains and aims to identify successful business strategies and models that succeed in creating markets for sustainably produced food. WP4 will fill the knowledge gap on private value chain initiatives for sustainable food systems and the opportunities and challenges they are facing, in particular the behavioural drivers and lockins. This will be done by investigating successful existing value chain initiatives and testing consumer-oriented nudging and promotion measures in a multi-method approach including experiments with retailers. The work package is led by Copenhagen Business School (Meike Janssen) and co-led by the University of Warsaw (Mikołaj Czajkowski).

Work package 5 – Leverage points in the agri-food system

WP5 takes a systems approach. We focus on two examples at the systems level (the transition to organic farming as a whole farm systems transition; and the transition to increased production of plant-based based protein such a pulses as a cropping system transition). In addition, this WP brings together the different strands of the review and empirical work in WP2-4 and 6. This will allow us to generate insights beyond a specific value chain. We combine this with the findings from the policy and regulatory mapping to ensure we consider barriers and incentives from the policy domain. We explore the conditions necessary for upscaling and outscaling of interventions and initiatives with high potential (those investigated in WP3 and 4) to be able to make meaningful recommendations on leverage points that are promising in different value chains. The work package is led by University of Aberdeen (Katrin Prager) and co-led by University of Copenhagen (Mette Termansen).

Work package 6 – Science-Policy-Interfaces and relationship building

Work Package 6 is a cross-cutting work stream that will run alongside Work Packages 2-5. The overall aim is to enable the co-design of policies and business models by working with food system actors to 1) inform what is tested in the policy and value chain experimentation and 2) interpret the results of this experimentation in the context of designing new and innovative policy interventions and business models. A central tenet of this work will involve extensive dialogue with participants from 16 Science Policy Interfaces (SPIs). Considerable resources will be expended on building the capacity of policy stakeholders, value chain actors, and researchers to work together in the SPIs to contribute effectively to the co-design process. The work package is led by the University of Exeter (Alex Inman) and co-led by Highclere Consulting (Mark Redman).

Work package 7 – Project management and coordination

The objective of Work package 7 is the overall coordination of VISIONARY, including scientific, technical, administrative, and financial management. It tackles internal communication within the consortium as well as with the European Commission. Besides, this WP is in charge of setting up and organising the scientific exchange beyond the consortium, first with the members of the project Scientific Advisory Board, and second with other ongoing related projects and initiatives, in particular with VISIONARY’s two sister projects ENFASYS and BEATLES. The work package is led by Universitat Politècnica de València (Dionisio Ortiz Miranda) with the support of the University of Aberdeen (Katrin Prager).


VISIONARY activities, results, and dissemination/ exploitation/ communication measures – addressing well-defined and relevant target groups – have been purposely designed to effectively contribute to the call Expected Outcomes:


 Improved understanding of challenges and opportunities for the development of sustainable, climate-neutral, biodiversity-friendly farming systems at the farm and landscape levels


Improved understanding of farmers’ individual (behavioural/ decision-making) and systemic ‘lock-ins’ and ‘levers’ for moving to and staying in sustainable, climate-neutral, and biodiversity-friendly farming systems


Improved understanding of consumers’ behaviour (decision-making) and market segmentation with regard to buying food from sustainable, climate-neutral, and biodiversity-friendly farming systems


Improved understanding of behaviour (decision-making) of upstream and downstream operators in agrifood value chains and other relevant actors across food systems with regard to hindering/facilitating the transition to sustainable, climate-neutral, and biodiversity-friendly production and consumption systems


Better design and implementation of relevant policies, in particular the CAP, the farm to fork and biodiversity strategies, that effectively incentivise large-scale and long-term behavioural shifts by farmers to sustainable, climate-neutral, and biodiversity-friendly farming systems


Improved farm advice, business strategies, and relationships building on common interests among relevant food systems operators and actors across sectors, helping farmers to produce in a more sustainable manner, contributing to climate neutrality and reversing biodiversity decline


Improved capacities of researchers in behavioural and experimental research, and systems thinking