Drivers of technology adoption at farm level in the Baltic region

Nielsen, Helle Ørsted; Konrad, Maria and Pedersen, Anders Branth


Aarhus University, Denmark


Policies influence the incentives to adopt new technologies aimed at improved nutrient management and reduced emissions from manure handling. But policies interact with a number of other factors to influence farmers’ decisions on technology adoption. This paper examines the drivers of diffusion of manure handling technologies among farmers around the Baltic.

According to classic economic literature on technology diffusion, new technologies are adopted when they offer private benefits. In the case of manure technology, such benefits could be improved utilisation of nitrogen in manure, hence greater crop yield, or, the technology may embody economic gains more generally compared with current practices. Policies may affect the economic calculation on technology adoption in several ways, e.g. through research programs that lead to cheaper technology, through subsidies for purchase of technologies or through regulation that limits the use of mineral fertilisers and therefore intensifies the value of utilizing the fertilizers in manure. However, studies of technology diffusion suggest that social relations may also guide technology adoption. Lynne (1995, 2006) found that farmers might invest in equipment for manure handling to live up to norms among their non-farming neighbours about reducing odour or reducing environmental impact. Likewise, shared norms among farmers about good manure practice may lead to investments in manure handling equipment (Lynne 1995. 2000). Finally, Genius et al. (2013) identified a neighbouring effect – the likelihood of technology adoption increased if nearby farmers had invested in similar technologies, because this lowered learning costs to the late-coming farmer.  Still, other studies have shown that technology adoption may be driven by individual attitudes, including a general receptivity to new technologies or the reverse (Bishop et al. 2010; Lee 2004) or personal perceptions of the impact of fertiliser use on water and air quality. Altogether, this leads to a pattern of heterogeneous adoption and diffusion of technology with some quick to adopt while others follow (Bishop et al. 2010).

The paper therefore examines the effect of economic motivation, social norms, attitudes towards technology and environmental awareness among farmers on their previous decisions to adopt manure-handling technologies as well as on their intent to invest in such technologies in the future. It will map heterogeneity among farmers as to their technology adoption. We use data from a survey among farmers 5 countries around the Baltic Sea (approx. 2400 respondents), gathered under the Bonus project go4Baltic and analyse the data using multi-variate statistical models. We control for country variables as well as for farm characteristics including income, size, and farm type.

The insights provided offer policy relevant information as it will contribute knowledge about factors that affect technology adoption directly, but also the impact of policies on technology diffusion.