Log in


Innovative business models in European agrifood systems: governance issues in an era of digitalization, societal demand and environmental challenges

IFAMR Europe 2023 Special Issue


IFAMR Guest Editors

  • Maeve Henchion, TEAGASC, Ireland

  • Constantine Iliopoulos, Agricultural Economics Research Institute, Greece

  • Loïc Sauvée, IFAMA Europe Chairman, UniLaSalle, France

IFAMA is actively working to coordinate opportunities for collaboration with its regional chapters, recognize and support their work, and offer all IFAMA members opportunities to benefit from these activities. At the same time, IFAMA intends to profile its journal - the IFAMR, and its annual World Congress with broad participation of fellow European researchers.

To pursue these objectives, IFAMA and IFAMA Europe boards have decided to publish an annual “IFAMA Europe Special Issue” of IFAMR focusing on hotly discussed topics of European agri-food systems. Thematic Guest Editors will edit the Special Issue. The thematic frames described in a dedicated call for papers and IFAMR’s review requirements follow.

General Statement

In recent time, European agrifood systems are witnessing tremendous changes which affect the way traditional businesses are organized. Among these trends one can recognize three sets of factors. The first is digitalization, resulting in a recombination of transactions and new players entering the agrifood chains. This phenomenon is seen concomitantly at the agricultural level, at the food processing and at the retailing levels, inducing the emergence and expansion of innovative governance structures, including those that enable the active participation of  consumers and small holders, but at the same time provides some reinforcement of global or traditional players.

The second category of factors is societal demands: inclusion of small holders, territorial equity, closure of the income gap, organizational and business model innovations for social inclusiveness, nutritional aspects, etc. This brings society, and its challenges, to the heart of agrifood systems, putting forward the right to access to safe, affordable and culturally acceptable food as a fundamental right.

The third one is environmental, with its multiple components: climate change, biodiversity, energy, circular economy, waste management etc. These societal and environmental challenges open new opportunities for innovative governance structures, in terms of types of contracts, scope of decision rules, characteristics of transactions, control and incentive mechanisms, which are usually seen at ecosystemic and/or more local levels.

Facing these changes, traditional organizations, such as cooperatives, SMEs, multinational companies, innovate and renew their own business models, in order to be more inclusive or more sustainable, while new comers, especially in the retail and e-commerce sectors, are important drivers of change in terms of the organization of transactions (e-commerce, digital platforms, relationships with consumers and citizens).

The managerial implications of these transformations need to be better understood. Among other topics, the research needs to shed light on how these new business models can help us tackle the complex social dilemmas which are emerging. Consequently, the silo-type approaches which address each challenge separately are doomed to fail. Managers of these innovative business models are in need of frameworks and analytical tools that will enable them to shift towards holistic solutions.

These drastic changes in governance components and mechanisms can be tracked at different levels. At micro level, the focus could be on intra-organizational governance aspects (e.g., board structures and processes) while at the meso level, the focus is at sectors and /or territory-based. However, there is also a need to look at the macro level, especially with the new roles of international institutions in the definition of standards for environment, fair trade and societal demands for instance, along with the need to take a food systems perspective.

This “IFAMA Europe Special Issue 2023” of IFAMR welcomes contributions centered on one country, inter-European comparisons, or comparisons between European and non-European research cases. It also welcomes research that focuses on the participation of European agrifood businesses in global value chains in relation with governance issues. The contributions can also be focused on original theories and methodologies of governance issues within innovative business models.


    1. Cooperative business model governance in the context of sustainability transitions
    2. Governance in urban agriculture models
    3. Food vs energy or food with energy ? Implications for governance issues
    4. Diversity of governance structures in alternative food networks
    5. Governance arrangements relating to ethical values and stakeholders’ involvement
    6. Social innovations in agrifood systems
    7. Geopolitical context of energy shortage and war in Europe: implications for European agrifood systems in terms of governance: global vs local agrifood chains
    8. Socially and environmentally inclusive agrifood systems and related issues of governance
    9. Territory-based governance structures in European agrifood systems
    10. Institutional embeddedness of governance and societal challenges
    11. Comparative case studies in Europe of innovative governance models
    12. Biodiversity issues through the lenses of governance structures
    13. Governance perspectives on circular agrifood systems in Europe
    14. Bioeconomy development and governance choices
    15. Governance aspects relating to sustainable food systems.

      Review Process Protocol

      The review process of this Special Issue is two-step.

      Step 1: an IFAMA Europe review committee will select extended abstracts through a doubleblind process. Extended abstracts should include the following sections: problem description; methodology; results; managerial implications.

      Step 2: the full papers of the selected extended abstracts will enter the IFAMR reviewing process with a double-blind review process and will follow the guidelines of regular IFAMR issues.

      Special issue timeline:

      15 January 2023 Extended abstract (approximately 1000 words excluding references) submission deadline; to be sent to

      15 February 2023 Feedback to authors on abstracts

      1 May 2023 Full paper submission deadline

      Articles will be published ‘in press’ as soon as possible after acceptance. The complete issue is expected end 2023.

      The format of complete manuscripts should follow IFAMR’s author guidelines that can be found at:

      Final manuscripts should be uploaded using IFAMR’s online submission portal:

      The Guest Editors

      Maeve Henchion

      Principal Research Officer and Head of the Department of Agrifood Business and Spatial Analysis at Teagasc, Ireland. She is also adjunct Professor at the School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, member of the board of SafeFood and the Quality Assurance Board of Bord Bia and director of Fingal LEADER Partnership. With a primary degree in agricultural science, and post graduate degrees in strategic marketing, she brings a social science perspective to inter- and transdisciplinary research projects relating to agriculture, food and the wider bioeconomy. Her current research interests relate to governance and innovation in the circular bioeconomy, alternative protein sources and sustainable food systems.

      Constantine Iliopoulos

      Dr. Iliopoulos serves as Director of, and Senior Researcher at, the Agricultural Economics Research Institute (AGRERI), Greece ( Currently, he is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO), Germany. Constantine is also co-founder and member of the Co-opAbility Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to co-creating cooperative social fields and developing leadership skills for our emerging future ( His research program focuses on the organization, governance, and strategy of agribusiness cooperatives and agri-food systems, aiming to codesign system-wise, awareness-based solutions to complex challenges). Constantine Iliopoulos (

      Loïc Sauvée

      Director of the research unit InTerACT ( at institut polytechnique UniLaSalle in France, Professor Sauvée earned a doctorate in agricultural economics, a post doc in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University (USA) and a habilitation to supervised research (HDR) in management sciences from the university of Montpellier (France) in 2002. Pr Sauvée is IFAMA Europe chairman and managing editor of IFAMR. Current research aims to deepen the understanding of governance in collaborative organizational forms and networks in the context of disruptive technological and organizational Innovations of agribusiness and food systems. 

        Download this Call

        © 2021 IFAMA  |  All rights reserved  |

        Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software