Shapes and Forces models

To feed 10 billion people in 2050, a major transformation of our food system is required. The current system is unsustainable: it is responsible for global greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, soil degradation and desertification, socially undesirable situations and diminishing yields. NewForesight developed the Shapes and Forces Model that identifies possible agricultural sector shapes and the forces that determine the sustainability of an agricultural sector. Agricultural commodity sectors can be defined by their shape. A shape illustrates the relative proportion of different farms based on scale and organization within the sector.

Subsistence smallholders are at the bottom, entrepreneurial farmers in the middle and highly organized farm estates at the top. The level of organization and professionalism of farmers is a good indicator for productivity, efficiency, market access and bargaining power and related to the uptake of sustainability practices in that particular sector. A sector’s shape can therefore indicate its absorption capacity for sustainability practices. Of the identified fives shapes, the diamond shape is the preferred shape for sustainability, in which the majority of the farmers are entrepreneurial SMEs. Their degree of scale and organization is most suitable for intensifying production in a truly sustainable manner.

The shape of a sector can be altered by the understanding and influencing of the forces that determine its shape. We have identified the four main forces in the agricultural sector. To develop a strategy for a sustainable market transformation, we map the forces for the sector in question and analyze what change is required.

Agriculture knowledge

More detailed information on the Shapes and Forces models can be found in our publication Sustainable Intensification: A strategy for sustainable design.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Tessa van der Meiden with your questions. She will connect you to the appropriate consultant.