A new systemic approach to characterize agroecological systems

Audrey Michaud


Submitted 2020-07-27 | Accepted 2020-08-20 | Available 2020-12-01


The agricultural models put in place to meet food demand in the 1950s are now showing their limits. Strong impacts on the environment or animal welfare issues require a change in the agricultural model. Agroecology is a response to these ecological and societal crises. The theoretical definition of this agricultural model is explained in literature. However, it remains important to clarify what is an agroecological farm in the field: how does the farming system work? Which indicators are used? What are the worldviews of the farmers? For that, systemic approach can be useful. The aim of this article is to advance a fuller understanding of the management of agroecological systems in the field through a new systemic approach. A new definition of the systemic approach is proposed with three pillars (functioning system, decision-making system and thinking system) to allow a more detailed analysis of production systems by using a specific method, crossing biotechnical sciences, humanities and social sciences. Consideration of all three pillars can explain what an agroecological system is in practice, with identification of specific indicators and worldview.

Keywords: systemic approach, agroecology, thinking system, functioning system, decision-making system


ALTIERI, M. and PIMPERT, M. P. (1986). L’agroécologie: bases scientifiques d’une agriulture alternative. Debard.

ALTIERI, M. (1995). Agroecology: The Science of Sustainable Agriculture, 2nd ED. Westvies Press. Boulder, Colorado.

BEAVER, A., PROUDFOOT, K. L. and VON KEYSERLINGK, M. A. (2020). Symposium review: Considerations for the future of dairy cattle housing: An animal welfare perspective. Journal of Dairy Science 103(6), 5746-5758. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2019-17804

CAYRE, P. et al. (2018). The coexistence of multiple worldviews in livestock farming drives agroecological transition. A case study in French Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) cheese mountain areas. Sustainability, 10(4), 1097. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10041097

DE FONTENAY, E. (1998) Le Silence des bêtes. La philosophie à l’épreuve de l’animalité. Fayard.

DE ROSNAY, J. (1975). Le macroscope: vers une version globale. Editions du seuil, La Flèche.

DESCOLA, P. (2005). Par delà nature et culture. Gallimard.

DORE, T. and BELLON, S. (2019). Les mondes de l’agroécologie. QUAE.

DUMONT, A. M. et al. (2016). Clarifying the socioeconomic dimensions of agroecology: between principles and practices. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 40(1), 24-47. https://doi.org/10.1080/21683565.2015.1089967

DUMONT, B. et al. (2013). Prospects from agroecology and industrial ecology for animal production in the 21st century. Animal, 7, 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1751731112002418.

FRANCIS, C. et al. (2003). Agroecology: the ecology of food systems. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture 22(7), 99-118. https://doi.org/10.1300/J064v22n03_10.

GLIESSMAN, S. (1998). Agroecology: Ecological Processes in Sustainable Agriculture. CRC Press.

HERRERO, M. et al. (2015). Livestock and the environment: what have we learned in the past decade? Annual Review of Environment and Resources 40(11), 177-202. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-031113-093503.

HOLLARD, H., JOLIET, B. and FAVE, M. C. (2012). L’agroécologie Cultivons la vie. Sang de la terre. Les dossiers de l’écologie.

HUBERT, B. et al. (2013). Agriculture, modèles productifs et options technologiques: orientations et débats. Natures Sciences Sociétés, 21, 71-76. https://doi.org/10.1051/nss/2013085.

JACQUOT, A. L. et al. (2019). How stakeholders in the goat industry in western France view grazing. Fourrages, 238, 167-170.

LACROIX, K. and GIFFORD, R. (2019). Reducing meat consumption: identifying group-specific inhibitors using latent profile analysis. Appetite, 138, 233-241. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2019.04.002.

LANDAIS, E. (1994). Système d'élevage. D'une intuition holiste à une méthode de recherche, le cheminement d'un concept-In: C. Blanc-Pamard and J. Boutrais, 15-49.

LATOUR, B. (2006). Nous n’avons jamais été modernes. Essai d’anthropologie symétrique. La Découverte.

LAURENT, C. et al. (2003). Multifonctionnalité de l'agriculture et modèles de l'exploitation agricole. Economie Rurale, 273(1), 134-152.

STASSART, P. and JAMAR, D. (2008). Steak up to the horns! GeoJournal 73(1), 31-44. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10708-008-9176-2.

STEINFELD, H. et al. (2006). Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome. http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM

WEBSTER, J. R. et al. (2015). Different animal welfare orientations towards some key research areas of current relevance to pastoral dairy farming in New Zealand. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 63(1), 31-36. https://doi.org/10.1080/00480169.2014.958117

WEZEL, A. and PEETERS, A. (2014). Agroecology and herbivore farming systems – principles and practices. Options Meditérranéennes A, 109(7), 753-767.

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 Acta Fytotechnica et Zootechnica

© Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra, Faculty of Agrobiology and Food Resources