Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Managerial Science and Applied Economics
John Paul MacDuffie
Agriculture industry has shown outstanding productivity growth globally in the past half a century, providing the growing population with affordable, abundant and safe food supplies but faces major challenges regarding its future production and environmental and socioeconomic impact. This dissertation illustrates that exploring “shop-floor” problems by studying farm and supply chain operations and the local context may reveal valuable solutions to major economic, social and environmental problems in agriculture. I analyze unprecedented data on micro-activities of farmers gathered through industry partnerships and conduct extensive qualitative field work to relate micro-level differences in farm practices and environment to the differences in economic, social and environmental outcomes in two major agricultural contexts: (i) Smallholder coconut and cacao farming in the Philippines, representing smallholder farming systems common in the developing world, which faces low adoption of seemingly beneficial practices, low and stagnant farm productivity and widespread farmer poverty; and (ii) large-scale corn and soybean farming in the US, representing large-scale, mechanized farming systems common in advanced economies, which faces widespread environmental degradation and low farm incomes. Major findings in the Philippines include that the best practices vary with local farm environment, micro-details of practices are strongly determinate of productivity outcomes, and effective practice adoption is associated with spatial proximity to central experts and successful adopters, which together suggest that supporting organizations should adopt a process view of practice adoption and that customized advice communicated in micro-detail, e.g. through expert visits and providing local “blueprint” farms, may enable effective dissemination of best practices and address low farm productivity and farmer poverty. Major US findings include that there are significant environmental and economic benefits to customizing practices to varying within-field environment but realizing these benefits are not economic for individual farmers without significant but possible changes in farm technology and/or environmental conservation policies. This dissertation illustrates the value of applying operations management tools and perspectives to major economic, social and environmental problems in agriculture.
Ucel, Canberk, "Rethinking Modern Agriculture: Essays On Farmers, Productivity And The Environment" (2022). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 5225.