Research Models

ORCA will give specific consideration to epistemology and research methodologies. Upon the formation and initial implementation of the different ORCA Centres, The Secretariat will convene biennual fora with a view to, among other functions, review and devise alternative research approaches.

ORCA presents an alternative research model: science across disciplines and with farmers. ORCA sets itself apart from other efforts aimed at improving agricultural production. Its participatory design puts farmers first while its approach is from the broadest possible position – across the entire food system. Too often, current research focuses on narrow aspects of specific problems without consideration of the entire context of the issue. Organic-based research focuses on diversity and mutual help, thus ensuring that producers can better manage risks and uncertainties posed by climate change and restricted economic conditions.

Particularly in the developing world, there is need to seek innovative ways to merge traditional and scientific knowledge in organic production systems through increased collaboration. ORCA is in a position to establish international networks, strengthen existing scientific institutions, and empower them as centres of greater excellence in transdisciplinary organic agricultural research. These centres will draw on traditional knowledge, improve it with scientific research and share it widely.

Agricultural sciences for organic farming are always in the area of conflict between the reductionistic character of analytical sciences and the holistic character of their object. Organic agriculture is so different from conventional agriculture that it presents challenges to mainstream research. For example, there are different views about the role of biodynamic agriculture and other non-conventional approaches to agricultural production and the extent to which ORCA research should address alternative approaches. The new research agricultural paradigm should enable voices that are ignored to be heard, including farmers’ knowledge and empirical experience not yet considered by the dominant research system. ORCA will be promoting a twin-track approach whereby both mainstream science and field innovations are pursued, even when aspects are not yet considered very "scientific". Extending the research methodology to meet the different needs of the organic and biodynamic communities in particular, and the overall public quest for sustainability, will be part of the ORCA research paradigm.

The ORCA research approach is inspired by a combination of approaches, including: