Network analysis of organic seed systems: a systems-level analysis for resilience

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2020: $24,997.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G236-21-W7902
Grant Recipient: University of California, Davis
Region: Western
State: California
Graduate Student:
Principal Investigator:
Mark Lubell
University of California, Davis
Principal Investigator:
Liza Wood
University of California, Davis
Jared Zystro
Organic Seed Alliance

Information Products

State of Organic Seed, 2022 (Article/Newsletter/Blog, Website)
State of Organic Seed Interactive Data Page (Mobile/Desktop Application)


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: decision support system, focus group, networking, other
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, partnerships, public policy, social capital, social networks, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Seeds are a foundational component of sustainable agriculture, but little is known about the networked interactions that are critical for supporting a resilient seed system. This project asks:

    Q1: How do organic seed stakeholders define resilience for the system, and what are the needs and priorities of each sector?

    Q2: What are the structures of three co-occurring networks (knowledge, supply chain, germplasm) in the organic seed system?

    Q3: What can the network structure tell us about resilience of the seed system and management interventions?

    The conventional seed system in the US is ill-fitted to meet the goals of sustainable agriculture, as it disempowers stakeholders outside of the dominant firms, limits diversity, and perpetuates the use of chemical inputs. The organic seed sector, on the other hand, is a fledging system with potential to bolster sustainable production. However, seed systems are complex networks that rely on coordination of information and resources across multiple stakeholders and scales, and we have a limited systems-level understanding.

    Social network analysis assesses whole-system dynamics by identifying system-wide strengths, gaps, and central nodes for facilitating change. Our team will conduct seed stakeholder surveys with an emphasis on the western US – a region with a high concentration of seed production. Surveys will inform network analyses related to information exchange, supply chain connectivity, and movement of genetic material. Results will be work-shopped in participatory review sessions, transformed into network management tools, presented at grower-oriented meetings, and published by the Organic Seed Alliance and academic journals for agri-environmental governance.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1: Survey 500+ stakeholders in the organic seed value chain (seed producers, seed companies, and Principle Investigators of breeding projects) to define a “resilient” seed system, identify needs and priorities in their respective sector, and inform measures for social network analysis.

    Objective 2: Analyze survey results to create a mental model of how stakeholders in the organic seed value chain define “resilience” for the seed system, and develop three types of networks related to the organic seed value chain – knowledge networks, supply chain networks, and germplasm networks.

    Objective 3: Conduct participatory workshops with seed system stakeholders to review our preliminary network resilience analysis at the Organic Seed Alliance national and regional conferences (2021) to seek stakeholder input on desired management tools and future interventions.

    Objective 4: Publish and present the final report, accompanying resources and tools in coordination with the Organic Seed Alliance via the State of Organic Seed Report (2021), and OSA Annual Conference (2022).

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.