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The use of networks as a strategic approach of micro-enterprises in the agri-food sector

Authors: Brinkmann, Philipp; Håkansson, Andreas; Būtienė, Indrė; Kjærsgard, Hanne; Mortensen, Birthe Kofoed; Martens, Janet; Müller-Hansen, Bitte; Petrenko, Anton

Abstract:

Increasing competition and regulatory changes place micro-sized enterprises (MSEs) in the agri-food sector under strong competitive pressure. Smallness may be a substantial barrier to success. Previous research suggests that networks can be used strategically to combat these constraints. However, there is a lack of understanding of the extent to which this finding may be applicable to MSEs and the local agri-food sector. Based on eight in-depth interviews of agri-food MSEs, it is concluded that MSEs apply networks to strengthen their competitive advantage – for example, by forming stronger customer relationships. The MSEs are using their networks to combat their size-related disadvantages, but not by growing; rather, the networks enable them to remain small and independent while further strengthening their position as small producers.