Pivoting Online: The Case of the Agri-food Sector





E-Commerce, Social media, Agri-food, SMEs, Support agencies, Ireland


The debate concerning e-Commerce adoption is an evolving one that in the context of the current COVID-19 Pandemic has come centre stage.  Although the shift towards e-Commerce platforms has been an increasing trend in recent years, Curtin (2020) states the current pandemic has accelerated consumers’ shifts toward e-Commerce by five years.

 As store closures and new enforcements became a reality, it forced many companies to pivot their online strategies overnight (Shadler et al, 2020). Since its inception in the late 90’s, e-Commerce adoption and research has championed the rise and the significant benefits of e-Commerce. Industries as diverse as financial, retail, manufacturing, and hospitality (Josanov, 2011; Kremez et al, 2019; Helper and MacDuffie, 2000; Hua, 2016) have embraced e-Commerce. By contrast, research into the use and level of adoption by Agri-food businesses indicates that this sector has not kept pace with this digital revolution. This is surprising given the importance of this sector worldwide. Indeed, it is one of the most important indigenous industries in Ireland in terms of employment, economic output, and export performance. However, there is scarce research found in the case for Irish Agri-food e-Commerce development, with limited industry reports available. Previous research elsewhere called for government support to encourage the move to online territory (Sparkes and Thomas, 2001; Sturiale and Scuderi, 2016), and the onset of COVID-19 furthered this. Numerous support agencies expanded on their current offerings in relation to digital support, although little is known around Agri-food businesses adoption of these.               

 For this reason, this paper intends to add to the limited studies surrounding this important indigenous industry in Ireland within the widely dynamic topic of e-Commerce platforms. The focus of this paper is directed toward the adoption and integration of these online platforms during COVID-19, the benefits and challenges faced, the role of support agencies and further support suggested by SMEs through survey data. This study has both an academic and industry focus and hence aims to improve our understanding of online activity and digital support within this sector. 



2022-05-11 — Updated on 2022-05-13