illustration Patricia Le Crenn: analysing  current trends in the world of agriculture

Agroecology 4 min

Patricia Le Crenn: analysing current trends in the world of agriculture

Stimulated by change and with considerable intellectual curiosity, Patricia Le Crenn is an engineer who has specialised in socioeconomic studies and analyses at INRA since 2009. Always ready to adopt a new approach in order to learn, she works upstream in INRA’s innovation chain in order to detect weak signs of evolutions in the farming sector.

Published on 29 July 2019

Patricia Le Crenn places the wealth of her expertise in the plant world at the service of INRA. Indeed, the watch reports and analyses she produces offer levers to guide the Institute in its research and innovation. “We are a team of four and we each cover a specific sector: plants, animals, food and the environment”. Based in Quimper, Patricia appreciates having this essential experience: “analysing all the data requires a great deal of thought. Because we are not at the centre of things, we can work in a network with different INRA groups while maintaining a certain distance that improves our ability to reflect!”

A thirst for knowledge

For five years, Patricia has been studying changes in the gardening profession.

A horticultural engineer by training – specialised in economics and management – Patricia started her professional career teaching economics for higher technician certificate (BTS) and degree courses. After a few years, she resumed her studies to complete a Master’s degree in international economics and business diagnosis in Grenoble. “During my first year of training, I alternated between lectures with students, my family life with three children, training and internships in different companies.  You could say it was a busy life!” During the second year of these studies, she requested leave for training, at the end of which she had to decide between becoming a consulting business analyst or remaining a civil servant with the Ministry of Agriculture. She finally chose the second option and pursued her career in teaching.

A few years later, in response to the experiences of her students during their internships and under the combined effects of the introduction of ecological engineering in urban settings and a changing legal and regulatory context in terms of pesticide use, Patricia’s intellectual curiosity drove her to make a further “sidestep”. She thus initiated work on her PhD thesis, aiming to question how agents in local government, and notably gardeners, accept new types of urban gardening. Indeed, more than ever in Brittany, the history of water and a desire to recover its quality were aligned with thinking on gardening practices in urban areas. For five years, Patricia thus studied changes to the profession of gardener. “I focused on sociological aspects in order to understand what gardeners experience and find out how their representations of their professional practices were articulated with the more natural spaces they could offer”. Finally, during the last year of her PhD project, Patricia joined INRA in 2010 and works in what is now known as the Directorate of Partnership, Transfer and Innovation (DPTI).

Expertise at the service of plants

This profession has enabled me to link my skills in economics to plants.

For the past ten years, Patricia Le Crenn has been strategic intelligence analyst for the plant sector, her broad remit covering green biotechnologies, plant protection and digital agriculture. She designs and develops sectoral, prospective and strategic watch systems on private sector actors at an international level and on the Institute’s key partners in her area of expertise. Her economic intelligence services, which are provided for different areas of innovation (Biocontrôle and PlantInnov – the characterisation and breeding of plants – within INRA) and the Plant2Pro Carnot Institute, result in the management and conduct of industrial studies (mapping of actors, analysis of patent portfolios, etc.) and ultimately enable the search for new partners for INRA.

In 2018, a study was performed on a breakthrough innovation: the high-throughput phenotyping of plants. In 2019, two other studies will be completed; one on the industrial sector of insect pheromones and the other on the theme of plant factories for nutraceutical and biocontrol purposes. The latter is being performed in collaboration with a Master’s degree trainee working on the economics of innovation and strategic watch from Via Inno (CNRS-Université de Bordeaux Joint Research Unit), with which a partnership has been ongoing for two years. “These activities have enabled me to link my skills in economics to plants, while remaining within a regulatory and public policy framework. I have become involved in new tools for watch and data mapping (text mining) in order to identify emerging technologies or new actors to respond to demands from the Institute, inform partnership research or provide support for public policies.”

Detecting weak signals

She is enthused by being involved in the construction and implementation of projects. “The topics can vary considerably. It is fascinating to see how different sectors are changing! New actors are revolutionising our universe, such as start-ups that force cooperatives to adapt their business models. I benefit from considerable independence while at the same time having my annual goals. This diversity of topics offers me an opportunity to collaborate with a broad range of INRA experts”, explains Patricia Le Crenn. “Innovation and data mining with respect to different subjects satisfy my curiosity. It is analytical work that allows me to question my skills and acquire new expertise,” and to avoid remaining too static. Patricia smiles while explaining: “I am a sports fan; it is part of my DNA. I love swimming or running in the countryside; they are a good way to replenish my neurons!”