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M2 Montpellier

Agricultural innovation and development options, offered at Montpellier SupAgro (France)

The ACT specialization “Agricultural innovation and development options” focuses at training graduates able to grasp agricultural dynamics and the diversity of rural development issues in a context of climate change, and formulate practical solutions to these issues, particularly in the complex and changing context of developing country agricultural systems. The general aim is to prepare students to develop and implement technical innovations to increase resilience and to reduce GHG emissions on farms. But change in agriculture is not only a technical issue but also an ecological and a socio-economical issue. Then students must be able to identify the diversity of farming systems, to work at different scales (plot, farm, region) and to take the national and international environment into account.

The course provides the knowledge, methods and tools needed to analyse and assess agriculture on the regional scale, and identify and lead interventions that support or guide agriculture towards economic, ecologic and socially sustainable development.

Being professionally oriented the course alternates theory and practice: a series of courses in alternation with hands-on professional practice, in particular through (collective and small group) internships that place students into direct contact with the scientific and practical issues of agricultural change and climate smart innovations.

Beware: the course is given in French, while the presentations by the students, the participation in the groupworks and the exams can be done in English. The B2 level in French is hence required for entering the specialisation. Candidates who do not reach this level during the M1 will be asked to follow the whole summer campus Agri-culture organised at Montpellier in July and August in between the M1 and the M2.

 The curriculum at M2 Montpellier

  • Agrarian Systems and Agricultural Development (9 ECTS)

Training objectives

  • to show how agriculture can contribute to the sustainability of economic development;
  • to underline the great diversity of agriculture in the world and to present its origin;
  • to analyse the global challenges that agriculture will have to face (climate change, food security,  poverty reduction…);
  • to emphasize the complexity of change in agriculture.


Multidisciplinary analysis (Agrarian history; Rural geography; Development Economics; International economics) of the evolution of agriculture in the world.

Case studies of agricultural revolutions in Europe, North America, Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Pedagogical methods

Field practical

During 2 weeks the students have to diagnose the diversity and dynamics of agricultural systems on the scale of a small region and to discuss their results with farmers.


Personal readings

  • Agro-ecosystems and natural resource management (6 ECTS)

Training objectives

  • To acquire extensive knowledges of tropical and Mediterranean regions biophysical environment;
  • To analyse interactions between the conditions in the environment and farming systems.


Climatology, soil sciences, ecology;

Natural resources social management in peasant communities;

Methods to assess impacts of agrosystems on soils, forests, water, climate at the region scale.

Pedagogical methods


Group work

Using Geographical Information Systems.

Field works

In situ landscape analysis and environmental impact assessment.

  • Designing and supporting changes on farms (6 ECTS)

Training objectives

The aim is to design and support technical and/or organisational changes on farms to improve  resilience and to reduce the use of industrial inputs: in particular changes that foster synergy between cropping and animal rearing activities or between annual and perennial crops (agroforestry).


Agricultural and animal sciences; farming systems management.

Particular attention is paid to the methods, tools and know-how for interactions with farmers. The following are covered successively: (i) analysing the technical functions of a farm, modelling the farm, and assessing it; (ii) producing an ex ante simulation of changes to measure their impacts in a systemic manner; and (iii) designing and implementing (individual and collective) advice for farms.

Pedagogical methods

Field studies

Interviews with farmers

Farming systems analysis and assessment


Case studies of technical changes in developping countries

  • Climate smart agriculture (9 ECTS)

Training objectives

  • To acquire an extensive knowledge of the most common innovations currently considered within the broad category of “climate smart agriculture”.
  • To master the main GHG emissions calculators.


Critical review of climate smart models: conservation agriculture, agroforestry, low input cropping systems, integrated farming systems…

Comparison of available GHG calculators (Ex-ACT, FarmGAS, Carbon Farming Group Calculator…).

Pedagogical methods

Lectures and group works

Case studies of climate smart model implementation and analysis of their success and limitations.

Field work

Practical (2 weeks) to perform economic and environmental assessment of one currently developed climate smart agriculture in one specific place.

Note that the specialisation in Montpellier is given mostly in french and requires the B2 level in this language to be attended.

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