Research at Economic Geography

"Location, location, location!"

Economic geography is a broadly ranging sub-discipline where theoretical frameworks and empirical analyses creatively incorporate interdisciplinary elements. Research in economic geography is characterized by a spatial approach to the studied phenomena. The key terms for any research in the field are space, place and location.

Research in Economic geography at the Turku School of Economics concentrates on the following themes:

  • Changes in consumer behaviour
  • Strategic regional development
  • Globalisation, international trade, Asian economies, Global South
  • Geography of retailing, strategic retail location planning
  • Tourism business and experiential consumption
  • Business responsibility and sustainability

Research Projects

Good and bad palm oil. Food security, paradigm change and stakeholder negotiations in Indonesia and the EU (2023-2027)

Palm oil is a commodity used in the production of food ingredients, non-food consumer products, and biofuels. Most of the world’s palm oil is produced in Indonesia where oil palm cultivation provides a livelihood for over 16 million smallholders and workers. At the same time, oil palm monoculture farming leads to forest and biodiversity loss, enhances climate change and violates indigenous land and human rights. This has been strongly criticized by the European Parliament that banned palm oil imports in 2018, and as a response, Indonesia filed a lawsuit against the EU at the WTO. However, the recent attack war by Russia to Ukraine has resulted in a global food crisis and a paradigm change, where, instead of the EU-Indonesia dispute, attention has turned to global food security. The problem is multifaceted.

This multidisciplinary project takes a broader approach going beyond existing standalone case studies to examine palm oil negotiations and policies from the perspective of small producers in Indonesia, and policymakers and NGOs in the EU and Indonesia. What kinds of views do different stakeholders have on palm oil, and how are the views negotiated and narrated? How do the arguments and narratives reflect the values of the stakeholders, the "good and bad" and the ethics of palm oil cultivation and use? Who influences whom and what kinds of power relations can we discern in the multi-level palm oil negotiations and debates? How can disputes be resolved in order to ensure food security and to find a solution in line with the 2030 Agenda?

The aim of this 5-year research project is 1) to contextualize the paradigm shift in the palm oil narrative, 2) to understand its effects on the power relations and negotiations among palm oil stakeholders, and 3) to analyze the effects on primary producers in Indonesia and more broadly on global food security. We study documentary, interview, survey and social media data and combine the theories and methods of political science, development and regional studies, and political economy (rhetorical analysis, social network analysis, content analysis). We disseminate the results in academic and wider audience publications and presentations in three languages (English, Finnish, Indonesian).

Project length: 2023-2027

Research team: Erja Kettunen-Matilainen, Ayu Pratiwi, Ratih Adiputri

Funded by: Kone Foundation

View the project page here.

Market Information and Climate-Smart Practices in Indonesian Aquaculture Communities: The ICT Approach

This project is a collaboration of five universities: University of Turku (Finland), Hitotsubashi University (Japan), University of Tokyo (Japan), Brawijaya University (Indonesia), and Muhammadiyah University Gresik (Indonesia). The principal investigator in Turku is PhD Ayu Pratiwi (, who was awarded a personal grant for the first phase of the project (2020-2021) by Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation.

Background and motivation

With the globally growing demand, aquaculture has become top-performing industries generating employment for the smallholder communities in Indonesia. However, lack of access to market and technical knowledge and climate  information causes information asymmetries to smallholder farmers, impeding them not only from bargaining effectively with traders with dominant market power but also from increasing sustainable production capacity and undertaking climate-coping strategies. Although disseminating market and technical information to these farmers is of paramount importance, the current aquaculture extension service offered by the government is mainly traditional, limited to specific geographical locations, and plagued with uneven service coverage and fiscal sustainability challenges. With the adaptation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), communication and information exchange costs across different locations could be reduced. Despite its potential, research on ICT and information sharing of smallholders in developing countries is still in an early stage and rarely explored, resulting in limited information regarding the impacts and mechanism of such programs.

Research objectives

The main aim of the project is to explore the opportunities provided by ICT to overcome barriers to the market, technical, and climate information among aquaculture smallholder communities in Indonesia. Specifically, it aims to

  1. investigate methods to decrease the information asymmetry, promote sustainable production techniques, and increase climate-coping capabilities of smallholders via the use of ICT;
  2. to explore the impacts of increased use of ICT  on farmers’ adaptive and productive capacity, bargaining power over traders and, consequently, on their well-being.

Two approaches will be utilized. The first is to investigate how the user-generated content on climate, market and production information provided by Facebook group communities affects the farmers and whether it changes their farming practices. The second approach examines the impacts of providing the farmers access to a free mobile application with expert-curated content, real-time weather, and market information features.


The research will be carried out as a part of a longitudinal survey conducted in three waves in 2021, 2022, and 2023.


Heli Marjanen, Meri Malmari, Janne Engblom, & Anna-Maija Kohijoki (2020). Knowing the past, seeing the future − an exploratory study on the viability of retail patronage models based on revealed behaviour. Urban, Planning and Transport Research, 8(1), 98-124.

Heli Marjanen - Anna-Maija Kohijoki - Kaisa Saastamoinen - Janne Engblom (2019) Old Dogs Learning New Tricks? The Effect of Age and Generation on Shopping Behaviour. International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research. 29 (5): 549-567.

Anna-Maija Kohijoki, Heli Marjanen (2018) Generations go digital: the case of fashion retailing. In: Proceedings of the Colloquium on European Research in Retailing (CERR 2018) Guildford, UK, 11.−13.7.2018.


Marjanen, Heli - Malmari, Meri - Engblom, Janne - Kohijoki, Anna-Maija (2020) Knowing the past, seeing the future - an exploratory study on the viability of retail patronage models based on revealed behaviour. Urban, planning and transport research. 8 (1): 98-124.

Marjanen, Heli - Kohijoki, Anna-Maija - Saastamoinen, Kaisa (2016) Profiling the ageing wellness consumers in the retailing context. The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research. 26 (5): 477-501.

Kohijoki, Anna-Maija - Marjanen, Heli - Saastamoinen, Kaisa (2015) Generation X - The Unexplored Potential in the Wellness Market. 18th Conference of European Association for Education and Research in Commercial Distribution (EAERCD) 1-3.7.2015 Rennes, France, Conference proceedings.

Marjanen, Heli - Engblom, Janne - Malmari, Meri (2013) Viability of demographic and behavioural independents in quantile regression models in predicting retail patronage. The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 23 (5), 523–536.


Marjanen, Heli - Kohijoki, Anna-Maija - Saastamoinen, Kaisa (2016) Profiling the ageing wellness consumers in the retailing context. The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research. 26 (5): 477-501.

Heli Marjanen - Janne Engblom - Meri Malmari (2013) Viability of demographic and behavioural independent variables in quantile regression models in predicting retail patronage. The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research. 23 (5): 523-536.

Anna-Maija Kohijoki (2011) The effect of aging on consumer disadvantage in grocery retail services among the Finnish elderly. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services 18 (4): 370–377.

Doctoral Theses in Economic Geography

Ongoing Doctoral Theses

  • Alwis, Sidath: Empowering regional engagement: University adaptations for the third mission and the process of change in university ecosystem
  • Gómez, Lucía: Foreign direct investments and technological advancement in the global South: An emerging investment hub perspective
  • Kafle, Jagannath: Poverty alleviation through commercialization of native products with the help of development aid
  • Malmari, Meri: Where is the hypermarket in urban retail space? A revealed behaviour approach to retail agglomerations

Finished Doctoral Theses