Tomato brunch at the Reservoir Café

Improving the performance of business value chains can only be achieved based on the right decisions

Decision making in the agriculture value chain, from farm to fork, has been a particular challenge because of the uncertainty and complexity presented by fast changing climate, business and social environments. To meet the challenge, it is vital that decision makers are supported with the right knowledge and technologies so that decisions can be made fast and accurately.

Researching new knowledge management approaches 

A team of academics and researchers led by Professor Shaofeng Liu have been researching new knowledge management approaches to support intelligent decision making for the agricultural value chains. This work is part of a four-year European Commission Horizon 2020 research project, Risk and Uncertain Conditions for Agriculture Production Systems (RUC-APS). RUC-APS aims to enhance and implement knowledge-based Information and Communications Technology solutions to improve value chain performance and resilience in agriculture. 
Professor Shaofeng Liu and her team at La Serena celery farm

The international project team consists of a mix of academic and non-academic partners from seven countries across Europe (UK, France, Italy, Poland and Spain) and South America (Chile and Argentina). The project has provided a fantastic platform for the partners and wider food chain stakeholders to exchange experience, best practice and knowledge at international level in order to advance research and practice towards achieving sustainability in agriculture. 

Co-ordinated by Dr Jorge Hernandez from University of Liverpool, the Plymouth team is led by Shaofeng, working with Associate Professor Lynne Butel, Professor Phil Megicks, Dr Carmen Lopez and Dr Lucas Manzoni (and Huilan Chen, Guoqing Zhao and Jiang Pan as early stage researchers). 

The team have had wide access to, and learnt from, experts and organisations at all stages of the agricultural value chain, including farms, co-operatives, food processors, distributors, wholesalers, retailers and customers. A knowledge networking and mobilisation framework has been developed based on empirical research in various countries and regions, by taking into account value chain wide risks, uncertainties and resilience factors. The framework provides approaches to identifying and prioritising knowledge network types, mobilisation strategies and risk factors, as well as to establishing their impact on value chain efficiency and resilience. 

The next stage of the work will investigate relevant implications for value chain management in agricultural practice such as seed selection, cauliflower planting optimisation, pumpkin shelf-life management, fresh lettuce packaging and distribution, and tomato processing and preservation.