Workshop:Current Challenges, Trends and Experiences for Enhancing Agriculture Value Chain Decisions under Uncertainty

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On August 28th, 2019, an International Workshop took place in the University of Liverpool Management School, involving participant from the H2020 RUC-APS project (www.ruc-aps.eu), which consider a unique University Of Liverpool Cross Faculty involvement such as: Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, Faculty of Science & Engineering and the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences. In addition to this, Industry partners from UK, coming from the Royal Agricultural Society of England with their Innovation for Agriculture representative and the Lucana Agriculture Agency from Italy also got involved in this event. Ms. Rachel Brockley, RUC-APS project Administrator and Dr. Jorge Hernandez, RUC-APS project Coordinator and Principal Investigator, organized this event.

In this occasion, the themes and subjects covered were as follows. In the first place, Dr. Jorge Hernandez, from the Management School and H2020 RUC-APS project coordinator, presented current overall progress for this project, within a special emphasis on the current IMPACT related work on which he is working on, plus other IMPACT cases that are being support by RUC-APS. After this, Prof. Martin Mortimer, from the Integrative Biology Institute, linked to the University of Liverpool Centre of Excellence of Sustainable Food Systemsand the RUC-APS WP9 leader, addressed the current developments and challenges to combine sustainable and intensive approaches in agriculture, specially once dealing with complex uncertainties in the environment. Following this presentation, Prof. Andy Morse, from the Geography and Planning department, presented current advances on Climate change analysis, and how the links between international research grant can support next agriculture generation issues yet to be discovered. Next, was the turn for two PhD students from the Risk Institute, Francis Baumont and Dominc Calleja, who presented their current work on Decision Support Tools for enhancing urban agritech in order to mitigate key risk and uncertainties in agriculture, which is linked to the RUC-APS WP7 led by the Risk Institute. Then, Dr. Arturo Caponero and Mr. Emanuele Scalcione, linked to the RUC-APS WP6, and who are coming from the Lucana Agriculture Agency from Italy, addressed the most key and up-to-date challenges and work done, in practice. Hence, the key aspect from their talk was about dealing with current and new pest and diseases in agriculture, which links to one of the key international IMPACT cases led by the RUC-APS consortium in making more efficient the current Integrated Pest Management processes. Finally, Ms. Deborah Crossan, coming from the Innovation for agriculture UK, presented the current British challenges on soil management and how current uncertainties in climate and regulations is generating the need for developing more impactful research in the field.

Tag cloud
Tag cloud created by the workshop paticipants

This international event considered the participation of senior academics and researchers, as well as PhD students who are, currently, seeing in RUC-APS an opportunity to extend their research work, but also their networking possibilities for future research developments.

Video records

Session 1-2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlySGGfE3vU

Session 2-2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQCKxP2yxw4

How to use strategies of design thinking to foster innovation in a RISE project

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In the context of her secondment to FEDACOVA, Dr. Cecilia Challiol conducted a teaching session on the use design thinking strategies to support innovation in a non traditional. In the teaching session, some general aspect of Design Thinking has been described and then how to be used in a not traditional way to obtain the best benefits of it. Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity” according to Tim Brown (CEO of IDEO). The Design Thinking Framework has been presented with real examples of the four phases (Discover, Define, Develop and Prototype). These examples have been oriented to innovation. Then, some examples of in-situ co-design mobile applications have been described to introduce another way to use Design Thinking. This generates a starting point to discuss and analyze the way to use this discipline when are located distributed teams.

Dr. Cecilia Challiol from UNLP (LIFIA) at FEDACOVA

Application of ICT in the food supply chain

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In te context of his secondment to UNLP, Dr. Akshit Singh from the University of Liverpool, conducted a teaching session.

Abstract: The use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) have been predominantly found in manufacturing and service industries. However, in the last decade, the scope and scale of their application in food industries has significantly risen. Some of the most commonly deployed ICT in agri-food industries are: RFID, Cloud Computing Technology, IOT, Blockchain, etc. Given the nature of complex and global food supply chains, these ICT solutions virtually brings all the components of supply chains viz. farmers, processors, wholesalers, retailers and consumers on a single platform thereby enhancing transparency, traceability and efficiency in the flow of product, information and finance across the food supply chain (from farm to fork). Traditionally, the ICT being expensive in nature was only limited to the wealthy and innovative stakeholders in food chain (retailers, processors, logistics and other components in downstream of food chain). Nevertheless, lately the upstream of food chains (farmers, producers) have overlooked their traditional practices to adopt ICT to raise their produce due to multitude of factors- decline in price of ICT implementation, advent of mobile web applications, pressure from government, consumers and other stakeholders to reduce carbon footprint, address bullwhip effect etc. Therefore, farmers realised that they can no longer work in isolation and ICT played active role in integrating them with downstream of supply chain.

The presentation used is available for download as pdf

Mathematical programming approaches for procurement in water irrigation systems

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As part of his secondment to ALSIA, Manuel Díaz from UPV conducted a teaching session on “Mathematical programming approaches for procurement in water irrigation systems”.

The development tools used to improve water management acquire special relevance, particularly when the area has a high water resource deficit. Currently, this problem is present in many countries as a result of the increase in population, the decrease in water resources and the increase in energy prices. Mathematical programming is an analytical procedure to determine the optimum allocation of scarce resources. These allocation problems can be presented in very different ways. In this sense, mathematical programming techniques are employed in a large number of problems, such as production planning, supplier selection, transport and distribution problems, forest planning or scheduling flights, among others. The goal of this teaching session was to introduce the audience in the use of mathematical programming for addressing the replenishment process in a local irrigation network with the aim to decide what volume is procured (source, quantity and timetable) as well as what volume is stored while minimizing the involved total costs. A review of different mathematical programming approaches for addressing this type of problems was presented, and finally, a case study from a real water irrigation network was used to demonstrate the benefits of mathematical programming as a decision making tool.

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Manuel Díaz Madroñero at ALSIA

Group decision making in agriculture: Mathematical programming model + Group Decision Support System approach

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As part of her secondment to ALSIA, Ana Esteso from UPV conducted a teaching session. At the session, an introduction to the group decision making in agriculture was presented. For that, an approach comprised by a multi-objective mathematical programming model and a group decision support system was employed to centrally plan the planting and harvest of crops. The main complexity of this planning problem is that prices of products are highly dependent on demand-supply balance. So, decisions made by one farmer will impact on the margin to be obtained by the rest of farmers. This could be solved by centrally planning the planting and harvest of products, but new problems could arise due to the inequalities between farmers and consequently, their unwillingness to collaborate. A multi-objective mathematical programming model to centrally plan the planting and harvest of three types of tomatoes is proposed. Three objectives related to three dimensions of sustainability are optimized by using the ε-constraint method. Ten non-dominated optimal solutions are obtained and included in the group decision support system named GRUS as possible planning alternatives. Involved actors use the group decision support system to vote, in function of their preferences, the alternatives that better fit their needs. In this way, farmers collaboratively decide the solution to be implemented in farms. The involvement of farmers in decision-making process provokes the willingness to implement chosen decisions in real life. Results obtained by applying this group decision making approach to the Argentinean tomato case study are presented. Possible future lines for the improvement of such approach are commented and discussed with the audience.

The presentation is available for download here

Quantitative Models for Supply Chain Design and Management

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In the context of his secondment to Riviera Produce, Raúl Poler (from UPV) conducted a teaching session on “Quantitative Models for Supply Chain Design and Management”. The session took place at the University of Plymouth.

A Supply Chain is a complex system of entities, people, resources and information involved in creating a product, purchasing materials and components, processing them, assembly the final product and delivering it, from various steps of suppliers to the final customer. To achieve a good performance in a Supply Chain there are lot of decisions which should be optimized, at different levels (strategic, tactical and operational) and different steps (purchase, production, delivery, transport, etc.). Quantitative Models applied to Supply Chain problems support decision-makers to achieve a good performance by selecting the optimum decisions among a myriad of alternatives. This training session aimed to provide the participants with a deep knowledge on creating mathematical modelling problems, related with Supply Chain, using an algebraic modelling language and a computer tool to solve it. The participants learner to create computable models from mathematical models, and test them using real or fictitious/realistic data. Models and data were be treated separately, creating the abstract model and storing the data in data sets, using a computer tool to obtain the model instance to send to the solver.

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Management Production and Inventories: From EOQ/EPQ to ELSP and its extension with shelf life and transitive demand items

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As part of her secondment to Riviera Produce, Pilar Vidal from UPV conducted a teaching session on “Management Production and Inventories: From EOQ/EPQ to ELSP and its extension with shelf life and transitive demand items“. At this session, the economic order quantity (EOQ) as one of the simplest and used models to control production and inventory was presented. Their extension to manufacturing systems, that is, economic production quantity (EPQ) was shown.  How to implement basic production and inventory management policies using these models was detailed. The most basic inventory-management model is defined by the employed policy –reorder point (s,Q) periodic review (T,S), model (s,S) to name just a few- and its control parameters. It can be said that any of these models answer two basic questions: ‘when’ and ‘how much’ to order/manufacture. The ‘when’ question is usually addressed by either (or simultaneously) setting a stock level at which to reorder or stablishing specific moments of time when to reorder. The ‘how much’ question tends to be answered by either considering a stock level that serves as a reference to fill, or a fixed quantity that optimizes the affected costs. After that, Economic Lot Scheduling Problem (ELSP) was presented which occurs when EPQ deals with more than one item. The solution to the ELSP involves two critical decisions. On the one hand, there is the lot sizing problem. On the other hand, there is the scheduling decision, i.e. decide when items are produced so that the schedule is feasible. Some heuristics to implement ELSP approach were described. After that the particular case of a firm which package fresh vegetables was presented, describing the special characteristics of this framework regarding the management of the production and inventories.

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Pilar Vidal in a teaching session

Production Scheduling in a vegetable packing machine with uncertainty in the quality of the raw material

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As part of his secondment to Riviera Produce, Pedro Gómez from UPV conducted a teaching session on “Production Scheduling in a vegetable packing machine with uncertainty in the quality of the raw material”. In the session, a description and several models of the packaging process of 3 product families (broccoli, cauliflower and mixed tray) were presented in a production system similar to that of 3 unrelated parallel machines. Several alternative models were considered in order to introduce the uncertainty in the quality of the raw material and to see how it affects the satisfied demand. After the presentation of the case, the resolution of a simple model was addressed by means of heuristic algorithms.

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Teaching session by Pedro Gomez, from UPV

Attendees from Riviera Produce, and University of Plymouth

Introduction to ERP systems

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As part of a secondment to ALSIA, Andrés Boza García and Llanos Cuenca Gonzalez from UPV conducted a teaching session on ERP systems.

The session covered the following topics:

  • Definition and Characteristics of ERP Systems
  • Reason to Acquire Them
  • Impact on Organisation
  • Advantages and Disadvantages of ERP Systems

The material used in this session can be downloaded in pdf form from this link .

UT1C teaches UNLP-Agro staff about GDSS

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As part of his secondment to UNLP (Argentina) Amir Sakka from UT1C (France) conducted a teaching session on Group Decision Support Systems. The session was aimed at academics, researchers, and students of the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences and Forestry of the National University of La Plata. It is part of a series of activities that are central to work packages 10 and 12. The aim of these activities is to pilot UTC1 technology (the Grus system) in agriculture scenarios.

The material used in this session can be downloaded in pdf form from this link

A video presenting an example session of the Grus system in agriculture was used for demonstration purposes. The demonstrator video is available on-line:

This teaching session will be followed by a hands on experiment to be conducted in the following days.

Amir Sakka (UTC1) teaches GDSS at UNLP Agro

Teaching on GDSS at UPV and AINIA

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In June 20th, and June 22nd, Prof. Pascale Zarate, from Université Toulouse 1 Capitole conducted two teaching sessions. These sessions were specially aimed at  researchers and academics from UPV and from AINIA respectively. The topic of these sessions was Group Decision Support Systems and how these system can improve group efficiency for decision making problems.

This activity is part of the teaching agenda of Prof. Zarate’s secondment to UPV that is currently taking place.

The presentation used during the teaching sessions is available for download here

Learning about some aspects of plant breeding: Artichoke

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On June 18th, in the context of her secondment to CNRISPA (Italy), Constanza Jana (INIA, Chile) conducted a teaching session on the various aspects of plant breeding, with particular focus on Artichoke. Plant breading requires in-depth knowledge of the target plant, and a clear definition of improvement goals. Plant breeding techniques are key in nowadays plant species domestication. In the present, only 30 of the 700 domesticated plant species are in use.

The session was targeted at students of the Liceo Scientifico “S. Simone” – Liceo Classico “D. Morea” – Conversano (BA).

The presentation used in the session can be downloaded here

Sustainable vegetables production systems for the South of Chile in Climate Change context

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On June 12th, Sigrid Vargas Schuldes from INIA Chile , held a teaching session at CNR-ISPA, aimed at CNR-ISPA researchers.

The topic of the session was climate change as an opportunity for sustainable horticultural production in the regions of  Los Ríos y Los Lagos (South of Chile). Climate changes enables productive diversification, and new business opportunities specially for small farmers. It therefore calls for new research and development models with a focus on global and local adaptation.
The session presentation can be downloaded herePDF-icon-small-231x300



Summary of 10 years of research on artichoke in the semi-arid zone of Chile

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On June 12th Constanza Jana Ayala from INIA (Chile) conducted a teaching session in the context of her secondment to CNR-ISPA (Italy). The session started with an overview of the activities of INIA, with special focus in the work conducted at the Intihuasi Research Regional Center . After a brief introduction of all participants, the session moved on to discuss artichoke production in Chile and Italy. Topics of the session included evolution of production in the region, production methods, breeding methods and main crop health challenges and approaches.

Teaching: Constanza @ CNR-ISPA

Presentations used during the session can be downloaded from the following links

Strategies to recover and work on Chilean local tomatoes

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On June 5th, 2018, during the secondment to FEDACOVA (Spain), Dr. Juan Pablo MARTINEZ form INIA-La Cruz, Chile,  conducted a RUC-APS teaching session for the dissemination activities of the H2020 RUC-APS project. He travelled to Valencia, Spain. The meeting discussed the role of the Agricultural Research Institute (INIA) in Chile. INIA generates and transfers knowledge and strategic technologies on a national scale, and also as provides with innovation methods to improves competitiveness in the agri-food sector. This session presented the methodologies that INIA applies to recover the local tomatoes with good organoleptic characteristics (colour, taste, and aroma). It also showed the variety of strategies  to study the effect of the biocontrol on productivity and quality, to investigate the effect of rootstock on productivity and fruit quality and to use new local rootstock from local tomato varieties and wild tomato species. In addition to this, FEDACOVA’s audience was able to provide feedback regarding their experience in innovation for several domains such as productivity and fruit quality at harvest and postharvest.

RUC-APS thanks Sergio Barona, and Juanjo Rico for their hospitality and insightful feedback during Juan Pablo’s secondments and for supporting this RUC-APS teaching session.

Use of conceptual models to visualize the value chain

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On May 16, Jorge Hernandez led a teaching session on the use of conceptual models to visualize the value chain, specially targeted at researchers of INIA  (Chile). This topic interesting for those who seek to develop projects at the level of the value chain and, therefore, use a standard methodology for the characterization of these. In this case, the SCOR methodology is used to conceptualize indicators and GRAI to visualize the flow of information and decisions.

Presentation is available for download here 

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