Complex Adaptive Food Supply Systems
Krejci, Caroline C.
MetadataShow full item record
The long-term sustainability of food supply chains (FSCs) is critical to human and environmental health. While the modern industrial FSC is capable of the production and global distribution of enormous quantities of food, it also faces serious long-term environmental, social, and economic sustainability challenges. In particular, consolidation and centralization within the modern industrial FSC have led to efficiency gains due to economies of scale, but the associated reduction in FSC structural complexity is thought to have been detrimental to its sustainability and resilience. Existing mathematical models that have been developed to study FSC sustainability have not investigated FSC structure, partly because the most commonly-used modeling methods are incapable of capturing the nonlinear and adaptive behaviors within the FSC that lead to emergent structures. These existing models are typically static and deterministic and are focused on guiding operational on-farm decision-making. While individual on-farm decisions are important to FSC sustainability outcomes, coordination decisions among FSC actors, which affect the development of overall FSC structural characteristics, are also believed to significantly influence long-term system sustainability. Therefore, the development of a modeling methodology that can be used to study interactions and coordination among FSC actors and the resulting impacts on FSC structure and sustainability is critical. Recent research suggests that agent-based modeling (ABM) is an effective method of capturing complex behaviors in supply chains, particularly the interactions (e.g., coordination and cooperation) that occur among autonomous supply chain actors and the nonlinear emergent system behavior and structures that result. This research develops an ABM methodology that enables an analysis of the impacts of individual attributes, behaviors, decisions, interactions, and adaptations on the structural development of FSCs over time, and the implications of these developments for long-term sustainability. This new methodology involves the development of a multi-agent simulation model of a theoretical FSC that is used to test the impacts of a variety of system parameters on the extent and structure of coordination among FSC agents, and to explore the relationships among resultant FSC structures and long-term environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Results provide insight into these relationships and suggest avenues for improving long-term FSC sustainability.