Modeling Food Supply Chain Sustainability Using Multi-Agent Simulation

By Caroline C. Krejci and Benita M. Beamon.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context

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The long-term economic, environmental, and social sustainability of a food supply chain (FSC) depends upon the relationships and interactions among its various actors. Multi-agent simulation is a modeling tool that allows goal-directed, autonomous behaviors of heterogeneous actors to be captured at the level of the individual. These small-scale behaviors and interactions result in observable emergent organizational-level outputs, providing a better understanding of the effects of different FSC structures on long-term sustainability. In this paper, a new multi-agent simulation model of an FSC is described, in which two different regional FSC actor types are constructed: farmers and a regional food hub. Each actor is assigned attributes to represent its operational strategy and scale. These attributes contribute directly to the FSC’s overall performance over time, which is measured in terms of the percentage of the simulated region’s demand for food that can be filled by regional sources, which is used as a proxy for economic and social sustainability. Results are analyzed for statistical significance, and implications for FSC sustainability are discussed.

Keywords: Multi-agent Simulation, Food Supply Chains, Sustainable Agriculture, Regional Food Hubs

The International Journal of Social Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp.143-157. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 562.256KB).

Caroline C. Krejci

Graduate Student, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

Caroline Krejci is a doctoral student in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Washington. She holds an M.S. in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University and a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Bradley University, and she has worked as an operations engineer for UPS and Lutron Electronics. Her research focus is on sustainable food supply chain management.

Dr. Benita M. Beamon

Associate Professor, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

Dr. Benita Beamon is an Associate Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Washington. She holds a Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Georgia Tech, with an emphasis in production, distribution, and material handling and a minor in Environmental Policy. She received an M.S. in Operations Research from Cornell University and a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences from Northwestern University. Her primary research applications lie in the areas of sustainable supply chain management and humanitarian relief. She has worked as a project engineer for Rosemount, Inc., the RAND Corporation, and Merck, and has led research projects for LensCrafters, Hudson Specialty Foods, Medtronics, Flow International Corporation, the United Way, and the National Science Foundation. She currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management.