A three-year European Union (EU)-funded project, which explored ways to support the short food supply chain (SFSC) model has reached its conclusion.

SFSCs are food systems that include very few intermediaries and have the potential to create a shift in the way we grow, distribute and consume food, in response to the need of farmers, food producers and consumers.

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SFSCs have advantages over conventional longer food chains such as: the short distance between production and consumption; the access to locally produced food of known origin; and the support of the local economy.

The EU project, Smartchain, brought together a wide range of policymakers, practitioners and researchers interested in learning more about collaborative SFSCs and how to support their growth.

A new booklet produced as part of the Smartchain project, Insights and Recommendations to Support Collaborative Short Food Supply Chains will encourage further initiatives aimed at changing the European food-supply-chain model.

While a thorough analysis of different types of SFSCs across Europe, such as on-farm direct sales, farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture and cooperatives, and their regulatory frameworks, led to the formulation of policy and business recommendations in the agri-food sector.

Smartchain explained

Explaining the work of the Smartchain, its project manager, Dr. F. Javier Casado Hebrard from the University of Hohenheim, said: “During three years of intense work, Smartchain analysed 18 short food supply chains from nine different countries to understand the factors that play a role in their success, but also to identify their main needs, barriers and bottlenecks, with a focus on the consumer’s perspective.

“In the Smartchain booklet, farmers, food producers and other SFSCs practitioners can find applicable solutions, recommendations and useful tips to improve business performance while increasing sustainability.”

Over the three years, 43 partners from 11 countries set out to identify the factors that play an essential role for SFSC businesses – the success factors and also bottlenecks for their development and exploitation.

Social innovation

The Smartchain guide features a focus on social innovations for SFSCs and an assessment of their sustainability from an economic, environmental and social perspective.

Smartchain partners also launched an innovation platform to facilitate knowledge, innovative solutions and know-how transfer.