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Tackling food waste challenge using supply chain control towers

The significant amount of waste in the food supply chain is a multifaceted problem with several economic, social, and environmental manifestations. Yet, there has never been a systematic solution that transcends the individual supply chain and targets the larger scale supply networks. However, extraordinary measures can be coordinated via the concept of “supply chain control towers” which is the focus of this project. We develop mechanisms and implementation road maps for matching up the supply of excessive food items and redirecting the flow of products in accordance with shifts in demand. Using analytics and data sciences, the project enables the creation of novel connections in agri-food supply networks to reduce wastage of food and implement this with the help of industry partners and policymakers. 

Research aims

The current food production and consumption habits, underpinned by neoliberal capitalistic rationalities, has resulted in a number of negative environmental impacts such as eutrophication and increased CO2 emissions (Baroni et al., 2006), as well as massive amounts of food waste. According to WRAP, the UK generates 8.3 million metric tonnes of food and drink household waste each year, valued at least $18.6 billion and responsible for about 3% of domestic greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is a lack of appropriate supply chain control mechanism to monitor and reduce food waste across the supply chain. To establish synergistic collaborations where waste and by-products can be exchanged, sold or transferred, it is crucial to determine how stakeholders can work together and develop potential applications for unwanted materials (Cimren et al., 2011). This is the key research gap this project aims to address. The specific objective of this study is to develop a supply chain control tower taking into accounts elements of technology (for their creation and implementation), economics (for mechanism design purposes), and incorporate consumers behaviour to tackle food waste.

This is a unique research initiative that intends to solve a major societal challenge-food waste using the advanced operations research principle “supply chain tower”. Manoj is co-investigator in this project will help with the context of food waste and I will do the mathematical model and design the tower. There are no studies found in the literature using this innovative approach to solve the food waste problem.

Expected research impact

  • Economic: The most significant impact will be made to enhancing the understanding of the ‘true’ costs of food waste, its opportunity and addressing the entire supply chain. The main output of this project, i.e., the development of supply chain control towers (SCCT), will be designed with input from a food supply chain member.
  • Social: With the application of SCCTs, the local food supply chains will be more efficient and make better use of available resources. This not only reduce the amount of useable food going to waste, but also will help stabilize food prices, benefiting low-income families the most.
  • Environmental: The research will enable stakeholders in the supply chain to use, reuse, and recycle food waste in the supply chain and diminish the detrimental impacts of food wastage.
  • Policy: The identified incentives for chain members (farmers, processors, retailers) to move beyond current market dynamics towards implementing SCCT’ principles will assist the design of new policies.
  • Academic: A special issue of a journal on "food waste and supply chain control tower" will help scholars define future research agendas for this topic. An impact case study will be prepared and submitted to a 4* journal (EJOR).


Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Manoj Dora - Dr Manoj Dora is currently the Director of Collaborative Projects and Outreach at Brunel Business School. He is also heading the Operations & Information Systems Management Group. Manoj has several years of experience in teaching, research and consultancy worldwide. He is the founder of “Circular Food Forum” which brings together academic, industries and policy makers to facilitate dialogue and take forward research agenda. Manoj's areas of specializations are Sustainable Value Chain and Quality Management with a focus on Lean Six Sigma in the agro-food sector. His research is an innovative application of cross-cutting operations management theories such as Lean and Six Sigma in the agriculture and food sector which will redesign agricultural production as it is today to improve efficiency and eliminate waste and losses. He has been involved in many capacity building initiatives focusing on the circular economy, humanitarian operations, industry 4.0 and food supply chain in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia. At the same time, he has also worked with over 50 SMEs to implement lean principles as part of their operations. Manoj has been successful in acquiring research grants from the World Bank, European Commission (FP7), British Academy, UKIERI, British Council, Newton Fund and several private companies. He is also appointed as a subject expert at the European Commission, ESRC, VINOVA in the field of food research and circular economy. Manoj is two times recipient of "Best Supervisor of the year" award organised by the Union of Brunel students. PhD candidates who are interested in applied research and believe in contributing to society with their research in these areas: #CircularEconomy #SustainableFood #ValueChain #Industry4.0 (#Blockchain, #IoT, #AI) #LeanManagement #HumanitarianOperations #ModernSlavery. Please get in touch. He holds a PhD from Ghent University in Belgium. He has received a MA in Economics from Vanderbilt University in the USA supported by International Ford Foundation. He has several publications in the high impact journals and disseminated his research in reputed forum such as TEDx and Cambridge Festival of Ideas at the University of Cambridge.

Related Research Group(s)

Entrepreneurship and Sustainability

Entrepreneurship and Sustainability - Our focus is on how individuals, businesses and societies can tap into creative and entrepreneurial flair to develop innovative solutions, in order to not only create economic value, but also solve social and environmental problems.

Project last modified 25/06/2021