Main research question/goal
This research questions how the agro-food chain can transform towards sustainability using collaborations that span the agro-food chain. In this study, we work to identify key factors of the institutional organization of these collaborations based on empirical case studies. Up to now, research about the sustainable development of the agro-food chain exists has not been balanced between the three sustainability dimensions (ecological, economic and social) - a strong emphasis has been placed on the ecological dimension such as biodiversity, organic farming, valorization of waste streams and efficient conversion of scarce resources. In contrast, our research focuses on the transformation of the agro-food chain towards more sustainability by applying a systemic, holistic approach focusing on multiple the dimensions of sustainability. Research approach
To investigate the transformation towards more sustainability, we apply transdisciplinary action research. We make this operational through collecting and analysing information on sustainable development of the agro-food chain while involving scientists, chain actors and other societal actors such as civil society and policy in all phases of the research process. We also conduct case study analysis to identify the institutional organizations of the collaboration and chain relations. The criteria of selection of the case studies are: transformation towards more sustainability, chain-wide collaboration, impact and possibility of upscaling. The result is the inventory and critical evaluation of collective collaboration and chain relations to transform the agro-food chain towards sustainability. Relevance/Valorisation
The overall attention to sustainable agro-food systems has increased to become a core element at the societal and political levels. The food industry is one of the most important sectors of the Flemish industry. A joint and systemic approach of the whole agro-food chain is necessary as agriculture, food processing and distribution are thoroughly linked and interconnected. The agro-food chain is increasingly under pressure due to demographic, economic and environmental changes such as urbanization, globalization, climate change, and scarcity of resources. Moreover, trends such as price volatility, consolidation, and private standards affect the organization of the agro-food chain. As a result, the agro-food chain is urged to make a transition towards sustainability and the chain actors realize this. Therefore, this research investigate how transformation can be facilitated with a focus on collaboration and chain relations. More specifically, this research contributes to the identification of new and alternative collaboration networks within the agro-food chain that initiate sustainable development.