Logistics of Short Supply Chains


By Wim Merckx, from Voedselteam, Belgium

The demand for regional foods in Europe is increasing significantly for various reasons, whether related to consumer behaviour, health, rural and urban economic development, economic and environmental resilience, reduction of carbon footprint, and farm sustainability. However, this growing demand is often not being met, due to complexities regarding logistics, policy, and vertical marketing systems. This forces small-scale farmers into economic precariousness, and often out of the workforce, when they could be organizing their production to meet this demand. This project will focus on emerging alternative food distribution systems (AFDS), a concept that encompasses community supported agriculture (CSA), short distribution chains, and cooperatives.

The proposed partnership organisations include CSAs, AMAP (Association to maintain small-scale family farms), farmer and caterer’s cooperatives and organisations involved in farmer training, knowledge transfer and support services. One of its main objectives is to support adult and lifelong learning to support people in increasing their skills and innovation base.

The project will look primarily at practical solutions to logistical problems within short chain circuit supply systems and will identify the essential building blocks of regional distribution systems within the relationship from farmer to consumer. It will harness and crystallise the diverse knowledge already existing within the group through extension practice and skill-share. It will identify gaps in routes to markets for producers and suppliers, and will identify points of access for consumers and members of civil society. It will aim to share the resources and tools it creates with a wide audience in Europe.


The overall objective of the partnership is to find appropriate and economically viable ways to establish small/medium scale regional logistics, therefore linking local producers and consumers.

The concrete objectives are:

• to get a comprehensive overview of models and tools that exist for regional logistics;

• to scan the current approaches amongst the partners;

• to learn from each other’s requirements and experiences;

• to develop appropriate and economically viable models for each partner and to improve the partner’s approaches;

• to create guidelines that highlight the key stages in the process of establishing a regional or local food system;

• to disseminate the information about successful experiences through other communication channels.

The main problem we are addressing is that logistic systems are currently not designed or established for new forms of sustainable regional agriculture like CSAs, local food systems, small cooperatives or urban gardening. In order to enable logistics between small scale producers and consumers/processors/retail we have to address certain practical challenges linking demand and supply. The main ones are:

  • Intelligent route planning;
  • Choice of environmentally friendly transport means;
  • Logistics is more than just transport; it communicates to support groups and consumers the added value of the produce;
  • Maintaining proximity between consumers and producers.

Our approach is to use a participatory research method in order to identify the real challenges and needs for grassroot-organisations and small- to mid-scale producers. This is done by including CSAs, cooperatives and other regional sustainable networks as well as voluntary researchers in the process. A thorough data review will be coupled with mapping the experiences and approaches of the initiatives in order to deliver relevant training sessions. Exchanges will identify the problems and possible solutions.

Evaluation Measures

  • qualitative interviews with learners in each country;
  • qualitative questionnaires for adult learners and staff on the content provided by the Logistical Training on Alternative Food Distribution Systems;
  • standardised questionnaire for participants to experience sharing events;
  • use of the elists for collecting feedback from participants.

Output indicators

  • Online publication of the training Document
  • Online publication and diffusion of the AFDS Building Block Document;
  • Number of mobilities (at least 40);
  • Number of adult learners involved (150) – ie. farmers and consumers attending the Lecture Tours events, the experience-sharing events and participants to the Logistical trainings on AFDS;
  • Logistical Trainings on AFDS (2);
  • Experience-sharing events (3);
  • Number of articles, media outcomes and press coverage in local and national media (20).

Disseminated material (all on-line)

AFDS Training document (available in printing version -13 mo, pdf): Training in AFDS_final_print

Partners and contacts

France/Paris // Réseau international URGENCI: https://www.urgenci.net, Jocelyn Parot, contact@urgenci.net
Belgium/Leuven // Voedselteams vzw: www.voedselteams.be, Wim Merckx,wim.merckx@voedselteams.be
Germany/Freiburg // Forschungesellschaft Die Agronauten e.v.: www.agronauten.net, PhilippWeckenbrock, info@agronauten.net
Finland/Helsinki // Luomuliitto, http://www.luomuliitto.fi, Jukka Lassila, luomuliitto@luomuliitto.fi