University of Bayreuth, Press Release No 102/2023 - 14 July 2023
Private Drivers push Regional Food Marketers
Buying regional products is the order of the day for many people, as short food supply chains can lead to less CO2 emissions and strengthen sustainability. After all, local marketers create employment and are particularly valuable to their communities. But this poses special challenges for small producers: While the large food suppliers and retail chains have sophisticated logistics systems, small farmers and family farms in particular find it difficult to get their regionally and often organically produced food to their customers in the immediate vicinity.
Think global, buy local
"One way to increase farmers' market reach without extensive investment is to use crowd logistics," says Florian Cramer, research assistant at the Chair of Food Supply Chain Management of Prof. Dr. Christian Fikar in Kulmbach. Crowd logistics is the shifting of transport activities from classic logistics service providers to private individuals who have free capacities, organised via an app in which drivers and providers network. Drivers are, for example, commuters who drive from A to B anyway and pick up and deliver groceries on the way (possibly with a short diversions).
Cramer and Fikar investigated how such short supply chain platforms can be introduced between August 2021 and June 2022. To this end, a simulation study was carried out to replicate customer behaviour and distribution processes in retail outlets. And different scenarios were examined to evaluate the potential of crowd logistics in rural and urban areas using the example of different regions - Upper Franconia and Munich - in Bavaria. The researchers identified a total of 83 markets and farm shops in rural areas and 131 in urban areas. They examined how market reach would increase if a certain proportion of the total population in the study area participated (from 0-100%). In addition, we worked out how an increasing preference for online purchases and the placement of 24/7h pick-up stations at market locations would impact.
The willingness to be a driver as a consumer, i.e. to take parcels for other people, can help regional producers immensely. "It is difficult to find such drivers, but our study shows that a willingness to participate has great potential to support regional producers in general. Such initiatives do not always have to be driven by the business community - consumers can also proactively contribute to increasing the reach of regional agriculture and food production," says Cramer. He has also noted differences between urban and rural areas: An urban scenario requires less investment in the driver base, as rural areas simply require more drivers due to longer distances and less population. But the rural scenario has a higher potential to increase the market reach due to the lower retail density.
Ideal for increasing the reach
Cramer explains: "Our research shows that platform services like Crowd Logstik can be used to good effect to support local agriculture and regional food producers and to facilitate the distribution of perishable food." As a result, crowd logistics is ideal for increasing the reach of small and medium-sized food producers, with only minor trade-offs - for example, when it comes to food that needs to be refrigerated.
The researchers hope that these results will encourage regional marketers to make use of alternative logistics concepts. They also send a signal to policymakers: "If there were incentives on the part of decision-makers to use such crowd logistics systems, a big step would be made towards more sustainable food systems."