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Data-driven sustainable agri-food value chains

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Ploutos (Data-driven sustainable agri-food value chains)

Reporting period: 2020-10-01 to 2022-03-31

Farmers, farm families, food processors, retailers and all those other agri-food actors, who ensure that fruit is picked, milk is processed, and bread is delivered to our plates every day, experience a number of pressures, including a) productivity pressures, b) environmental and social pressures, c) imbalances of power in the supply chain and d) potential disruption by data driven innovation.

The main objective of Ploutos project is to help rebalance the agri-food value chain and enhance its sustainability (economic, environmental and social) by establishing a Sustainable Innovation Framework whose foundation is an innovative combination of behaviour change, collaborative business model innovation and data driven technological services. Using a lean multi-stakeholder approach, Ploutos will be focusing on leveraging the capacities of supporting services to help build mutuality (i.e. shared benefits) for all stakeholders involved in the agri-food ecosystem. With the creation of the Ploutos Innovation Academy (PIA), the innovations and best practices developed within the project and identified from the wider literature and relevant projects will be validated across all 11 Sustainable Innovation Pilots (SIPs) within the project and made available to the whole agri-food ecosystem.

Ploutos aims at achieving its main objective by accomplishing the following specific objectives:
O1. Establish an ecosystem of innovative agri-food chains across Europe and assess them and their unique mix of innovations against their ability to achieve sustainability and cooperation across the value chain.
O2. Create a Sustainable Innovation Framework that is building on behaviour innovation, sustainable collaborative business models and data-driven technology innovation, to enable the redesign of agri-food value chains and improve their performance in terms of sustainability and cooperation among the value chain actors.
O3. Provide targeted supporting services to the engaged agri-food value chains, delivered through the PIA, to help them co-design and apply the proposed innovations.
O4. Validate the designed innovations through the selected agri-food value chains, where they will be piloted, demonstrated and tested in real conditions by the actors involved.
O5. Deliver a roadmap for more competitive, efficient, resilient, sustainable and better performing agri-food value chains and promote it across Europe to maximise impact.
During the 1st reporting period, the main focus of Ploutos was on developing the Sustainable Innovation Framework (SIF) and the key approaches and principles of its three core pillars (behaviour innovation, sustainable collaborative business model innovation and data driven technological innovation), launching the 11 Sustainable Innovation Pilots (SIPs) and supporting them in co-creating, applying and validating the different sustainable innovations. The initial version of the SIF was successfully developed, including the following components: i) the identification of boundary conditions i.e. determining the scope, ii) the description of the Ploutos innovation streams (aligned with the 3 innovation pillars), iii) the development of a measurement framework and iv) the creation of guidelines for the SIPs.

Behavior innovation: The behavioural variables of the SIF - values, drivers, and barriers concerning sustainable innovations in the agri-food value chain- are elaborated in collaboration with actors/stakeholders from the ecosystem in a series of workshops. On the basis of this input, a set of guidelines for behavioural innovation was created to support the SIPs to sustainably implement the Sustainability Oriented Innovations (SOI).

Sustainable business model innovation: The focus was constructing an approach for collaborative sustainable business model innovation (SCBMI), which supports partners in analyzing their context and designing and evaluating new business models. A number of collaborative business model archetypes have become available to the SIPs to be used for inspiration. A set of guidelines and training material have been prepared and a number of workshops have taken place to support the SIPs in applying the SCBMI approach. Finally, an approach for the valorization of data and digital services has been developed.

Data-driven technology innovation: The focus was on the specification of technical requirements for the data sharing mechanisms, the analysis of Ploutos SIPs, the specification of the data sharing mechanisms and the actual implementation and testing of these mechanisms. A common data model, namely the Ploutos Common Semantic Model (PCSM), was created to facilitate data interoperability. The data interoperability mechanisms using the PCSM have been implemented, leading to the release of the Ploutos Interoperability Enabler (PIE), a lightweight software module that acts as data translator able to convert data entities of a custom model to the PCSM.

The 11 SIPs have been launched and the pilot activities are focused in the co-creation, implementation and testing of different SOIs. The SIPs are support in their innovation process through the PIA, where experts representing the 3 core pillars of the SIF are offering guidance to the SIPs’ actors through a number of co-creation workshops and webinars as well as through an online mechanism.
The European agri-food sector, whose complex value chain encompasses a huge diversity and variety at each stage, faces interconnected challenges. It needs to simultaneously: (i) produce safe and adequate food for a growing population with changing dietary habits; (ii) reduce input use and environmental footprint while facing changing climate conditions; and (iii) sustain incomes for farmers and rural communities who are up against increasing power imbalances in the value chain. Ploutos addresses these challenges with a three-dimensional approach. The project leverages scientific knowledge on behaviour innovation, innovative collaborative business models and data driven technology innovation, to deliver a SIF that will contribute towards rebalancing value chains for the good of competitive agri-food production, value chain-wide sustainability (social, economic and environmental) and equally distributed income. Ploutos is expected to:
1. Gain a thorough understanding of perceptions, incentives and barriers of stakeholders to redefining roles and cooperation in the value chain, especially regarding sustainability.
2. Design the Ploutos SCBMI approach and provide opportunities for new co-created business models to be applied in the agri-food sector, bringing in new revenue streams.
3. Design a SIF that enables the assessment of the sustainability performance of the agri-food value chains.
4. Provide targeted supporting services delivered through the PIA, to increase farming production competitiveness, especially focusing on small farms.
5. Deploy innovative technologies, which will ensure in an interoperable manner the flow of data and information with the specific intention to strengthen the position of farmers in the value chain.
6. Deliver a set of guidelines to support the replication of the different sustainable innovations.
7. Formulate a number of policy recommendations to support the transition of agri-food system towards a Sustainable model.
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