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Innovation Capacity Building by Strengthening Expertise and Research in the Design, Planning and Operations of Green Agrifood Supply Chains

Final Report Summary - GREEN-AGRICHAINS (Innovation Capacity Building by Strengthening Expertise and Research in the Design, Planning and Operations of Green Agrifood Supply Chains)

Executive Summary:
GREEN-AgriChains is a collaborative project, implemented by a consortium of 12 leading European institutions, bridging boundaries across the quadruple helix, namely, academia, industry, society, and policy-making bodies. Coordinated by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (A.U.Th.) the GREEN-AgriChains project aims towards establishing A.U.Th. as a prominent stakeholder of innovation in the areas of Green Supply Chain Management and Logistics, focused on the agrifood sector.
Since its inception, the Project has adopted a holistic and interdisciplinary methodological approach encompassing all aspects of the supply chain design and planning process that support green image, including sustainable and precision farming, reverse logistics, green supply chain management, green procurement and sourcing, waste management and packaging reuse, transportation, energy consumption efficiency, green marketing, green accounting, and corporate social responsibility.
The overall project has been met with absolute success as we have exceeded all targets that were initially set for the various key performance indicators, while working methodically and diligently towards ensuring the future sustainability of the Project. Specifically, Green-AgriChains has produced more than 110 publications in referred scientific journals, book chapters and conference proceedings and one Book published by Wiley. Furthermore, A.U.Th. research team has already submitted 13 research proposals, 4 of which has been approved for receiving funding. The team has further drafted new research proposals under the Horizons 2020 platform. In addition, a plethora of press announcements and public presentations worldwide, as well as 5 information days formulate the nexus of dissemination activities and events that we employed to communicate the merits and accomplishments of the GREEN-AgriChains Project to the societal stakeholders.
In the long-term, it is envisioned the GREEN-AgriChains Project will act catalytically as the stepping-stone for establishing the foundations for a policy-relevant knowledge base throughout South-eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, while integrating and harmonizing with EU research networks in the agrifood domain.

Project Context and Objectives:
GREEN-AgriChains aimed at strengthening the expertise in the fields of agrifood supply chain management and logistics, through a coherent set of measures that will support and mobilize the human and material resources and promote knowledge transfer and innovation. The project added value to the research potential of the A.U.Th. by establishing logistics and supply chain management in the research agenda, thus improving efficiency and achieving a systemic approach to the challenges of the sector. Additionally, A.U.Th. designed and elaborated state-of-the-art supply chain management strategies, policies and systems that will assist the agrifood business world to become acquainted with the merits of holistic end-to-end approaches towards their supply chain networks.
Through GREEN-AgriChains, A.U.Th. has emerged as a prominent stakeholder of innovation in the areas of green supply management and logistics throughout the Southeastern European region and the Mediterranean basin. At the same time, this initiative has constituted a strong node of collaboration with regional stakeholders of the agrifood sector. This allowed the restructuring of the production processes of the agrifood industry by exploiting green logistics practices and innovation, while it further reduced production and distribution costs, contributing to the regional economic and social welfare.
Specifically, the objectives of the GREEN-AgriChains project are the following. During the project, there are substantial results in each one of them. These results are presented in detail in the following section.
-Develop A.U.Th.’s research excellence in the areas of agrifood supply chain management and logistics: 17 experienced researchers (Ph.D. holders), for 11 fulltime positions, was recruited with strong research background on the relevant fields of Agrifood Supply Chain Management, Green Logistics, Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility, and Environmental Sustainability. Excellence in the Agrifood Supply Chain sector was attained through working in common research groups, the collaborative publication of scientific papers and the organizing of workshops. All this effort aimed at the exchange of knowledge among the European participants, the collaborating institutions and A.U.Th. tailored to the needs of the Greek and the Southeastern European economy. The experience of the visiting experts and the participants from elite international universities, regarding the agrifood supply chain management domain, enables the diffusion of knowledge, the development of new research capacity for A.U.Th. and the promotion of sustainable networking with accredited stakeholders.
-Reinforce and consolidate A.U.Th.’s overall research potential in agrifood logistics management: The group of A.U.Th. researchers (from the three research units co-working on Agrifood Supply Chain Management) were equipped with the appropriate tools and specialized software that will assist in launching common projects with SMEs that are actively involved in this domain. The additional involvement of a prestigious group of experts on Agrifood enhanced the growth of related companies in the wider region and will pave the way for A.U.Th. to get involved in a number of Agrifood related projects.
-Develop strategic partnerships with international, well acknowledged research entities: The active participation of invited experts and participants of twelve (12) well-established international institutions contributed in establishing valuable research communication channels. The aim was to maintain the momentum and promote sustainable collaboration among the involved institutions and research entities. In order to achieve this goal, the academic staff has actively kept on pursuit common publications to prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journals and conference proceedings. Such a fruitful collaboration developed a strong European research capacity that should ensure its longevity along with the involvement in other related research projects.
-Promote synergies with European stakeholders and policy-makers: The relative authoritative bodies displayed a serious gap of knowledge for the decision and the implementation of effective policies in the field of agrifood supply chain management. A.U.Th. played a crucial role towards remedying this deficiency. Its research team members consulted regulators and policy-makers in order to unleash and facilitate innovation this specific part of the economy. To that effect, feasibility studies, presentations and open discussions were implemented to disseminate the knowledge of A.U.Th. to state and EU authorities.
-Assist the agrifood sector SMEs in the Southeastern European and Mediterranean Region in becoming more competitive, by adopting new SCM techniques and logistics practices developed through research: GREEN-AgriChains has enabled A.U.Th. to establish itself as a specialized institution that informs and consults potential entrepreneurs facilitating the overall growth of the area. Indicatively, A.U.Th. organized open events and presentations to agrifood associations in order to provide assistance and promote the adoption of innovative, breakthrough SCM techniques and logistics practices, and/or undertake relevant research to address crucial issues. Additionally, the university with the assistance of the Thessaloniki Innovation Zone educated associations on all the relevant aspects of the entire entrepreneurial innovation ecosystem (IP, early stage and VC funding, incubation, etc.). Ideally, aimed at assisting relevant stakeholders could potentially be able to establish AgriClusters under A.U.Th.’s advisory role.
-Foster transnational cooperation in the agrifood sector between A.U.Th. and the participating organizations: The long-term aim of the A.U.Th. research team was to enhance the existing linkages by establishing robust networks of improved communication between the involved institutions, while also increase their awareness and commitment towards the development of sustainable collaboration. Participants need to focus on transparent processes, prioritize monitoring, evaluation and adjustments in order to link the initiatives of the project to long term development goals. These can be included to the agreement that was signed among the participants after the proposal acceptance.
-Enable a comprehensive approach towards the Agrifood Supply Chain by promoting Agrifood waste management issues: The GREEN-AgriChains intended to allow for considerations for the environment. To that effect, the proposed project aimed at providing a comprehensive approach towards the exploitation of the agricultural biomass supplies to cover scientific and societal development needs. As a result, the project included the designing of the appropriate agricultural waste management supply chain networks for energy production, with three general system components (basic operations): biomass production / harvesting / collection (from single or several locations), pre-treatment, storage (in one or more intermediate locations), and transport (using a single or multiple echelons). Moreover, throughout the project, emphasis was given on issues such as zero waste agricultural processes, optimization of reverse logistics networks and minimization/recycling/reuse of agrifood packaging.
-Unlock the full research potential of A.U.Th. for a better integration in the enlarged Europeanr area: Throughout the proposed project, A.U.Th. developed the appropriate knowledge capacity and equipped with the appropriate systems and tools in order to act as an incubator of Agrifood Supply Chain operations in Southeastern European and Mediterranean region. To that effect, A.U.Th. brought together key actors and stakeholders, such as industry, policy-makers, retailers, wholesalers, farmers and consumers in such a manner that the full key competitive advantage of the region within Europe’s Strategic Research Agenda concerning the Agrifood and rural domains were attained. GREEN-AgriChains enabled novel and innovative collaborative technologies in national, regional and local rural development areas that are in line with the needs, wants and expectations of European citizens and food consumers. These collaborative platforms and innovative technologies supported the increased sharing by rural citizens of modern working and living standards as well as higher consumer confidence, and sustainable food production and manufacturing.
-Increase the overall capacity of the Southeastern European and Mediterranean region in enhancing science and technology based economic development, focused on the agrifood industry: The significance of establishing A.U.Th. as a mentor regarding agrifood supply chain operations was further underlined by the declining of this sector in the Southeastern European and Mediterranean region. The related setbacks stem from the fact that small and scattered farms cannot meet the requirements of the today’s globalized and intensely competitive markets. However, the crisis facing the agricultural production sector can constitute an opportunity for diversification and sustainable development of cooperation initiatives (such as Producers Groups) and their members with the proper restructuring and reorientation that could be facilitated by A.U.Th. In order for this to happen though, these groups have to be educated and assisted in the organization of an improved business platform so that they can respond to dynamically changing conditions in international markets for agricultural products, assemble the necessary capital for investments and benefit from an improved infrastructure and technology. Furthermore, their successful operation within the Southeastern European and Mediterranean regions support the rural population in the region and their income, assist in the reduction of unemployment of the local population, provide additional income to part-time farmers, exploit the professionals of the region, stimulate the local market and strengthen the cohesion of the community. To this effect, A.U.Th. has played a critical role through its reorientation and reengineering knowledge and the systems and tools that were acquired by the provided funds in order to support rural development and preserve the viability of the rural community. Producers are more likely to succeed if they are coordinated and educated to collaborate effectively. Their success depends on following the cooperation principles, participation, faith and strength which they will embrace their effort with.
-Raise business awareness about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the field: Today, despite the global financial crisis and the fierce competitive landscape, most European enterprises continue to view CSR principally as a Public Relations tool based on traditional philanthropy, while others use it to prevent negative media publicity by imposing “ethical” codes of conduct within their value chains. As a result, companies sacrifice many of their growth dynamics in operations that do not add real value to their bottom line, thus limiting severely their growth potential. Under this context, the project’s research, towards public and corporate social responsibility agendas, focused in examining the two prevailing modes of action at the forefront of agrifood CSR practices; the rollout of standards and codes, and the value chain innovations. A.U.Th. considering the idiosyncrasies of the Southeastern European and Mediterranean agrifood companies, has further explored the role that stakeholders and policy-makers can play to shape CSR as a more effective tool in the development of agrifood chains that are equitable and inclusive, as well as competitive.
-Participation of A.U.Th.’s research staff at international conferences or short-term training events, for knowledge sharing, network building and to exposure to global trends: A standard way for knowledge transfer and networking was through the participation of A.U.Th’s research staff at international conferences and/or other events.
-Dissemination and promotional activities to ensure increased visibility of the selected research entities and their activities within the EU and beyond: The dissemination of project’s results within the EU though alternative ways and channels was a major project’s objective at least of equal importance with the research results.

Project Results:
Journal Papers

Since the beginning of the GREEN-AgriChains project 22 papers were published (8 during 2013, 9 during 2014, and 5 during 2015 so far) submitted for publication in acknowledged peer-reviewed scientific journals such as:
- Journal of Cleaner Production
- Applied Energy
- Chemical Engineering Transactions
- Environmental Technology
- Journal of Climate
- Biosystems Engineering
- Agricultural Engineering International: CIGR Journal
- International Journal of Data Analysis Techniques and Strategies
- Renewable Energy
- International Journal of Advanced Logistics
- Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management
- Journal of Consumer Behaviour
- Energy Conversion and Management
- Energy and Buildings
- Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review
Additionally, 25 more working papers are under preparation or under review. Finally, a new book titled “Supply Chain Management for Sustainable Food Networks” edited by Professors Iakovou, Bochtis, Vlachos and Aidonis is published by Wiley. This book includes contributions of several researchers, while many of them had major or minor involvement in the GREEN-AgriChain project.

Publications in Conference Proceedings

During the GREEN-AgriChains project, the research team produced 67 papers that have been presented at international conferences and published in their proceedings. The specific goal was to disseminate research findings to the scientific community and receive feedback and comments. The research team focused attention to a wider audience by giving presentations at high impact conferences. The participation at the conferences/workshops/seminars/Round Tables was active and justified by the presentation of the most recent research results, chairmanship of conference/workshop or specific sessions, etc.
Specifically, GREEN-AgriChains research team members have participated in the following acknowledged conferences:
- 2nd Olympus International Conference on Supply Chains (2nd Olympus ICSC) / Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki (A.T.E.I.-Th.) Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (A.U.Th.) Greek Association of Supply Chain Management (G.A.S.M.) (
- 1st International Congress of Biosystems Engineering and Food (FaBE 2013) / Technological and Educational Institute (T.E.I.) of Thessaly (
- CIOSTA XXXV / Commission Internationale de l’Organisation Scientifique du Travail en Agriculture (C.I.O.S.T.A.) Commission Internationale du Genie Rural (C.I.G.R.) Aarhus University (
- 18th IFPSM Summer School on Advanced Purchasing and supply Research / International Federation of Purchasing and Supply Management (I.F.P.S.M.) (
- 3rd International Exergy, Life Cycle Assessment, and Sustainability Workshop & Symposium (ELCAS3) / European cooperation in science and technology cost, UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative (
- 16th Conference on Process Integration, Modelling and Optimisation for Energy Saving and Pollution Reduction (PRES'13) / Chemical Process and Energy Resources Institute (CERTH), Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (A.U.Th.) Associazione Italiana Di Ingegneria Chimica (A.I.D.I.C.) (
- CESAPO (Contribution of Emission Sources on the Air quality of the Port-cities in Greece and Italy) International Workshop / University of Patras, Region of Western Greece, University of Salento, Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (ISAC-CNR), Apulia Regional Environmental Prevention and Protection Agency (A.R.P.A.) (
- 9th International Conference on Air Quality – Science and Application (AQ 2014) / Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-IFU) of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (K.I.T.) (
- 43rd European Marketing Academy (EMAC) Annual Conference / University of Valencia (
- 8th AMA SERVSIG International Service Research Conference / University of Macedonia (
- 4th International Conference Renewable Energy Sources & Energy Efficiency, New Challenges (CYPRUS) / Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (
- 2nd International Symposium on Operational Research / Hellenic Operational Research Society (HELORS) (
- Management of International Business and Economics Systems (MIBES) 2014 International Conference / the Department of Business Administration of the TEI of Larissa (
- 43rd European Marketing Academy (EMAC) Conference "Paradigm shifts & Interactions" / European Marketing Academy (EMAC) (
- 3rd International Symposium on Operational Research / Hellenic Operational Research Society (HELORS) and University of Thessaly (UTH) (
- International Conference on Agricultural Engineering (AgEng) / The European Network for Engineering and Systems in the Rural Sector (EurAgEng) (
- 20th Conference of the International Federation of Operational Research Societies (IFORS) / International Federation of Operational Research Societies (IFORS) (
- 56th Conference of the ORS / Operational Research Society (ORS) (
- 18th World Congress of the International Commission of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering (CIGR) / Chinese Academy of Agricultural Mechanization Sciences (CAAMS), Chinese Academy of Agricultural Engineering (CAAE) and China Agricultural University (CAU) (
- World Sustainable Energy Days (WSED 2015) / OÖ Energiesparverband (
- 1st International Conference of Agrifood SCM and Green Logistics / Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (A.U.Th.) (
- 5th International Conference on Environmental Management, Engineering, Planning and Economics (CEMEPE) / Society of Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety (SECOTOX) (
- 14th International Conference on Environmental Science and Technology (CEST2015) / Global Network on Environmental Science and Technology (Global NEST) and University of the Aegean: Dept. of Mathematics and Dept. of Environment (
- Hamburg International Conference of Logistics / Institute of Business Logistics and General Management - Technische Universität Hamburg-Harburg (

Research Proposals/Research Grants

As regards scientific proposals, A.U.Th. research team has submitted 18 research proposals so far, while we are working on other proposals to be submitted on relevant Horizon 2020 as well as other calls.

In particular, four (4) of these proposals has been approved so far for receiving funding. These projects are:
1. Project Title: “Feasibility study on the establishment of dual vocational education and training in Greece in the transport and logistics sectors”
- Funding Provider: Federal Institute of Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), Germany
- Partners: EffizienzCluster Management GmbH (one of GREEN-AgriChains participating organizations) & Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (A.U.Th.) Department of Mechanical Engineering, Laboratory of Quantitative Analysis and Supply Chain management
- Duration: 5 months (from December 1, 2013 to April 30, 2014)
2. Project Title: “Warehousing strategic planning and best practices for inventory management”
- Funding Provider: ZANAE SA
- Partners: ZANAE SA & Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (A.U.Th.) Department of Mechanical Engineering, Laboratory of Quantitative Analysis and Supply Chain management
- Duration: 8 months (from January 1, 2015 to August 31, 2015)
3. Project Title: “Yield Forecasting for the Hellenic Canning Association – phase 1”
- Funding Provider: Hellenic Canning Association
- Partners: Hellenic Canning Association & Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (A.U.Th.) Department of Mechanical Engineering, Laboratory of Quantitative Analysis and Supply Chain management
- Duration: 11 months (from February 1, 2014 to December 31, 2015)
4. Project Title: “Yield Forecasting for the Hellenic Canning Association – phase 2”
- Funding Provider: Hellenic Canning Association
- Partners: Hellenic Canning Association & Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (A.U.Th.) Department of Mechanical Engineering, Laboratory of Quantitative Analysis and Supply Chain management
- Duration: 10 months (from March 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015).

Potential Impact:
Dissemination started with the communication of information about the project and its objectives as well as the organization and chairing of meetings bringing together project partners, experts and stakeholders concerned with the research subject. In order to raise public awareness, A.U.Th. planned and organized 5 Information Days in Thessaloniki as a direct intervention to sensitize the population on issues of “greening” in the agrifood sector. Open lectures were organized during these Days, while clustering activities took place, in order to investigate opportunities for synergies between GREEN-AgriChains and other European projects and initiatives, explore opportunities on networking, collaboration and participation in national or EU funding schemes.
The five Info Days are presented as follows:
1. GREEN-AgriChains: First Info Day, March 29, 2013, A.U.Th.’s Research Dissemination Center (KE.D.E.A.) A.U.Th.’s Campus, 3rd September Street, Thessaloniki, Greece.
2. GREEN-AgriChains: Second Info Day “Green Supply Chains for the Agrifood Sector” , October 29, 2013, Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tsimiski Street 29, Thessaloniki, Greece.
3. GREEN-AgriChains: Third Info Day “Saving Energy in Green Supply Chains for the Agrifood Sector”, May 7, 2014, Center of Agricultural Structures Control in the Farm of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece.
4. GREEN-AgriChains: Fourth Info Day, November 18, 2014, The MET Hotel, 26th October Street 48, Thessaloniki, Greece.
5. GREEN-AgriChains: Fifth Info Day “Ports as Regional Growth Lever”, March 20, 2015, International Hellenic University, Thessaloniki, Greece.
At the same time, in the framework of the GREEN-AgriChains project, further dissemination activities have taken place, including 38 oral presentations in public events and exhibitions, publication of 57 articles in the popular press or websites of newspapers, magazines and chambers, as well as provision of interviews in radio and television. Indicatively, articles have been published in the following popular press:
- “Naftemporiki” Newspaper
- “Kathimerini” Newspaper
- “Makedonia” Newspaper
- “Voria” Newspaper
- “Hmerisia” Newspaper
- “AgroNews” Newspaper.
Apart from the above mentioned dissemination activities, whose aim has been to inform the broad public on the events and results of the project, totally 5 e-Newsletters have been published in both Greek and English, according to the requirements set in the Grant Agreement. The dissemination material that has been produced includes 500 USB sticks, 600 folders, 600 pens, 20 posters, 1,000 two-folds, and 1,000 copies of the project results leaflet. Following the general strategic aims of the GREEN-AgriChains project, severe effort has been taken to produce the minimum required printed information and dissemination material in order to minimize energy and paper consumption. Finally, all the material concerning academic publications, presentations to both scientific and public events, posters and flyers have been uploaded on the project web portal.
In addition, The GREEN-AgriChains’ main event, the International Conference on Agrifood Supply Chain Management and Logistics took place from 27th to 30th of May 2015, at Porto Carras, Chalkidiki, Greece. More than 186 participants from 11 countries participated in the Conference, including distinguished researchers, professors and experts in the field of agrifood supply chain management. At the same time, 12 keynote and plenary speakers were invited, while 44 papers were successfully presented.
Finally, A.U.Th. organized a Final Dissemination Event in Brussels, 18th of September 2015, where the involved researchers from the Beneficiary and the partnering organizations presented results of the partnership established during the project.
List of Websites: