New project looks to pandemic-proof dairy industry

By Jim Cornall contact

- Last updated on GMT

The digital tools will allow economic agents in the dairy system to react to changing conditions.
The digital tools will allow economic agents in the dairy system to react to changing conditions.

Related tags: Dairy, coronavirus, COVID-19

UK dairy farmers could benefit from a new project that aims to make the industry more resilient to threats such as covid-19.

The project, Smart-ET, is funded by EIT Food and will develop digital tools working with farmers and dairy sellers to help them adapt their business models to rapid changes in consumer’s demand in case of extreme events that disrupt their normal ways of working.

Smart-ET stands for Simultaneous Market Adjustments during pandemics: Running Technological Economic Tools to mitigate disruption along food supply chain.

The digital tools will allow economic agents in the dairy system to react to changing conditions and issue stock ‘alerts’ that will help reduce waste, and the economic damage caused by destroying otherwise good dairy products.

Dr Giuseppe Nocella, from the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University of Reading said, “In February and March of 2020, Northern Italy saw significant outbreaks of covid-19 leading to widespread restrictions to keep people safe. One of the economic impacts of this lockdown was that dairy farmers who normally rely on rapid movement in the supply chain found that they lost income and had to throw away vast quantities particularly of milk.

“This was costly for dairy businesses because the hotel, restaurant and catering sector was shut down and they had to identify alternative channels in hyper local markets to sell their products. In response, a team set out to see how the industry could adapt to rapid changes and cope with future extreme events.

“What we quickly found was that there was no reactive model that can help farmers and food producers communicate with each other to adapt to changing demands. It could have been possible for dairy farmers to stockpile their produce and use it for cheese rather than dump their milk when as it began to go off, but without a centrally available system the farmers had no way of knowing that producers would have used it.”

As well as the University of Reading, the project consists of other European partners: Università Cattolica (coordinator), Agricolus, Associazione Italiana Allevatori, Centro Ricerche Produzioni Animali and System Dynamics Italian Chapter.

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