Four students from N8 AgriFood universities are working with some of the UK’s biggest food companies following on from a research project identifying risks across value chains in fresh produce.

Identification and analysis of risks across the value chain is a pre-requisite for developing a resilient and sustainable supply chain, and as such N8 AgriFood allocated £35,854 local pump priming funds to a project looking to work with industry partners to evaluate such risks.

The AVCRA pilot project (UK Agri-food Value Chain Risk Analysis) has been investigating the socio-environmental and geopolitical risk profile of UK agri-food value chains using specific case studies on fresh produce currently being sourced from Europe and North Africa.

Given Brexit, and the associated political and financial risks, including currency fluctuations, Britain’s high dependency on the European Union for fresh produce may constitute a major sourcing risk. On the other hand, Commonwealth countries and Mediterranean regions (including Lower Middle Income Countries in North Africa) could be potential future trade partners but there are many socio-environmental concerns in relation to severe geopolitical tensions, climatic events, environment, soil health and food and health safety in these regions.

The project is led by Dr Sonal Choudhary from Sheffield in partnership with Dr Manish Shukla, Durham University, and Dr Graeme Heron, Newcastle University and co-designed with six industrial partners including Co-op Food, Quorn Foods, William Jackson Food Group, WRAP, Anthesis and Barefoot Lightning.

The researchers employed a systems approach to identify and analyse risks of specific perishable foods across the full supply chain from production through to consumption using data supplied by the industry partners, mapping and modelling supply chains and supplier decisions utilising the WRAP Pathfinder risk toolkit, Supply Chain Operational Risk (SCOR), HACCP principles for compliance, assurance and traceability and hazard analysis models.

As a result of the relations built with industry partners through the AVCRA project, placements have now been secured for four MSc students to continue risk analysis projects within the organisations. Barefoot Lightning will investigate lean tools for improving operational and environmental performance in the food processing industry; Coop Food is working on Eggs Value Chain Risk Analysis; William Jackson Food Group on Onions Value Chain Risk Analysis; and WRAP on Strategic planning for improving resilience in UK agri-food supply chains.