Analysis of Food Hub Commerce and Participation using Agent-Based Modeling: Integrating Financial and Social Drivers

Stone, Richard
Krejci, Caroline
Krejci, Caroline
Dorneich, Michael
Stone, Richard
Dorneich, Michael
Gilbert, Stephen
Gilbert, Stephen
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Objective: Factors influencing long-term viability of an intermediated regional food supply network (food hub) were modeled using agent-based modeling techniques informed by interview data gathered from food hub participants.

Background: Previous analyses of food hub dynamics focused primarily on financial drivers rather than social factors and have not used mathematical models.

Method: Based on qualitative and quantitative data gathered from 22 customers and 11 vendors at a midwestern food hub, an agent-based model (ABM) was created with distinct consumer personas characterizing the range of consumer priorities. A comparison study determined if the ABM behaved differently than a model based on traditional economic assumptions. Further simulation studies assessed the effect of changes in parameters, such as producer reliability and the consumer profiles, on long-term food hub sustainability.

Results: The persona-based ABM model produced different and more resilient results than the more traditional way of modeling consumers. Reduced producer reliability significantly reduced trade; in some instances, a modest reduction in reliability threatened the sustainability of the system. Finally, a modest increase in price-driven consumers at the outset of the simulation quickly resulted in those consumers becoming a majority of the overall customer base.

Conclusion: Results suggest that social factors, such as desire to support the community, can be more important than financial factors.

Application: An ABM of food hub dynamics, based on human factors data gathered from the field, can be a useful tool for policy decisions. Similar approaches can be used for modeling customer dynamics with other sustainable organizations.

<p>This is a manuscript of an article published as Krejci, Caroline C., Richard T. Stone, Michael C. Dorneich, and Stephen B. Gilbert. "Analysis of food hub commerce and participation using agent-based modeling: integrating financial and social drivers." <em>Human Factors</em> 58, no. 1 (2016): 58-79. DOI: <a href="" target="_blank">10.1177/0018720815621173</a>. Posted with permission.</p>
sustainability, dynamic systems modeling, ethnographic observations, organizational behavior, simulation