Modeling the Food Supply Chain During the Pandemic

April 16, 2021
Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress

Speaker: Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress

On April 15th CNS’s Scientist-in-Residence Dr. Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress gave a presentation on modelling the food supply chain during the current pandemic but also to plan for the next one which may be right around the corner. He first reminded everyone with recent examples of the importance of supply chain of items we all rely on. He gave examples of the snowstorm and power outage in texas, the severe shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and lack of high effectiveness masks such as N95’s. Most pertinent to the current presentation was the picture of countless of Americans standing in lines at food banks that is forever imprinted on our minds, while farmers were forced to dump milk the very item that people were standing in line for. He then described his current research collaborating with scientists from the Western Institute for Food Safety & Security modelling the dairy supply chain as a Digital Twin. A Digital Twin is a virtual representation that serves as the real-time digital counterpart of a physical object or process and originated from NASA to improve simulation of space flight. A Digital Twin model allows stress-testing the supply chain because of operational and disruption risks in order to calculate the effect of disruptions and plan for mitigation measures. Dr. Dalnoki-Veress developed a hypothetical 210 node farm- to-table model to test the Digital Twin idea. He modeled conditions that have occurred and could occur during the pandemic, such as rapid fluctuations in demand for dairy products. He also modeled mitigation measures such as perhaps governments purchasing reefer trucks which can be stationed near food distribution points, or large measures to cut large blocks of cheese that normally go to restaurants into smaller blocks for consumers. The goal is to build resilient networks that can serve underserved communities specially during challenging times as we are in now. This type of modeling is relevant to just-in-time commodities such as dairy products, but also produce, fisheries and other critical industries such as semiconductors that is a highly linked global ecosystem.

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