Special Issue Editors
Professor Margarida Cortez Vieira High Institute of Engineering of University of Algarve, Estrada da Penha 139, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal
Professor Paulo José do Amaral Sobral University of São Paulo - Faculty of Animal Science and Food Engineering, Av. Duque de Caxias Norte, 225, Campus Fernando Costa – USP, CEP 13635-900 Pirassununga, São Paulo, Brazil
Over the last years, the European agri-food system has become increasingly complex bringing several issues to light regarding transparency, environmental policy, worker’s rights, and food ethics. Today, most of EU’s population buys food from large supermarket chains. However, a range of alternatives have been developed to improve competitiveness including various models of short food supply chains (SFSCs) where farmers sell their produce directly to consumers or with a minimum number of intermediaries, both in rural and urban areas. These family-oriented companies of small and medium sized (SME) producers are under threat from the aggressive sales tactics of large-scale agri-food enterprises and intensive competition from international markets. There is undoubtedly a need for innovative re-organization of the current food supply chains. For this reason, SFSCs are of considerable interest, responding to several needs and opportunities, both of farmers and consumers. They function as a driver of change and a model to increase transparency, trust, equity, and growth throughout the agri-food chain.
The central objective of the SMARTCHAIN project was to foster and accelerate the shift towards collaborative SFSCs and, through specific actions and recommendations, to introduce new robust business models and innovative practical solutions that enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of the European agri-food system. SMARTCHAIN was a three-year project with 43 partners from nine European and two associated countries. The consortium included key stakeholders from the domain of SFSCs, in particular, 18 case studies of widespread SFSCs in Europe with remarkable social, economic, and ecological impacts on rural, peri-urban, and urban communities. To strengthen co-creation and collaboration between partners and stakeholders, nine SMARTCHAIN Innovation & Collaboration Hubs have been established in France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, and Switzerland. The SMARTCHAIN Special Issue is a collection of ten scientific publications, showcasing the most relevant outcomes of the project and its work packages.