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By C. Laroque, J. Himmelspach, R. Pasupathy, O. Rose, A. M. Uhrmacher, Caroline C. Krejci and Benita M. Beamon


In light of the pressures of increasing demands on earth’s resources, society faces serious challenges in food production and distribution. Food supply chain (FSC) models are critically important, providing decision-makers with tools that allow for the evaluation and design of FSCs, en route to ensuring sustainable FSC productivity. Multi-agent simulation (MAS) is well-suited to modeling FSCs for this purpose, enabling capture of decision-making, interactions, and adaptations of autonomous FSC actors. However, certain characteristics of FSCs are particularly difficult to model in detail, as data requirements can be intensive. In this paper we highlight some of the challenges modelers face in deciding the most appropriate methods for representing the elements of an FSC in an MAS model. We provide examples from the literature that show how other modelers have chosen to address these challenges. Finally, we discuss benefits and limitations of each example’s approach, in terms of realism and data requirements. 1 MODELING FOOD SUPPLY CHAINS WITH MULTI-AGENT SIMULATION Food supply chains (FSCs) range widely in size and complexity, from subsistence farmers growing their own food to city-dwellers purchasing groceries from a supermarket. Because of food’s vital importance to survival, and the multitude of pressures exerted on these systems, methods for producing food more efficiently are an important area of study. One such method to improve food production efficiency is mathematical modeling. FSC models are now potentially more useful than ever before, as human beings face serious challenges with food production and distribution. Worldwide demand for food is growing, but issues such as energy and water resource limitations, agricultural pollutants, and climate change constrain our ability to increase food production. FSC models can help us face these challenges by improving our ability to make decisions that support long-term human and environmental well-being. However, to be useful, FSC models must balance tractability with the ability to realistically capture the essential element

Year: 2014
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