A Highly Extensible Resource for Modeling Agricultural and Food Supply Chains
Project Lead: Bruce Y. Lee, MD, MBA
Our HERMES Logistics Modeling Team, consisting of investigators from the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at Johns Hopkins and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), designed the first version of HERMES to help evaluate and improve vaccine supply chains throughout the world. Our goal is to create a version of HERMES for agricultural and food supply chains.
The model would include virtual representations of every farm, orchard, food production location, processing location, storage location, storage device, equipment, transport vehicle/device, worker, food product, and product accessory in a supply chain/ food system. As an example, consider a simulated supply chain for getting vegetables from where they are grown to where they are consumed.
The model would represent each tomato, carrot, head of lettuce, etc. with a computational entity, which just like a real vegetable, can contain a variety of characteristics such as type, size, weight, storage requirements, age, and expiration date. Millions of different vegetables can flow through the model simultaneously, simulating a real-life supply chain.
These simulated vegetables would first be first harvested by virtual equipment and people. They would flow through a series of simulated storage and processing locations where virtual personnel would place them and then simulate through virtual representations of different equipment. They will then be delivered to virtual locations (e.g., stores, marketplaces, restaurants, and homes) where the vegetables are used and consumed by virtual people. The virtual people would then derive nutritional value from the types and amount of virtual vegetables they consumed.
To develop and implement HERMES for Agricultural and Food Systems, a software program to generate a detailed computational simulation model of any agricultural or food supply chain that can serve as a “virtual laboratory” for decision makers to evaluate the supply chain and test the effects of different policies, practices, and technology changes.
Populations need access to nutritious food to maintain or improve their health. Access to nutritious food depends on agricultural and food supply chains--- the complex system of locations, equipment, vehicles, personnel, and processes involved in producing, processing, preparing, and transporting food (e.g., fruits, vegetables, meat, grains, dairy, and beverages) from farms and other food sources all the way to consumers.
There is an urgent need to evaluate and improve the agricultural and food supply chains of many locations around the world. Computational simulation modeling has helped transform many other fields (e.g., meteorology, transportation, and manufacturing) and substantially improve their systems.
In developing HERMES (Highly Extensible Resource for Modeling Supply-chains), our team aims to transform how decision makers evaluate and improve agricultural and food systems. With a “virtual laboratory,” decision makers can first address a variety of questions such as:
- How is the current system functioning (e.g., in serving the nutritional needs of the population and cost) and what are the potential weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and needs for improvement?
- What will be the impact of introducing new products or technologies (e.g., new types of food products, farming, harvesting, processing, or storage materials, and equipment, and transportation)?
- What may be the effects of changing the supply chain configuration, policies, or processes (e.g., new locations, transport routes, shipping policies, crop rotations)?
- How many varying conditions and circumstances are there (e.g., personnel shortages, conflict. power outages, delays, inclement weather, etc.)?
- How can one improve or optimize agricultural and food product delivery (e.g., minimize cost per unit delivered, minimize obesity, maximize product availability, and maximize nutrition)?
HERMES can help evaluate supply chain operations and performance, identify strengths, weaknesses, and potential solutions, determine the impact of new technologies, designs, processes, and policy-changes, and help guide investments and strategies. Examples of potential users include:
- Policy makers
- Farmers and Food Producers
- Technology Developers
- Stores and Food Service Providers
- Community Leaders