Reasons for Adapting Information Connectivity in the Short Supply Chains of Local Food Producers

Reasons for Adapting Information Connectivity in the Short Supply Chains of Local Food Producers

Per Engelseth (Molde University College, Norway)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2107-5.ch007


Local food production is becoming increasingly popular in developed post-modern economies. Attention has been directed to developing such forms of food supply by adapting information connectivity. A case study of a local food network in Norway indicates that local food supply paradoxically attempts to mimic the dominant industrialised modes of food production. It is suggested that the fact that local food supply is “personal” and associated with close proximity makes it more closely resemble service supply chains. Applying contingency theory, a conceptual model is developed that indicates how the local food supply must take into consideration the degree to which customer value is associated with tailoring food supply. The high need for tailored local food production implies that information connectivity should support mutual adaptation while, in cases of less need for tailoring information, connectivity should seek automation. Local food production is always a hybrid of these approaches.
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Abatekassa and Peterson (2011) revealed how food markets are becoming increasingly globalized, a trend that is rooted in industrialised large-scale production of both fresh and processed foods. This chapter focuses on a specific issue within the emerging industry; namely, the use of information technology in local food production with the aim of creating value for practitioners in these types of short supply chains (Engelseth & Hogset, 2016). Local food production is a particular form of industry. The research question that we pose is, more specifically, whether it is necessary to adapt the information systems structure and processes for use in such short supply chains typical of local food production.

To consider this issue, it is first pertinent to analyze the societal context of local food production; the outer layer of the research query. This is because information use is fundamentally viewed as being contingent on such societal factors, including paradigmatic world views regarding how the food industry, and people in general, perceive food production. Due to the dominance of this form of food production, the supply chain management of foods is commonly associated with modern large-scale production systems found in complex industrial networks.

What then is mordernism and how does this impact on current food supply? According to Giddens (1991, p. 5), modernism implies a state of mind in which self-identity becomes “… a reflexively organized endeavor”; that is, people in the modern age are not bound by a locality. This also implies that consumption of local “product” is ideally not bound by space. This state of mind impacts on technology use through production. Thus, as it emerged, modernism has encompassed the Industrial Revolution, the mechanization of “man” and mass production to achieve economies of scale.

How then do local foods relate to the domince of moderniosm in food production? Accordingly, “local” food may also be mass-produced and distributed globally. This technological change has also meant that the “traditional” ways of producing foods prior to the Industrial Revolution will never return to the same manner as before. Some sort of “going back to the future” is viable, whereby historic modes of food production such as using traditional marketplaces to distribute foods may still inspire but dot completely drive change in food production as a blueprint may.

Apart from nostalgia, consumers seeking foods that remind them of the old days, traditional modes of local food distribution have features that we can still learn from today. This involves also features of information connectivity and use. Food was previously produced close to consumers and sold direct from farmers or fishermen or at local markets. At traditional markets, consumers and farmers as well as fishermen often developed personal bonds, securing value from a customer perspective through institutionalized business relationships. Connectivity in this form of local food supply was manual and sufficient. The Industrial Revolution led to increased scales of raw-material production, processing, distribution and retail.Information connectivity, involving features of the quality of communicating information that binds these supply chain actors together, was adapted to this modernistic logistics system. Integration was simple and personal. Information systems did exist and predominantly involved personal communication.

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