Collaborative Food Supply Chains for Iowa’s Farmers

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2016: $30,000.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2017
Grant Recipient: Iowa Valley RC&D
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Jason Grimm
Iowa Valley RC&D

Annual Reports

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, mentoring, networking, participatory research, technical assistance
  • Sustainable Communities: food hubs, infrastructure analysis, local and regional food systems, partnerships, quality of life, sustainability measures, values-based supply chains

    Proposal abstract:

    This proposal emerges from a collaboration among four Iowa food hubs and ten farmers that developed over the past year. This network has demonstrated the potential of shared  warehousing and transportation for improving logistics efficiency and increasing the volume of regionally-produced food that can be distributed throughout the state. However, as the participants seek to add more nodes (i.e., farmers) to their network, the challenges of inadequate physical and information infrastructures have become apparent. In particular, it is currently very difficult for them to track inventory availability and movement among nodes. This lack of information leads to sub-optimal system-wide logistics. Additionally, the food hub managers lack a systematic method for allocating and tracking the costs of shared physicalinfrastructure and warehousing services, which is necessary for successful and sustained collaboration.In this project, we will plan for the necessary infrastructure to support this supply chain and accommodate future growth. To accomplish this, we will evaluate potential inventory management systems that will enable information sharing across multiple farms and food hubs, and we will work with participants to develop and implement the most promising system. We will develop an appropriate set of methods for allocating and tracking shared resources and costs.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The development and implementation of a cost-effective inventory management system that can accommodate multiple farms and food hubs, including:
    - A consistent product labeling scheme throughout the supply network
    - A shared system for tracking products that are in transit or in storage at multiple farm and food hub inventory
    - A scanning system for rapid and accurate transfer of label data into the inventory tracking system

    The development and implementation of methods for tracking and allocating costs among farmers and food hubs for shared equipment and infrastructure, as well as logistics services provided by one business for another.

    Outcomes include:
    1) an inventory management system that allows for information sharing across farms and food hubs, including scanning and labeling tools and procedures to track the flow of goods between farms and food hubs;
    2) an appropriate set of protocols for tracking shared resources such as refrigerated and frozen storage and fairly allocating the costs of using these shared resources between participating farms and food hubs;
    3) improved material handling infrastructure to efficiently load and unload orders, which will reduce the time required to handle products by 30%;
    4) a 20% increase in sales participating farms;
    5) a 10% reduction in transportation costs by participating farms and food hubs;
    6) increase knowledge of sales and inventory patterns by participating farms and food hubs;

    The inventory management system will be measured by it's creation/existence, as will the protocols for tracking and sharing costs for shared resources. Improved handling infrastructure and it's impact in reducing handling costs will be measured through time studies. Increased sales and reduced transportation costs will be measured by reviewing data collected from participating hubs and farms. Increased knowledge of sales and inventory patterns will be measured by pre and post surveys.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.