Mapping the logistics of Short Food Supply Chains through the Viable System Model

Eliseo Vilalta Perdomo, Rosario Michel-Villarreal, David Salinas-Navarro, Rocio García-Bustamante

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished Conference Paperpeer-review


Short Food Supply Chains (SFSCs) are largely based on traditional practices that require face-to-face contact, such as market days. The emergence of COVID-19 put unprecedented strain on these networks to ensure social distancing. Key stakeholders (producers, organizers, consumers, etc.) had to identify quick solutions for food sourcing and food distribution. This led to the emergence of ‘virtual short food supply chains’ supported using digital technologies. Thus, the aim of this research is to diagnose SFSCs' current organizational, logistical, and technological processes for collective selling. Furthermore, we seek to determine SFSCs’ logistical, organizational, and technological needs to better support the new virtual spaces.
Research Approach
A mapping of SFSCs will be achieved by bringing together a variety of stakeholders who are directly or indirectly involved in the processes that deliver food to the final consumer. To better understand the whole system, we will adopt the Viable System Model (VSM); this will allow a holistic investigation of the activities that comprise key processes. VSM will be applied using online interviews and focus groups.
Findings and Originality
Preliminary findings indicate that virtual SFSCs are constituted by producers, organizers, pickers, couriers, and consumers. Initial interviews to such key actors suggest that digital technologies currently in use include YouTube, Zoom, Google Meet and WhatsApp. For instance, the creation of chats using WhatsApp has enhanced visibility and facilitated the flow of information along the supply chain. According to interviewees, virtual models use WhatsApp to receive orders from consumers and Excel to compile orders. Preliminary findings also suggest that virtual SFSCs comprise at least five key processes: promote the service; receive and process online orders; request goods; receive, pick and pack goods; and deliver orders. There is also agreement regarding the need for more sophisticated technologies such as mobile apps and websites that can improve the efficiency of the new virtual models; however, these systems will have to be adjusted to Latin American retailing practices.
Research Impact
The impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on SFSCs remains largely unexplored. This study aims to contribute towards bridging that gap.
Practical Impact
The sustainability of SFSCs depends largely on their ability to continue operating in the face of disruptions. By assessing their current processes and needs, this research aims to inform the design of an efficient and effective digital order fulfilment model that can better support the continuity of operations.


ConferenceLRN2021: The Logistics Research Network Annual Conference 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Viable System Model
  • digital technologies
  • alternative food
  • local food systems


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