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Developing a dynamic and modular agent-based simulation tool that will analyse the link among biodiversity, the agri-food value chain, the environment, consumer’s preferences and health.

The main aim of the BioValue project is to develop a dynamic and modular agent-based simulation tool that will analyse the link among biodiversity, the agri-food value chain, the environment, consumer’s preferences and health. The idea is to introduce and spread the use of underutilized, genetically diverse crops and their final marketable products to the consumer´s plates adopting a demand-driven approach (fork to farm). The ultimate outcome of the project are novel food dish recipes and processed food products from the underutilized, genetically diverse crops which will result from the extensive breeding programme foreseen within the project. In particular, 7 pilot cases in 12 countries are planned for the cultivation of underutilized crops serving also as a data source for the definition of specific key performance indicators for policy impact assessment, environmental assessment and ensuring compliance with regulations and standards for the inclusion of underutilized, genetically diverse crops to the agri-food value chain. To achieve the overall aim, BioValue has set the following specific objectives:

O.1. To review the existing agri-food value chain state-of-the-art modelling tools and review the cultivation trajectory of underutilized, genetically diverse crops. Such a review will include databases and tools modelling the production processes, investment planning, quality control, price transmission and product delivery channels. It will also include a review of the causes and conditions that the consumption and cultivation of numerous crops (legumes, vegetables) were altered or completely eliminated over the course of time.

O.2. To elaborate a characterization of agents’ behavior combining available data with participatory research findings. The characteristics of each agent in the agri-food value chain will be assessed by employing datasets, particularly focusing on capturing the heterogeneity of individual agents. Participatory research will also be employed to accurately describe each agent group as well as to identify key drivers and parameters likely to influence agents’ decision-making.

O.3. To develop a breeding program to exploit genetic biodiversity. Through seven paired pilot cases in the eight pilot case countries (Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Estonia, Italy, Norway, Spain and Turkey), different farm systems will be tested where participatory breeding programs will be applied in seven main plant species (Lens culinaris, Lathyrus spp., Fagopyron spp, Tomato ideotypes, Eggplant landraces, Cucumis melo var. flexuosus and Sonchus oleraceus) in order to assess their yield potential, adaptation and compatibility, efficiency and economic performance, following standardized protocols of experimental setup and cultivation techniques of precision agriculture. The breeding program will include analysis of biodiversity at the soil, farm and agro-ecosystem level.

O.4. To develop a food dish-driven approach to genetically diverse food products. Through development of novel food dish recipes and processed food products by food scientists, culinary experts, nutritionists, and chefs and through validation of recipes for dishes and processed food products by an international consumer sample, final products based on genetically diverse crops will be evaluated for their sensory characteristics and consumers’ willingness-to-pay. Further, food dishes will aim to promote healthy and environmentally friendly diets.

O.5. To produce a behavioral and networking model of agents’ interactions in order to evaluate the BioValue tool towards the optimization of biodiversity throughout the value chain. Employing the information collected in the course of the project and the available databases, a behavioural and networking model will be parametrized to characterize the agents’ interactions, based on refining existing models and previous research experience. The resulting BioValue dynamic and modular simulation tool will provide an interactive framework to turn information into outcomes and will be employed in assessing the impact of increased biodiversity scenarios, as well as climate change, water availability, policy, land and market scenarios at the farm, regional and EU level. In addition, the effects throughout the value chain will be explicitly modelled revealing synergies and conflicts.

O.6 To compile, analyze and present the produced information in an optimal and novel way maximizing stakeholder’s involvement. The visualization of the information produced by the BioValue tool is key to ensure an adequate applicability and usefulness to stakeholders. This will include direct connection of the user-friendly interface to existing Information and Communication Technologies. Furthermore, processed food products and production processes of the final dishes prepared will be provided in an interactive online handbook/cookbook, of value to both consumers and wholesalers/food processors.

O.7 To confirm and promote a long-lasting use of the proposed new products via a dynamic and balanced relation between what the consumer needs in her/his diverse and healthy diet and the farming practices. Through the extensive research of consumer perceptions, attitudes and preferences towards the final food products and novel dishes, prepared using underutilized traditional crops, their nutritional and commercial value will be validated. Then, promotion activities will be proposed for their long-term gastronomic integration on consumers’ food habits as well as their existence in the market for the benefit of both consumers and value chain agents.

O.8 To maximize the adoption of the project’s outcomes by communication activities and involvement of a broad range of stakeholders from farming, agri-food value chain and policy. The dissemination and communication activities will help to raise awareness of the new simulation tool and of the novel dishes and processed food products in a broad range of stakeholders, including farmers, agri-food value chain practitioners, consumers, nutritionists, chefs, food policymakers and academics.