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What is sustainIT?


The project SustainIT – Releasing the Potential of ICT for Sustainable Milk and Beef Cattle Value Chains (SustainIT) aims to: 

  • identify institutional, economic and social barriers for widespread adoption of ICT in relation to animal health and welfare; 
  • develop conceptual business models and policy recommendations for governance of innovation ecosystems to release the full potential of ICT in dairy and beef value chains. 

The challenge

The potential of ICT to transform agri-food value chains and to contribute to finding new solutions for animal health and welfare issues, efficiency of production and relationships with consumers has been well acknowledged.

However, the potential of ICT is not yet fully been utilized due to challenges such as:

  • data access, data ownership and data interoperability issues hindering the exchange of data along the value chain;
  • inadequate skills of different stakeholder;
  • lack of suitable ready-made solutions for the end-users;
  • inconsistent public policies;
  • limited understanding on the mechanisms through which ICT affects consumers;
  • lack of business model innovation.

Barriers for adopting ICT solutions at the farm level and at the supply chain level vary. Therefore means that a better understanding on about the ICT related challenges and experience of different stakeholder groups is needed to in order to facilitate the development of supportive ICT innovation ecosystems.

Conceptual approach

The main propositions of the SustainIT are: 

  • Lack of common data standards and unresolved data ownership issues hinder utilization of ICT potential in agri-food value chains.
  • Widespread use of ICT would allow accommodating new business models that empower milk and beef cattle value chains in responding to consumer and societal demands. 
  • Human and social capital of value chain actors need to be developed for adoption of ICT and business model innovation.
  • Facilitation of digitization in agri-food value chains requires public sector’s intervention for creating enabling ICT innovation ecosystem.
  • Living Labs provide operational innovation platforms for co-creating solutions for more widespread adoption of of ICT in milk and beef cattle value chains.

The project is implemented through the Living Labs established in each participating country. The Living Lab approach assumes active involvement of users in each stage of research, development and innovation process. The SustainIT Living Labs will bring together dairy and beef value chain and ICT actors such as farmers, veterinarians, processing industry, retailers, consumers, policy makers, researchers, ICT developers, technology providers and innovation brokers. The multi-actor approach will ensure that the ICT challenges and experience of each stakeholder group are understood and will help to find solutions together that would meet the needs of all value chain stakeholders as well as consumers.

Figure 1. The Conceptual Approach

The project activities are carried out through four work packages (WPs) representing the four focal themes of the project (Fig.1)

  • Living Labs (WP1) – based on multi-actor approach, four Living Labs will be established to engage the value chains stakeholders and facilitate a co-learning process. The Living Labs will be the platform supporting implementation of focal WPs of the project.
  • Animal health and welfare data (WP2) – with the input of Living Lab participants, the availability of data on animal health and welfare, the data collection, data access, data needs and data exchange between different supply chain actors will be assessed.    
  • Business model development (WP3) – SustainIT will address the consumer and societal demands and new conceptual business models. The research will focus on analysing the opportunities and barriers related to connecting producers with the end-consumers, and on capturing the value from the customers. This will be utilized by addressing the business model innovation related to ICT in dairy and beef value chains. 
  • Public sector interactions (WP4) — the project will study the role of public sector in pooling of the data, access to animal health and welfare data and related regulative frameworks, and will examine the role of public sector in development of supportive ICT innovation ecosystem.  

In addition to the abovementioned WPs, WP5 will focus on Dissemination and Exploitation Activities and WP6 focuses on Coordination and Management Activities. 

Expected social impact

SustainIT will have direct economic and social impacts on the beef and milk value chain stakeholders by creating new knowledge and networks, improving stakeholders’ skills and finding new solution allowing them to improve their ICT practices, innovate their business models and capture more value from consumers with the help of ICT. Dissemination of this knowledge will create wider economic, animal health and welfare related impacts to the agri-food, ICT and public sectors.  

SustainIT will contribute to: 

  • Development of ICT innovation ecosystem by testing applicability of Living Labs as a model of ICT innovation ecosystems. Living Labs facilitate creation of new networks and synergy that will strengthen the innovation ecosystem. Living Labs seek cooperation with other initiatives and organizations involved with digitization and use of data in the agri-food sector and outside it. The experience from the SustainIT Living Labs can be transferred to other agri-food sectors, and the networks created will persist following the end of the project. Placing Living Labs to the existing innovation ecosystems provides an opportunity to institutionalize the Living Labs and to achieve wide multiplier effects. 
  • Increased awareness among the dairy and beef value chain actors about animal health and welfare data and ICT solutions for the collection of reliable data. Barriers for adopting ICT, as well as proposals how to overcome the barriers are identified and communicated to value chain actors, ICT developers and policy makers.
  • Improved knowledge on how animal health and welfare related ICT is utilized in current business models in dairy and beef value chains. New conceptual business models based on value stream mapping are developed that utilize the potential of animal health and welfare related ICT for value generation and value capture.
  • Recommendations for governance of ICT innovation ecosystems that will improve the data availability, data accessibility and data interoperability, and use of ICT and animal health and welfare related data. The recommendations are communicated to policy makers in partner countries.

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