Research project
36 | monthsDISCO

Digital and cyber physical twins framework for food and packaging supply chain waste control and optimization

Related toSpoke 02

Principal investigators
Riccardo Accorsi

Other partecipantsRiccardo Manzini, Gabriele Sirri, Ilaria Battarra, Michele Ronzoni, Beatrice Guidani, Giacomo Lupi
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Task involved

Task 2.3.1.

Multidisciplinary food supply chain (FSC) & waste management knowledge inventory. A repository of knowledge and primary/secondary data for the classification and modelling of issues related to (1) waste management and reduction in food and packaging supply chain (FPSC), (2) user-friendly data analysis and visualisation, (3) development of innovative digital technology solutions for the benefit of all stakeholders including final consumer. The Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) paradigm will be used. The adoption of instruments enabling regular food waste measurement will be investigated (in connection with Spoke 1).

Task 2.3.2.

Food & packaging waste control & assessment. Aim of this task is to connect products, processes, production/manufacturing systems and logistic networks by the development of innovative quantitative and multi- objective models and methods/algorithms for the design, planning and control of material flows through the food & packaging supply chain towards a circular economy (in connection with Spokes 1 and 7).

Task 2.3.3.

Digital-twin and IoT solutions for food and packaging waste reduction. Aim of this task is the design, development, validation, and application of intelligent decision support systems for the control and optimisation of manufacturing, packaging and distribution issues/decisions in food & packaging product life cycle. Best practices of food waste reduction (through surplus food reuse, recycling, and recovery according to the Food Waste Hierarchy framework) will be identified towards a circular economy and social responsibility approach (in connection with Spoke 1).

Project deliverables


Novel multi-disciplinary ontology framework for circular food & packaging supply chain and production (M12).


Innovative dashboard for a multi-disciplinary and multi-objective analysis and assessment of food & packaging supply chain (M12).


Scalable data collection infrastructure based on open-source technologies for waste management and reduction (M12).


Selection of case studies and applications for primary data collection (M14).


Results of food waste quantification in retail and food service segments (M18).


Innovative and multi-objective models and methods for waste measurement, control, and assessment (M24).


Multi-objective, comparative, and competitive analyses for life cycle assessment of food and packaging supply chain (M28).


Decision support and expert systems for life cycle assessment of food and packaging supply chain (M30).


Digital-twin demonstrators and pilots/applications to case studies (M36).


Best practice definition, adoption guidelines for the distribution and food service stage segments and recommendations for environmental and social responsibility of all stakeholders involved in the agri-food chain (M36).

State of the art

Food supply chains (FSCs) enable safe, effective, and sustainable food distribution, linking farm to table. They involve multiple sources and destinations, a broad set of actors and handling modes, variable and unpredictable environmental conditions, potentially decaying food and packaging, affecting quality and consumer satisfaction (Accorsi et al., J Food Eng 2022). FSCs are responsible for over 25% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions. Consumer preferences and government regulations are increasingly pressuring businesses to reduce their environmental footprints. Circular food packaging networks represent one possibility to do so. While the benefit of reducing the use of virgin plastic polymers is well-known, several barriers limit the adoption of reusable container systems (Accorsi et al., Sus Pro Con 2022). New methodologies, design-support approaches, and ready-to-practice solutions to improve the food and the packaging quality and properties throughout the supply chain to the final consumer are expected. Recent explorative works are conducted on primary and secondary food packages by adopting digital twin solutions and technologies (Manzini and Accorsi, J Food Eng 2013). Literature demonstrates the effectiveness of reusable and recyclable food packaging containers networks in fruit & vegetables retailing distributions (Accorsi et al., J Cle Pro 2022), but evidence of such benefits must be investigated further in food catering supply chain (FCSC) systems (Accorsi et al., Sus Pro Con 2020; Ronzoni et al., IFAC 2022) characterized by more complex networks and actors involved.

Operation plan

This project aims at developing novel a cyber-physical and digital twins framework for the design, management, and control of food and packaging waste throughout the Food Catering Supply Chain (FCSC) system. An integrated novel multidisciplinary and multi-objective design-support methodology will be developed, engineered, and validated using this framework. A list of main tasks follows:

1) introduction of a waste-based management knowledge inventory system made of primary & secondary data;
2) development of a multi-disciplinary dashboard of safety and sustainability indicators;
3) selection of a significant case study from FCSC;
4) development of multi-objective supporting decisions models and methods to support decision making on food and package supply chains;
5) development of a digital twin platform that includes Decision Support Systems (DSS) and demonstrators for the simulation of product & package life cycle within the FCSC;
6) testing and validation of cyber-physical twin for the control of shelf life and properties of packaged food products;
7) comparative multi-scenarios analyses involving different packaging solutions and networks (including Reusable Plastic Containers - RPC) built upon real-world case studies;
8) best practice, guidelines and general results for research dissemination and technological transfer to industry. 

Expected results

1) A novel repository system for primary and secondary multi-disciplinary data in food catering supply chain systems (in connection with spoke 4).

2) Innovative digital-twin (DT) platform for the prediction of the effects of physical and environmental stresses on food product and package. This DT is made of a dashboard of KPIs, a database for the repository of data, mathematical models, solving algorithms and methods, and integrated with a cyber-physical demonstrator for the simulation of stresses, supporting decision and expert systems (DSS) (in connection with spoke 3).

3) Evaluation of alternative primary, secondary and tertiary packaging systems and associated material-driven networks using a spatial Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach augmented with a supply chain digital twin.

4) Comparative and competitive spatial LCA for reusable and recyclable food packaging containers networks in food catering supply chain (FCSC) system (in connection with spoke 1).