KTN announces new discussion forum on agri-food logistic threats and research opportunities

Posted on: 20/04/2020

How can mathematical sciences support the agri-food logistics and supply chains in tackling the emerging threats associated with Covid-19?


The Covid-19 pandemic has had many negative effects on UK society and the economy. In recent weeks we have seen supermarket shortages and reduced offerings. As the UK is not self-sufficient in food production (for example only 16% of fruit and 52% vegetables and salad are grown in the UK), disruption to the logistics infrastructure could have serious knock-on effects for the UK. The often-complex network and interaction of growers, manufacturers, retailers and freight organisations mean that the current crisis is putting a strain on each of these sectors and the infrastructure which support it.

On 28 April, 2PM, KTN will be running a 60-minute forum to present a range of mathematical sciences topics, and create an environment to discuss priorities and potential avenues for the research base to support the agri-food logistics sector in becoming more resilient. This event is particularly relevant for those working in food manufacturing and transport. 


During this forum, we propose to have a small number of short (5 minute) responses from the mathematical scientists on key topics. These topics have been developed as a response to industry consultation:

  • Supply chain and inventory modelling
  • Operational research for transportation and logistics
  • Network science
  • Statistical modelling
  • Risk modelling

The rest of the forum will facilitate a discussion with end users (in both business and policy) on where such topics can be beneficial, and how might KTN and UKRI create an environment for these topics to be brought to bear on these emerging threats. If you wish to take part in this forum, please SIGN UP HERE.


KTN has been asked by Innovate UK to highlight such areas significantly impacted by Covid-19 where KTN’s sector expertise and connections can help through research and innovation. KTN has compiled some responses from key organisations on what the short and medium threats to the agri-food logistics sector are, and the impact these would have if left unaddressed. A collection of capabilities that may be used to address the threats identified can be summarised as follows:


As a response to this collation, a group of research scientists (listed below) considered how ideas and tools developed by the mathematical sciences might have application in the current crisis. The paper containing this specific relevant expertise can be found here. Through the Industrial Mathematics team, KTN is keen to expand the conversation with relevant parties to identify priorities, and opportunities for the research community to help deliver solutions for these sectors.


KTN would like to thank the following people for their quick, and insightful input into this initiative: Miguel Anjos (Edinburgh), Alexandra Brintrup (Cambridge), Alan Champneys (Bristol), Stefano Coniglio (Southampton), Christine Currie (Southampton), Guven Demirel (Queen Mary University London), Idris Eckley (Lancaster), Andrei Gagarin (Cardiff), Bart McCarthy (Nottingham), John Quigley (Strathclyde), Lesley Walls (Strathclyde).


This forum is supported by the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) and the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences (INI), and is part of the recently launched Virtual Forum for Knowledge Exchange in the Mathematical Sciences (V-KEMS).

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