The EU’s rural development regulation (1305/2013) defines a “short supply chain” as a supply chain involving a limited number of economic operators, committed to cooperation, local economic development, and close geographical and social relations between food producers, processors and consumers.

More information can be accessed at:

Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics. [EU Science Hub]

Short food supply chains and local food systems in the EU [European Parliament Think Tank]

Such a food system is of considerable interest since it responds to a number of needs and opportunities, both of farmers and consumers. The development of (different types) short food supply chains (i.e., direct sales by individuals and/or collective direct sales, partnerships – community supported agriculture) is one of the approaches of the Common Agricultural Policy to improve competitiveness in Europe.

Multi-actor approach

Multi-actor projects are projects in which end users and multipliers of research results such as farmers and farmers’ groups, advisers, enterprises and others, are closely cooperating throughout the whole research project period.

The EU has allocated around one billion euros to fund around 180 multi-actor projects of interest to agriculture, forestry and rural development in the seven years of Horizon 2020 (2014-2020). Over 100 of these projects have already started.


More information can be accessed here.

Case studies

In SMARTCHAIN, 18 case studies of widespread short food supply chains with remarkable social, economic and ecological impacts on rural, peri-urban and urban communities will be evaluated in terms of innovation potential, consumer perspectives towards short food supply chains and overall sustainability (environmental, economic and social). SMARTCHAIN has selected an illustrative database of existing short food supply chains in Europe, whether this is amongst producers, or between producers and consumers, or between producers, consumers and local institutions. The aim is to reflect different types of short food supply chain models, to generate more precise, quantitative data regarding the impact of short food supply chains for a determined area and/or products as well as to capture the degree of geographical diversity across the EU. The case studies encompass agri-food products that are traditionally considered part of a balanced diet with strong links to EU markets in terms of production, consumption, distribution and their impacts on local communities. Various boundaries in the selected cases will be taken into account – from the supply of inputs and primary production to the delivery of products to consumers (e.g. natural resources, farming practices, food production and processing, safety and quality, distribution and storage, food integrity, food waste, market access and price, consumer preferences) also considering sustainability in different contexts (environmental, social, economic).


The SMARTCHAIN consortium strongly believes that many issues that block the transition of short food supply chains from a niche to a larger market share could be (at least partially) solved by building an international community of short food supply chains (e.g. to share concerns/experiences/best practices, to discuss, to collaborate together). The connection of the 18 selected case studies will only be the starting point for it.

SMARTCHAIN will work together using its networks to create this international community of short food supply chains that can grow and pollinate on local, regional, national and European level, creating cross sectoral connections between stakeholders and consumers. This community will represent a force of unprecedented size.

Solutions to Problems

The objectives and results of SMARTCHAIN will unlock the potential for competitiveness and sustainability by stimulating practical innovative solutions to problems in the short food supply chain domain. The innovation deficit in short food supply chains is not due to a lack of knowledge or ideas, but because we do not capitalise on them. SMARTCHAIN partners will identify the main needs or instruments required to implement collaborative short food supply chains, which can increase farm incomes, provide an exhaustive inventory of practical solutions, develop robust new business models and make policy recommendations. SMARTCHAIN will generate concrete actions for knowledge transfer, through the organisation of at least 18 innovation workshops and training activities for farmers and short food supply chain entrepreneurs.