Improving food security through the supply network

How can food security for Tasmanians be improved through the supply network? An analysis of the connectivity, dynamics, efficiency and resilience of the food supply network in Tasmania

Degree type

PhD

Closing date

29 October 2021

Campus

Launceston

Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore

About the research project

The Tasmanian Government has developed a food security strategy to ensure affordable, healthy food for Tasmanians. The Tasmania population (0.515 million people) is less than 10% of the Singaporean population (5.61 million people). Yet, its land area (68,401 km2) is about 95 times that of Singapore (721.5 km2). While the availability of land and natural resources is a great advantage for Tasmania, low population density goes against it especially in terms of the supply and distribution costs, as well as social and economic connectivity. This affects the efficacy of the State’s food security strategy.

Why study of the food supply network?

  • Social network of individuals and families: Food security aims at vulnerable people and families, who are socially connected in the society. People rely on the social network (of friends, colleagues, association members) to exchange and circulate information.
  • Network of stakeholders: Food security involves multiple stakeholders that are connected for information exchange.
  • Network of food suppliers, exporters and importers: There are many suppliers of the same food (e.g. Coles and Woolworth), and each food often has many complements (coffee and milk); Tasmania produces foods for not only local consumption but exports, and it consumes foods not only produced locally but also imported (imports and exports).
  • There is a need for an integrated system to ensure resilience and sustainable food security and supply.

Recently, network analysis has been emerging as a research tool to study issues across many areas that often cannot be studied using other methods, e.g. how effectively people exchange information, epidemics spread, terrorists form a network, companies coordinate in a transport and logistics network. A social and economic network typically involves the coordination and managing of a system of large number of nodes and links, also known as vertices and edges respectively. There has been extensive application of network analysis in many fields, e.g. social science, business and management, IT, physics, health and epidemiology.

Study objective and research questions:

The project’s main objective is to study the role, operations and performance of the Tasmanian food supply network to ensure food security for Tasmanians. The study aims to answer the following research questions (RQ):

  • RQ1: How can the food supply network in Tasmania be mapped?
  • RQ2: What are the roles of the stakeholders in food security in Tasmania?
  • RQ3: How well is the food supply network connected in Tasmania?
  • RQ4: How can the food supply network in Tasmania be evaluated?

Research method:

The project aims to conduct a complex network analysis of the food supply network in Tasmania to improve the efficiency and resilience of food security for the population, especially vulnerable people and families of with social and economic conditions in Tasmania. The study will involve the following:

  • Food supply network mapping for Tasmania
  • Calculation of network measures including density, degree distribution, degree centrality, betweenness centrality, closeness centrality, eigenvector centrality, cluster coefficient and assortativity
  • Network analysis using the exponential/random network models to evaluate the effect of various factors on network formation and connectivity
  • Stakeholder survey to study the issues and obstacles facing the food supply chain network and food security in Tasmania

How is this study expected to support food security for vulnerable Tasmanians?

RQ1 seeks to develop and gain an understanding of the structure of the food supply network in Tasmania. Based on this, RQ2 and RQ3 seek further insights into the role of and relationship between stakeholders in the food supply network respectively. RQ4 aims to gain a better understanding of the issues and improve the efficiency of the food supply network in Tasmania.

Primary Supervisor

Meet A/Prof Hong-Oanh (Owen) Nguyen

Funding

Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.

Eligibility

The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from international applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Applicants must have research experience in their previous study programs and background in logistics and supply chain management, and/or economics, with at least basic knowledge in statistical/econometric analysis

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Applicants are expected to be familiar with statistical/econometric analysis software such as SPSS, EViews, Stata, RATS, and R statistical software
  • Work experience in business management, international organisations, the government or logistics sector is desirable

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, A/Prof Hong-Oanh (Owen) Nguyen, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including contact details of two referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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