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The SOFIA project is financed by the EU Horizon 2020 program, under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions.


Sofia helps people to access local food

The SOFIA project  is a training-through-research project funded by the EU Horizon 2020 program, under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions – individual fellowship (call 2015).

The fellowship was awarded to Marco Della Gala, who is working under the supervision of James Kirwan, with support from Matt Reed and Rob Berry. The aim is to create ICT based tools, in particular mobile applications, to facilitate the exchange of knowledge between farmer and consumer networks and help people access local food.

The project began on 1st June, 2016, and will run over 20 months.


Over recent years, our Agro-Food Systems have become increasingly industrialized, capital intensive and globally extensive, thus causing a uniformity in agricultural production and significant ecological impact. Moreover, the concentrated control of product markets, with a small number of big organizations and the information asymmetries, has led to a detrimental effect on the economic sustainability of farmers who are subjected to a continuous imbalance of their bargaining power and to a crisis of trust in mass-produced ‘placeless and faceless’ among consumers.

To overcome limits of mainstream agro-business system through more sustainable ways of doing business, recently, many grassroots initiatives based on the synergic collaboration among farmers and consumers networks, are emerged in many countries, shaping different organizational forms in relation to the socio-economic context of the reference territories. These initiatives, which goes under the umbrella term Alternative Argo Food Networks- AAFNs, propose new and alternative business models characterized by the minimization of intermediary in the food supply chain and by a re-connection or close communication among producers and consumers thus shortening the distance - physical, social, cultural, and economic - between world production and world consumption.

These innovative alternative food networks include
  • Direct on-farm sales
  • Pick-your-own
  • Farmers’ markets
  • Box schemes
  • Community supported agriculture
  • Collective farm shops
  • Buying groups/clubs

Even if these alternative business models can be shaped into different organizational forms, they all provide, and at the same time are fostered, by a sort of liminal space that subverts the normal experience of food shopping and where a variety of local lay knowledge related to agriculture, rural economy, the environment, food production, healthy eating and consumer values, may be exchanged, thus offering Learning Opportunities both to consumers and to producers.

Nowadays, such information/knowledge exchange may be supported by mobile services that can increase consumers/producers context awareness


The project:

As the use of mobile devices continues to grow, mobile applications have become an incredibly effective way of providing information and resources to a wide audience. Through a multi-case study analysis of local food systems and rural areas and a web review of ICT tools for Alternative Agro Food Networks (AAFNs), the SOFIA project aims to concive of, design and develop a mobile application to support the context awareness and information/knowledge exchange among farmers and consumers adhering to AAFNs. Moreover, it will endeavour to create innovative, facilitatory and safe cooperative communication environments and to foster intellectual, social and relational capital flows among AAFNs’ partners.

Sofia project will analyze innovative organizational models and explore the value of the use of ICT tools (in particular mobile and ubiquitous services) to increase Situated Learning Opportunities in AAFNs, through a multi-case study analysis of local food systems and rural areas, and a web review of ICT tools for AAFNs.

The expected impact of the research is to define a set of reproducible methodologies, models, tools and technologies that can improve the competitiveness of a selected area, leveraging its potential in terms of materials and intangible resources.

In addition, the study will aim to identify, analyze, and classify ICT tools supporting the management of information flows both for decision-making and for operational processes in the identified collaborative networks, in order to improve mutual understanding and collaboration between value chain stakeholders, thus contributing to sustainable development pathways of a local food systems and rural areas.

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Researchers involved in the SOFIA project
Marco Della Gala

Marco Della Gala

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow
Marco Della Gala joined the CCRI from the University of Calabria on 1 June 2016 to work on the SOFIA project. He was awarded with a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellowship. He will be working towards creating ICT based tools, in particular mobile applications, to help people access local food, a topic very close to the heart of the CCRI.
James Kirwan

Dr James Kirwan

Reader in Food Studies and Society
James is the ER supervisor. He has been working at the CCRI since 2002. His main research interests are the socio-economic impacts of local food networks, particularly the relationship between the production and consumption of food and their inpact on sustainable rural development.
Matt Reed

Dr Matt Reed

Senior Research Fellow
Matt is a sociologist with research interests in how and why social change takes place around food. He has worked at the CCRI since 2007. His main research interests are in organic food movement, in rural communities, in social networks, and in the changing technologies of food.
Robert Berry

Dr Robert Berry

Research Fellow
Rob joined the CCRI in 2012. His research is concerned with the application of geographical information systems (GIS) and geospatial technologies in rural and agricultural research.
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