New enabling methodologies and technologies are essential for the survival of a number of smallholders throughout the entire Mediterranean and EU area and they have a great potential to enhance smallholders’ revenues (above all during this COVID-19 pandemic crises), reduce the barriers to enter the market as well as assure sustainability and new approaches to control production, logistics and distribution of products. To use this potentials, it is important and urgently needed to carry out research activities devoted to (1) integrate the smallhoders processes into an advanced operational scenario; (2) design a framework that encompass Web-App and Mobile App technologies, Artificial Intelligence based Knowledge Navigators, new Business Models, Blockchain technology, Multi-Capitals Sustainability and Simulation; (3) conceptualize an architecture where the different segments responds, thanks to the integration of the above mentioned methodologies and technologies, to the major needs of Smallholders while providing, at the same time, advantages for actors belonging to the smallholders’ supply and value chains; (4) develop an ICT platform prototype (the SMALLDERS platform) to provide relevance on the feasibility of the proposed approach; (5) creating experimentations testbeds and case studies localized in different countries (to demonstrate the SMALLDERS platform capabilities and adaptability to different contexts). Capabilities of the SMALLDERS platform will be also demonstrated by providing evidence on the readiness of the platform in addressing the requirements and expected impact of the PRIMA call, Topic 2.3.1 - "Increasing the resilience of small-scale farms to global challenges and COVID-like crisis by using adapted technologies, smart agri-food supply chain and crisis management tools”.

Period of Implementation

May 1, 2022 - Apr 30, 2025
Total Budget

EUR 1,612,555.50



The COVID-19 pandemic as well as similar crises along the years have highlighted the need for more resilient food systems, able to effectively and efficiently address supply chain disruptions. To cite an example, during the COVID-19 pandemic many governments have taken drastic measures with the aim to limit the spread of the infection, resulting in the closure of the main distribution channels of smallholders, such as bars, restaurants, school canteens, open-air markets. In addition, travel restrictions and COVID-19 symptoms have severely limited the availability of manpower in many fields. As a result, the amount of food wasted has grown enormously because in some cases it was not possible to complete the harvesting activities on time, while in others the goods remained in finished goods warehouses until they perished, due to the multiple restrictions in the distribution stages. The issue of the extended storage time is also crucial to prevent a bigger amount of wasted food products in case the product is not sold by the expected time. The overall objective of the project is to carry out basic research as well as industrial research and development activities with the aim of identifying a framework that encompass innovative strategies, methodologies, technologies and business models to increase the resilience of small-scale farms in the Mediterranean area, to effectively and efficiently face unexpected and disruptive events such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The project will also aim to bring technological improvements in order to reduce the water consumption, to improve the storage conditions, overall with the aim to reduce the food wastages.


The SMALLDERS project has 5 specific objectives: Specific Objective #1 Increasing saleability and perceived value of smallholder products, to be resilient and address any supply chain disruption in the event of a crisis. Specific Objective #2 Increasing smallholder products traceability, quality, safety and perceived value. Specific Objective #3 Helping smallholders to cope with the shortage of workforce due to the COVID-like crisis. Specific Objective #4 Helping smallholders to increase the farm production efficiency. Specific Objective #5 Increasing the Multi-Capital Sustainability of Smallholders processes.

Problems and Needs Analysis

The COVID-19 pandemic (as well as previous crises that humanity has experienced along the years) has had disastrous impacts on the world economy and has highlighted all the fragility of supply chains both globally and locally. This unexpected event has directed much of the academic research in recent months. However, being a very recent event and still ongoing, so far, the majority of the scientific literature has focused on the assessment of the impacts of COVID on the supply chains from an economic, organizational, social and environmental point of view. Instead, very little has been done in terms of strategies to react and mitigate the impact of the pandemic (or COVID-19 like crises) on the players in the supply chain and, in particular, on small local food producers. The ambition of this project proposal is to fill this research gap, through the design, development and testing of a platform in which: smallholders, citizens, critical stakeholders, freight transport companies, policymakers are simultaneously present.

Intervention Strategy(ies)

The main strategy behind the SMALLDERS project is to define, conceptualize, implement and test a software as a service platform based on a layered architecture. The SMALLDERS platform is characterized by four main layers: User Management Layer, Certification Layer, Dashboard Layer, Decision-Making Layer. As part of the different layers, the SMALLDERS architecture see the integration of a number of methodologies and enabling technologies and toolkits, namely (1) Web and mobile applications; (2) Artificial Intelligence based Knowledge Navigators; (3) New Business Models; (4) Sensors and Internet of Things (IoT); (5) BlockChain; (6) Multi-capitals Sustainability; (7) Modeling & Simulation (M&S) and Digital Twins.

Impact Pathway

The SMALLDERS project responds well to a number of impacts, as explained below. ● Ensure incomes to smallholders facing COVID-like crises: The application of the SMALLDERS platform will guarantee incomes to smallholders, even during COVID-like crises. The ability to offer and/ or request manpower will increase the resilience of smallholders in the face of worker illnesses and restrictions on mobility in the most acute periods of the crisis. ● Decrease inefficiencies and barriers to market access: The SMALLDERS platform will improve market access for smallholders. One of the main barriers to entry to the business-to-business (B2B) market of small agricultural producers is the impossibility of guaranteeing high quantities of product to critical stakeholders. This issue is solved through the smallholder-to-smallholder interface that allows the creation of homogeneous or heterogeneous consortia. ● Greater efficiency and sustainability in processes and the use of resources: The platform will provide a dashboard layer, characterized by multi-capital sustainability indicators, which will make it possible to monitor the performance of the agri-food chain under multiple scenarios, from the point of view of economic, environmental and social sustainability. ● Increase in mitigation capability: Unexpected crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic usually cause supply-side and demand-side disruptions, which need to be mitigated. The use of the SMALLDERS platform increases the resilience and mitigation capacity of smallholders in the face of the crisis. Supply-side disruptions (e.g., outbreaks among workers of small farmers) are limited as the platform facilitates supply-demand matching in the job market. Demand-side disruptions are limited by the possibility to create, through the SMALLDERS platform, new consortia that increase the bargaining power of smallholders. ● Increase profitability via either or both the reduction of production costs or/and the increase of quality: the SMALLDERS project will increase the profitability of smallholders thanks to the adoption of a number of enabling technologies including blockchain, web/mobile applications, intelligent assistants and knowledge navigators and simulation.

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