Thesis subject

Digital Twins for Quality-Controlled Supply Chains of Food and Flowers

The Food and Flowers sector is a challenging domain from a supply chain management perspective. It needs advanced control systems that can deal with perishable products, unpredictable supply variations and stringent food safety and sustainability requirements. Digital Twins are a promising approach to meet these challenges.
Digital Twins are at an early stage in supply chains of food and flowers. Until now the focus is very much on enabling technologies, such as the Internet of Things, Machine Learning and Real-time Simulation, but not on how Digital Twins can be used for planning and control at a supply chain level. To gain a maximum profit, Digital Twins need to be properly embedded into supply chain management and aligned with business processes.

Level: MSc

Research area/discipline: Software Engineering


Short description:

A Digital Twin is a digital equivalent of a real-life object of which it mirrors its behaviour and states over its lifetime in a virtual space. Using Digital Twins as a central means for supply chain management enables the decoupling of physical flows from its planning and control. As a consequence, supply chain operations can be remotely controlled based on (near) real-time digital information instead of having to rely on direct observation and manual tasks on-site. This allows supply chain managers to act immediately in case of (expected) quality deviations and to simulate effects of interventions based on real-life data.


    The main objective of this research, which may comprise multiple thesis projects, is to investigate the implications of virtualization on food and flowers supply chain management. It especially aims to study how Digital Twins can advance quality management of perishable food and flowers along the supply chain. Specific research questions to be addressed are numerous and may include:

    • What are existing applications of Digital Twins in food and flower supply chains? What are the application areas, which issues do they face and which opportunities do they identify?
    • How can Digital Twin-based systems be designed for quality-controlled based supply chains?
    • What would be good graphical user interfaces of Digital Twins? How can Augmented Reality contribute to the adoption of Digital Twins in food and flowers?
    • How to develop and implement Proof of Concept systems of Digital Twins? This subject is appropriate for thesis projects in collaboration with companies that are active in the food, agriculture, horticulture or software business.

      Required skills/knowledge:

      Relevant literature:

      • Grieves, M.; Vickers, J. Digital twin: Mitigating unpredictable, undesirable emergent behavior in complex systems. In Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Complex Systems: New Findings and Approaches; Kahlen, F.-J., Flumerfelt, S., Alves, A., Eds.; Springer: Berlin/Heidelberg, Germany, 2016; pp. 85–113.
      • Verdouw, C. N., J. Wolfert, A. J. M. Beulens, and A. Rialland, ‘Virtualization of food supply chains with the internet of things’, J. Food Eng., vol. 176, pp. 128–136, 2016.

      For more information:

      Cor Verdouw (