Black swans and risks in agrifood chains

Environmental and socio-economic conditions are changing at an unprecedented rate and scale, largely as a result of massive anthropogenic activity in combination with radical technological and institutional change. This creates novel and potentially severe strains for agrifood systems. Many of the changes are non-linear and involve unknown and complex feedback mechanisms acting across systems and levels of organization. A particular change of concern is of the Black Swan type: highly improbable but with potentially extreme impact.

Due to its very nature, the occurrence of Black Swans is usually unpredicted despite the existence of information warning of them. The impact of past Black Swans (such as the rise of the internet and the September 11 attack) has drawn considerable attention to Black Swan type of risk in various domains of research. This has however not been the case in research on agrifood chains. There is thus an urgent need for research devoted to understanding the extent to which agrifood systems are resilient to changes of the Black Swan type, to what extent they can adapt or transform in response to such changes, and to develop means of identifying critical tipping points. And identify strategies that leverage the supply chains resilience in case of occurrence of Black Swans. 

This research aims to enhance the knowledge basis and toolbox of WUR research on the resilience of agrifood chains with special attention to Black Swan type of changes.  The results should contribute to the acquisition of future WUR research in this area.