University of Oulu develops digitalisation of local food supply chains in sparsely populated areas
In sparsely populated areas the markets are thin, distances long and the population density is low. These factors hamper market-driven digital services and also make public services expensive. This makes it challenging to maintain services, which in turn can lead to declining of sparsely populated areas, and to a widening development gap between urban and sparsely populated areas. Technological and economic inequality is both a thorny political issue and a wider economic problem in Finland and internationally.
The AURORAL (Architecture for Unified Regional and Open digital ecosystems for Smart Communities and wider Rural Areas Large scale application) project develops digital solutions, infrastructure, business models and service platforms for sparsely populated areas. The aim is to pilot new service platforms and innovations and to find the most effective technical solutions, tools and approaches. The aim is to boost the local economy, increase business attraction, and make the areas more desirable for people to stay and make a living.
The AURORAL project's experiments - the demonstrators - will be located across Europe. In Finland, the focus will be on innovations and value chains in mobility and logistics. "The aim is to work with local actors to find cost-effective models of cooperation, even in sparsely populated areas," says Veikko Pekkala, University Teacher, who is the Project Manager of the AURORAL project.
"Finland is a pioneer in digital solutions. AURORAL is a great head start for EU research in many respects and fits perfectly into the profile of the University of Oulu: on one hand, developing new digital solutions and on the other hand, bringing these solutions into the everyday life of the local population," says Pekka Leviäkangas, Professor at the University of Oulu.
Local food delivered to people’s door for Christmas
The University of Oulu is conducting a pilot study in cooperation with the Lappia Vocational College. In Finland, the experiments will start by organising door-to-door deliveries of local food in the Tervola-Tornio-Kemi area for Christmas sales on two occasions before Christmas (14 December and 23 December). The ordered products are collected and packaged at the Lappia Vocational College's Loue school local food shop, and the packages are collected from there by a delivery company. The VASTE Service Platform for Low-carbon Logistics, which is part of the AURORAL project's digital platforms, is used to manage the deliveries. The data collected from the pilot will be analysed to define a business model and success factors for the collaborative model, which will be developed into a more cost-effective model for further trials in 2024.
"Agile delivery systems are key to developing the future of local local food production. Through this pilot, we are making products from local producers easily available to consumers. It's nice to be in the Christmas spirit for both producers and customers," says Anna-Riikka Lavia, project manager for the Christmas sales.
The AURORAL project involves 25 partners from all over Europe. It has a total budget of €16.4 million and an EU Commission grant of €14.6 million. The project will run from 2021 to 2024. The project will run pilots in sparsely populated areas across Europe on topics such as improving energy efficiency in detached houses (Sweden), producing heat from bioenergy (Spain), digital signage (Norway), providing "Mobility as a Service" solutions for tourists (Austria), smart farming and digital marketplaces for agricultural products (Portugal), school transport for children with special needs (Finland) and the use of drones for transport (Norway).