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Special Issue "Sustainability and Competitiveness of Farms"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Economic, Business and Management Aspects of Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 May 2016)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Filippo Sgroi

Department of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, University of Palermo, Piazza Marina, 61, 90133 Palermo, Italy
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +39-09123896615
Interests: agricultural economics; agricultural policy; food policy; management and accounting; management of the farms; energy policy; microeconomics; macroeconomics; macro-development; income inequality; political economy; public policies; natural resource economics; economics of fisheries; fisheries policy; innovation; economic growth and development; rural livelihoods; rural development policies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The economic recession that has hit the world economy in recent years has had a negative impact on the economic performance of enterprises, to which farms are no exception. The supply and demand of agricultural products have specific characteristics, as compared to other goods. The demand for agricultural products and foodstuffs is characterized by a low elasticity in terms of income and prices (Malassis L., Ghersi G., 1995). The offer is rather rigid in the short term and, in fact, the effect of a variation in the independent variable (i.e., price) on the dependent variable (i.e., quantity produced) is not instantaneous, but rather is spread out over a given time (Nerlove M. 1979; Saccomandi V., 1999). In light of these premises, businesses are compelled to redefine their production and marketing strategies. In fact, creating a competitive advantage for enterprises becomes crucial, not only for entrepreneurs, but even for the region in general for which companies constitute a vital source of employment and income. The farm is, in fact, the building block of socio-economic development of rural areas. This Special Issue is dedicated to publishing articles that analyze, in theoretical and methodological terms, just how agricultural enterprises may compete in the new scenarios of the current economic system, with the aim of strengthening the capabilities of rural areas and maintaining the economic viability of the agricultural sector.

Dr. Filippo Sgroi
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • agricultural policy
  • competitiveness
  • sustainability
  • cooperation
  • supply and demand of agricultural products
  • organization of labor in agriculture
  • use of water for irrigation
  • agro-energy
  • investment in agriculture

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle The Milk Supply Chain in Italy’s Umbria Region: Environmental and Economic Sustainability
Sustainability 2016, 8(8), 728; doi:10.3390/su8080728
Received: 31 May 2016 / Revised: 25 July 2016 / Accepted: 25 July 2016 / Published: 29 July 2016
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (1090 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This article aims to investigate the environmental and economic sustainability of five dairy farms in the Umbria Region (Italy). The study also provides an assessment of aggregate sustainability, which is less investigated with reference to cattle milk both globally and in Italy, through
[...] Read more.
This article aims to investigate the environmental and economic sustainability of five dairy farms in the Umbria Region (Italy). The study also provides an assessment of aggregate sustainability, which is less investigated with reference to cattle milk both globally and in Italy, through the analysis of the relationship between economic and environmental performance. Primary data were collected through a direct survey carried out in 2014. The environmental assessment was conducted with a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) “cradle to farm gate” approach, while the economic dimension was evaluated by determining the direct and indirect costs related to the factors involved in the production process. A correlation analysis and a linear regression were performed in order to study the relationship between the carbon footprint (CF) and operating income. The average operating income amounted to 0.03 Euro/L of milk. The CF values of the five companies are contained within a variation range comprised between 0.90 and 1.76 kg CO2 eq/L of milk. The existence of an inverse relationship between the CF of milk and operating income confirms the hypothesis regarding the possibility of implementing strategies aimed at improving performance in both investigated dimensions at the same time, thus increasing the aggregate sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability and Competitiveness of Farms)
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Open AccessArticle Competitiveness of Small Farms and Innovative Food Supply Chains: The Role of Food Hubs in Creating Sustainable Regional and Local Food Systems
Sustainability 2016, 8(7), 616; doi:10.3390/su8070616
Received: 17 May 2016 / Revised: 23 June 2016 / Accepted: 24 June 2016 / Published: 1 July 2016
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (309 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Over the last decades, the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the conventional agri-food system has and continues to be contested within both academic and public institutions. For small farms, the unsustainability of the food system is even more serious; farms’ declining share
[...] Read more.
Over the last decades, the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the conventional agri-food system has and continues to be contested within both academic and public institutions. For small farms, the unsustainability of the food system is even more serious; farms’ declining share of profit and the cost-price squeeze of commodity production has increased barriers to market access with the inevitable effect of agricultural abandonment. One way forward to respond to the existing conventional agri-food systems and to create a competitive or survival strategy for small family farms is the re-construction of regional and local agri-food systems, aligning with Kramer and Porter’s concept of shared value strategy. Through a critical literature review, this paper presents “regional and local food hubs” as innovative organizational arrangements capable of bridging structural holes in the agri-food markets between small producers and the consumers—individuals and families as well as big buyers. Food hubs respond to a supply chain (or supply network) organizational strategy aiming at re-territorialising the agri-food systems through the construction of what in the economic literature are defined as values-based food supply chains. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability and Competitiveness of Farms)
Open AccessArticle Urban Environment and Nature. A Methodological Proposal for Spaces’ Reconnection in an Ecosystem Function
Sustainability 2016, 8(4), 407; doi:10.3390/su8040407
Received: 28 March 2016 / Revised: 16 April 2016 / Accepted: 19 April 2016 / Published: 23 April 2016
PDF Full-text (4456 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Our main objective is to highlight the profound disconnect between natural and anthropic elements within urban areas, with particular reference to the morpho-functional dimensions of the urban and territorial pattern. Heterogeneity in the elements underpinning relations in urban environments, absent governing principles, predisposes
[...] Read more.
Our main objective is to highlight the profound disconnect between natural and anthropic elements within urban areas, with particular reference to the morpho-functional dimensions of the urban and territorial pattern. Heterogeneity in the elements underpinning relations in urban environments, absent governing principles, predisposes to conditions of widespread dysfunction and inefficiency in the modalities of anthropic utilization of the various contexts. As a result, the functions inherent to ecological and natural networks tend to be undermined, negatively impacting the environment. To this end, this paper proposes the adoption of ecoducts, on the one hand as a means to support planning and a measure aimed at reactivating the complex functions typical of urban environments and, on the other hand, as a two-way correlation between anthropic and ecological interactions at the territorial scale. Finally, the analysis of an Italian case study will highlight the potential of such instruments in terms of creating an integrated eco-systemic service, capable of significantly contributing to long-term improvement in the quality of life of urban systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability and Competitiveness of Farms)
Open AccessArticle Sustainability and Competitiveness of Agriculture in Mountain Areas: A Willingness to Pay (WTP) Approach
Sustainability 2016, 8(4), 343; doi:10.3390/su8040343
Received: 23 March 2016 / Revised: 4 April 2016 / Accepted: 5 April 2016 / Published: 7 April 2016
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (220 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
One of the most evident elements of the agricultural crisis is farm abandonment in many marginal rural areas, such as mountains. Some traits of mountain agriculture such as remoteness, low productivity, extreme weather and small farm size, can limit the adaptation and the
[...] Read more.
One of the most evident elements of the agricultural crisis is farm abandonment in many marginal rural areas, such as mountains. Some traits of mountain agriculture such as remoteness, low productivity, extreme weather and small farm size, can limit the adaptation and the competitiveness of this branch. The analysis aims to assess the consumers’ Willingness to Pay (WTP) for permanence of the upland farms and mountain pastures, by a Contingent Valuation analysis. The main results are that a WTP for the redevelopment of the pastures exists and that the personal characteristics of the sample are more influential than the opinions of the individuals on WTP. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that consumers seem to prefer an agricultural orientation of the upland farms rather than a touristic one. In the conclusion section, some policy guidelines are proposed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability and Competitiveness of Farms)
Open AccessArticle Economic Sustainability of Organic Aloe Vera Farming in Greece under Risk and Uncertainty
Sustainability 2016, 8(4), 338; doi:10.3390/su8040338
Received: 17 February 2016 / Revised: 28 March 2016 / Accepted: 30 March 2016 / Published: 6 April 2016
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (4566 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
During the last decade, an encouraging environment for the restructuring and modernization of the agricultural sector has formed in Greece. The diversification into higher-value crops can be a promising option for small and average-sized farms, particularly during the current economic crisis. One of
[...] Read more.
During the last decade, an encouraging environment for the restructuring and modernization of the agricultural sector has formed in Greece. The diversification into higher-value crops can be a promising option for small and average-sized farms, particularly during the current economic crisis. One of the most promising alternative crops that have been recently established in Greece is the organic Aloe vera crop. The main advantage of this crop is that it can utilize poor farmlands and, therefore, can facilitate rural development in marginal areas. This study explores the economic sustainability of the Aloe vera crop, considering the embedded risk and uncertainty. The results indicate that organic aloe farming is a promising alternative to “traditional” crops in Greece, particularly for family farms in rural areas. In contrast, this activity is not advisable to the most entrepreneurial type of farmers, unless their crop size allows economies of scales. Finally, the Stochastic Efficiency with Respect to a Function (SERF) analysis associates farmers’ risk attitude with their willingness to be involved in organic Aloe vera farming. SERF analysis highlights the crucial role of farmers’ risk aversion and concludes that, above a certain level of risk aversion, farmers have no incentive to adopt this economic activity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability and Competitiveness of Farms)
Open AccessArticle Organizing the Co-Production of Health and Environmental Values in Food Production: The Constitutional Processes in the Relationships between Italian Solidarity Purchasing Groups and Farmers
Sustainability 2016, 8(4), 316; doi:10.3390/su8040316
Received: 29 November 2015 / Revised: 18 March 2016 / Accepted: 24 March 2016 / Published: 30 March 2016
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (991 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The paper focuses on the Solidarity Purchasing Group (SPG), defined as a group of households that establishes an organization primarily to provide food to its members. The study aims at illustrating and testing two hypotheses. The first is that within the group, specific
[...] Read more.
The paper focuses on the Solidarity Purchasing Group (SPG), defined as a group of households that establishes an organization primarily to provide food to its members. The study aims at illustrating and testing two hypotheses. The first is that within the group, specific organizational processes take place according to which food communication practices determine the resource use objectives. The second hypothesis is the SPG tends to assign larger values to health and environmental protection than other resource use objectives. These hypotheses concern the ranking of the resource use objectives managed by the group. The idea is that an SPG defines the resource uses according to the specific group’s objectives and by means of organizational tools, especially the food communication practices. For testing purposes, we conducted an empirical analysis by submitting an online questionnaire to 900 Italian SPGs. The results firstly indicate that the organizational dimensions of SPGs, including the relationships between SPGs and farmers, influence the group objectives, providing empirical evidence that supports the first hypothesis. Moreover, the test of the second hypothesis indicates that group objectives concerning health and environmental protection are particularly valued by the SPGs. We then conclude that the groups are aimed at co-producing health and environmental protection with public authorities. We then underlined limits of the study and potential future research paths. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability and Competitiveness of Farms)
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Open AccessArticle Sustainability and Competitiveness of Romanian Farms through Organic Agriculture
Sustainability 2016, 8(3), 245; doi:10.3390/su8030245
Received: 14 October 2015 / Revised: 29 February 2016 / Accepted: 1 March 2016 / Published: 7 March 2016
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (1094 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Currently, the development of any sector involves respecting the principles of sustainability, which means economic, social and environmental development. Moreover, organic farming is a very important field for ensuring sustainable development. Romania has great potential for the development of organic agriculture, especially due
[...] Read more.
Currently, the development of any sector involves respecting the principles of sustainability, which means economic, social and environmental development. Moreover, organic farming is a very important field for ensuring sustainable development. Romania has great potential for the development of organic agriculture, especially due to the large number of available farmland and reduced use of fertilizers and other chemicals. However, the development of organic farming in Romania is in an early stage, due to the numerous problems that Romanian agriculture is still facing. Concern for the environment should be reflected at the level of production processes and consumption. As market demand influences and stimulates production, we can ask the question to what extent stimulating the consumption of organic products through green marketing can boost organic agriculture development and competitiveness of Romanian farms. Using several methods of research, such as analysis, synthesis, comparison, statistical methods and by calling on studies, reports and data series on organic farming in the EU and Romania, this paper highlights Romania's position in terms of the level of development of organic agriculture and recommends several ways to improve the outcomes obtained by Romania in the field. Moreover, based on regression equations, the trend of convergence of Romanian organic agriculture development in relation to the EU countries is analysed. The paper demonstrates that one of the measures that can be taken by Romanian farms is green marketing strategy development that can stimulate both consumption and production of organic products. Therefore, with increasing interest in the development of organic agriculture in Romania, green marketing can play an increasingly important role in promoting the benefits of consuming organic products, thus contributing to business development of organic products as well as to the development of Romanian agriculture. Promoting organic agriculture through the use of green marketing techniques is useful for improving human, environmental and economic health, in the context of sustainable development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability and Competitiveness of Farms)
Open AccessArticle Agricultural Tractor Selection: A Hybrid and Multi-Attribute Approach
Sustainability 2016, 8(2), 157; doi:10.3390/su8020157
Received: 9 January 2016 / Accepted: 3 February 2016 / Published: 6 February 2016
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (238 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Usually, agricultural tractor investments are assessed using traditional economic techniques that only involve financial attributes, resulting in reductionist evaluations. However, tractors have qualitative and quantitative attributes that must be simultaneously integrated into the evaluation process. This article reports a hybrid and multi-attribute approach
[...] Read more.
Usually, agricultural tractor investments are assessed using traditional economic techniques that only involve financial attributes, resulting in reductionist evaluations. However, tractors have qualitative and quantitative attributes that must be simultaneously integrated into the evaluation process. This article reports a hybrid and multi-attribute approach to assessing a set of agricultural tractors based on AHP-TOPSIS. To identify the attributes in the model, a survey including eighteen attributes was given to agricultural machinery salesmen and farmers for determining their importance. The list of attributes was presented to a decision group for a case of study, and their importance was estimated using AHP and integrated into the TOPSIS technique. In this case, one tractor was selected from a set of six alternatives, integrating six attributes in the model: initial cost, annual maintenance cost, liters of diesel per hour, safety of the operator, maintainability and after-sale customer service offered by the supplier. Based on the results obtained, the model can be considered easy to apply and to have good acceptance among farmers and salesmen, as there are no special software requirements for the application. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability and Competitiveness of Farms)
Open AccessArticle Sequential Relationship between Profitability and Sustainability: The Case of Migratory Beekeeping
Sustainability 2016, 8(1), 94; doi:10.3390/su8010094
Received: 10 November 2015 / Revised: 8 January 2016 / Accepted: 12 January 2016 / Published: 19 January 2016
PDF Full-text (189 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
When beekeeping is managed on a migratory basis, the bee colony produces physical outputs (honey) and pollination services on a sequence of forage sites. Forage sites are competitors if their flowering periods overlap, and are complementary otherwise. Viable sequences consist only of complementary
[...] Read more.
When beekeeping is managed on a migratory basis, the bee colony produces physical outputs (honey) and pollination services on a sequence of forage sites. Forage sites are competitors if their flowering periods overlap, and are complementary otherwise. Viable sequences consist only of complementary forage sites. A part of the bee colony’s production time is spent on each forage site in the period when the crop or wild vegetation covering it is in flower. The total period covered by the sequence of sites, including the base site, must be equal to or less than the duration (365 days) of the bee colony’s annual biological cycle. The migratory beekeeper draws up viable sequences of forage sites and calculates their profitability levels. Variations in the profitability of forage sites which alter the composition of the sequence, affecting provision of the non-marketed ecosystem pollination services, impact the biodiversity of the pollinated plants with trickle-down effects on sustainability. In the case of migratory beekeeping, there is, therefore, a sequential relationship between profitability and sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability and Competitiveness of Farms)
Open AccessArticle Stand-Alone Solar Organic Rankine Cycle Water Pumping System and Its Economic Viability in Nepal
Sustainability 2016, 8(1), 18; doi:10.3390/su8010018
Received: 30 October 2015 / Revised: 7 December 2015 / Accepted: 21 December 2015 / Published: 24 December 2015
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (5055 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The current study presents the concept of a stand-alone solar organic Rankine cycle (ORC) water pumping system for rural Nepalese areas. Experimental results for this technology are presented based on a prototype. The economic viability of the system was assessed based on solar
[...] Read more.
The current study presents the concept of a stand-alone solar organic Rankine cycle (ORC) water pumping system for rural Nepalese areas. Experimental results for this technology are presented based on a prototype. The economic viability of the system was assessed based on solar radiation data of different Nepalese geographic locations. The mechanical power produced by the solar ORC is coupled with a water pumping system for various applications, such as drinking and irrigation. The thermal efficiency of the system was found to be 8% with an operating temperature of 120 °C. The hot water produced by the unit has a temperature of 40 °C. Economic assessment was done for 1-kW and 5-kW solar ORC water pumping systems. These systems use different types of solar collectors: a parabolic trough collector (PTC) and an evacuated tube collector (ETC). The economic analysis showed that the costs of water are $2.47/m3 (highest) and $1.86/m3 (lowest) for the 1-kW system and a 150-m pumping head. In addition, the cost of water is reduced when the size of the system is increased and the pumping head is reduced. The minimum volumes of water pumped are 2190 m3 and 11,100 m3 yearly for 1 kW and 5 kW, respectively. The payback period is eight years with a profitability index of 1.6. The system is highly feasible and promising in the context of Nepal. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability and Competitiveness of Farms)
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