A Mobile Solution for Logistics Management in a Mushroom Supply Chain

Mushrooms are a rich source of nutrition and are often used in health foods. Mushroom farming can be done in any enclosed space but requires a temperature and humidity controlled environment for obtaining high yields. The entire process of mushroom cultivation from the preparation of spawn runs to distribution of the finished product requires logistics support to handle perishable raw materials as well as perishable end product. For this reason, mushrooms are primarily cultivated and processed in geographical clusters which are close to the markets.Mushrooms are a rich source of nutrition and are often used in health foods. Mushroom farming can be done in any enclosed space but requires a temperature and humidity controlled environment for obtaining high yields. The entire process of mushroom cultivation from the preparation of spawn runs to distribution of the finished product requires logistics support to handle perishable raw materials as well as perishable end product. For this reason, mushrooms are primarily cultivated and processed in geographical clusters which are close to the markets.

The management of the mushroom supply chain is a complex task since mushrooms have a short shelf-life after production. Once mushrooms are plucked, sorted and packaged for delivery they must be delivered to the market within a few hours since the quality of mushrooms degrades very rapidly after harvesting. Small farmers may not have the necessary infrastructure for processing and packaging which is generally be done at nearby production centres where aggregation takes place. Hence, mushroom farming is generally done in regions which are close to the markets.

In such a scenario, the role of logistics in transporting fresh produce to the retail markets or even end consumers is critical to the success of the mushroom business. Procurement of raw material (inbound logistics) in the form of harvested mushrooms as well as the distribution of mushrooms from production centres (outbound logistics) plays a vital role because of the perishable nature of the finished product. This situation warrants a dynamic procurement and distribution strategy.

A mobile technology based solution which models the typical mushroom supply chain and tracks distribution in real-time through a workflow based system has been developed. A multi-objective location-routing model with fractional and linear objectives is deployed to solve the procurement and supply problems in the mushroom supply chain. In the first stage of routing, a feasible solution is provided through TSP transformation and solving it through LIFO implicit enumeration and back-tracking, and this is further improved by a heuristic in the second stage. While the initial route provided to the trucker is a static route, service requests can occur along the route which may necessitate the calculation of a fresh route for the remainder portion of the route. This is feasible in our solution because the trucker has access to information that allows the remainder of the route to be recomputed at the back-end server and the new static route is provided to the trucker.