Thorough analysis of a feedstock supply chain requires a holistic system analysis that includes facility location optimization, supply chain cost analytics, and robust uncertainty analysis. End users like the producers, biorefineries, and investors need the ability to conduct these analysis using readily available software that allows the users to enter and modify their own parameter estimates to evaluate cost and profit predictions for new operations or modifying existing operations. A major challenge in these markets is the dynamic optimization of production, harvest, packaging, storage, transport, and pre-processing logistics. Market variables, such as feedstock availability, product value, product demand, and operating costs, can fluctuate based on environmental, political, and economic factors.
A holistic, multi-crop, cradle-to-grave software system is not readily available for bioenergy and bioproduct industries. Many of the previous models are presented as mathematical programming models using specialized software programs. Software that can generate techno-economic information, conduct robust sensitivity analysis of critical factors, and do so for the entire supply chain would help make bioenergy and bioproducts industries more competitive.
Dr. Rodney Holcomb, Professor of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University (OSU), collaborated with Dr. Michael Buser, Program Leader for Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Sciences at USDA-ARS, Maryland, and Dr. Bill Carter, State Director, OK Small Business Development Center to develop and test a publicly accessible Software as a Service (SaaS) platform using OSU’s Geospatial Logistics and Agricultural Decision Integration System (GLADIS) that can generate economic decision information based on user inputs from multiple databases and existing agricultural models.
“We modified GLADIS coding to better protect the viability of the system and to ensure access to the program by users. We also integrated revised modules to see how well the revised GLADIS system performed regressions with user-identified data and both user- and administrator-defined modules,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb’s research group developed an integrated modeling framework for holistic data analysis informed by stakeholder input that links current feedstock growth, financial, sustainability, and environmental models. “The framework uses collected data and provides opportunities for stakeholders to either use these developed models or modify these models to fit their intended needs,” Holcomb said.
Researchers also synthesized existing information to accommodate improved understanding of biofacility logistics modeling and guidelines for implementing this knowledge to produce more profitable bioindustries. “The user-friendly modeling system is fully functional,” Holcomb said. “We will continue our efforts to make this online decision tool be publicly available making it easier for bioproduct/bioenergy researchers and stakeholders to perform risk analyses for entire bioprocessing chains under varying scenarios.”
The online decision tool does make it easier for interested parties to easily measure whole-chain system impacts with changes in farming, transportation, and/or processing technologies. This was evident in the work of Heydi Calderón-Ambelis, Holcomb’s graduate student, who presented a paper on “Economic analysis of Oklahoma’s potential as a bioenergy producer based on the optimization of a blended lignocellulosic biomass feedstock” at the recent Agricultural and Applied Economics Association Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.
Funding of this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through the South Central Sun Grant Program.