FarmDESIGN is a software that couples a bio-economical farm model that evaluates the productive, economic and environmental farm performance, to a multi-objective optimization algorithm that generates a large set of Pareto-optimal alternative farm configurations.  

Bioversity International researchers and scientists have developed three new modules related to budget, labour, and human nutrition for the FarmDESIGN software. The expanded model positions the farming enterprise within the farm household. The new modules increase the scope for modelling flows of resources (namely cash, labour, and food) between the farm enterprise and the farm household, as well as beyond the farm gate. This allows conducting modelling explorations, optimization routines, and scenario analyses in farming systems research. 

The Bioversity International-developed model is used to sustainably increase production, improve diets, and improve livelihoods for smallholder farmers who often fall short of nutritional needs. The expanded model now positions the farming enterprise within the farm household, and includes productive, economic, environmental, social, and nutrition related indicators at the farm–- household level. These changes increase the scope of FarmDESIGN's applicability for modelling farming systems where resources (namely cash, labour, and food) flow between the farm enterprise and the farm household, as well as beyond the farm gate. 

Results achieved

Using the expanded FarmDESIGN model with two farm households in Vietnam, we found that the household budget, labour, and nutrition modules extended the model's usefulness by allowing us to identify and explain trade-offs and synergies between resource allocation and farm household objectives. Our results indicated that several trade-offs exist between different household objectives on the two modelled farms, providing a micro-scale perspective into the insights of Kanter et al. (2018), who synthesized trade-offs at multiple spatial scales. These results suggest specific nuances that need considering when examining trade-offs and synergies at the farm–household scale. They also show that interactions between different components of the farm household may affect labour requirements and food availability. 

Next steps/variations

Bioversity International scientists in collaboration with the scientist from Farming Systems Ecology group of Wageningen University & Research have developed a conceptual approach and a method which connects global to a farm level analysis. It integrates two simulation models – an economic global model, the IMPACT model, with FarmDESIGN. 

The integrated IMPACT – FarmDESIGN method can be applied to assess synergies and trade-offs between crop diversity conservation, nutrition, environmental protection and human nutrition considering possible future scenarios in the variety of sites and large-scale scenarios. 

The integrated IMPACT – FarmDESIGN method improves understanding of the motivation of farmers to practice mono-cropped systems versus biodiverse systems and design adequate policies. Our results can be also useful for farmers to help design their farms in a way that would better meet their complex needs. 

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