Category Archives: EURO-Working Group ORAFM

EURO working group on Operational Research in Agriculture and Forest Management

OR 4 Sustainability?

    Sustainability! Cometh the hour, cometh the Operational Researcher?

Daniel L. Sandars, Ian Frommer, Carlos R. García-Alonso, & Lluis Plà

OR50 is a landmark conference. During WWII many professionals and academics, from multiple disciplines, where hurled together to work on the problems of war. Out of the multi-disciplinary soup came interdisciplinary creativity. A new discipline was born. Its name was Operational Research.

Today, the problems faced by society from unsustainable economic development, such as climate change, have been described as a greater threat than anything we have faced in living memory.

Due believe the sustainability will have a profund influence on OR (or vice versa)

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1) We have come along way since the word sustainability first started doing the rounds. At first it was uncomfortably hard to use, but since then we have all operationalised it to mean what is convenient. It now means everything and thus nothing. What does it need to mean to work?

2) One argument put forward by economists is that it is cheaper to react when the threat is upon us, if at all, because by then we will be smarter and richer. After all, the OR profession rose to the challenge of WWII without long-term strategic capacity building research. Shall we join our funders and sit back and wait?

3) In any case it is all the fault of OR and its narrow pursuit of profit maximisation. What we need is a new interdisciplinary decision science built around morality and social choice. Is it Evolution or Revolution that we need?

4) Ecosystems are dynamic and non-steady state, but economist’s favoured planning models are static. Ecosystems are highly spatially heterogeneous, but planning models are highly homogenous. Never the twain shall meet?

An additional contribution for Ian (OR4Green)
1. Green Fad?
The Energy Crisis of the 1970s led to changes in behavior (smaller, more fuel efficient cars became more prevalent) and funding for alternative energy, energy efficiency, and the like increased. Over time, interest and investment in these responses waned as fuel prices settled down, only to re-emerge recently. Will the current crisis exhibit the same short-term impact only to fade in time, or will it be more lasting?

2. The Short-Term Versus the Long Term
Is it better to change all of our light bulbs today to CFCs to save electricity but increase the amount of mercury in our land-fills, or should we wait until LEDs, which are as energy efficient but lack mercury, become more affordable and wide-spread? Was corn-based ethanol for fuel a huge mistake? Many believe it can at best only make a small contribution to fuel needs, while negatively impacting food supplies and prices, and that it may require more energy to produce than it yields.

3. Quantifying Green
Given two options for completing a task, comparing their monetary costs may be straightforward, but comparing their environmental “friendliness” can be much more difficult. How can the subjectivity of energy/environmental choices be quantified in a way that allows ranking?

4. A Page from Dr. Chapman’s Book
Suppose that in the absence of any human-made impacts, and due entirely to natural processes well beyond our control, it turns out that the Earth’s mean temperature will drop 50 degrees over the next 200 years. What should we do to counter this? What should we do about global warming gases that we are currently emitting? (See for example, the comments of Australian physicist and former astronaut Dr. Phil Chapman.)

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W(h)ither strategic applied OR?

The fate of strategic applied OR; W(h)ither Agriculture, Horticulture, Forestry, Fisheries, etc! Or w(h)ither not?

Lluis Plà, & Daniel L Sandars, Javier Faulin

There is long term economic decline in the biotic primary production industries as sources of employment and thus students. Globalisation adds its toll as the food chain concentrates into control by few multi-national companies. Long-term capacity building research investments are out of fashion in many national governments.

Do you believe this scenario is realistic

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Given this scenario do you believe it has important implications for the OR community

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1) Through farmers and fishermen society access many increasingly scarce ecosystems services, such as bio-diversity and clean water. Society doesn’t expect to pay so OR will not pay?
2) World population might yet hit 9 billion with many of our lives. For the first time in a generation food security has been thrown into question in the developed world. Are we back in business?
3) In the absence of a strong strategic governmental lead can the large companies with their vast data and financial resource take up the slack? That’ll never work, beyond some short term-tactical profit-maximising studies, with no regard to societal interests? Perhaps consumers and farmers will be king!
4) It maybe that it is supra-national organisations such as multi-nationals, the FAO or the EC to take the lead? That’ll never work because agriculture is so spatially heterogeneous and needs local knowledge?
5) When the last agricultural student has left university we will simply get applied biologists and mathematicians to collaborate. Rubbish! Multi-disciplinary collaboration does not lead to good interdisciplinary science?
6) Are e-tools and open-access journals the answer to maintaining critical mass and vitality in an increasingly sparse profession without the support of dedicated university departments and research establishments?

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ORAFM Launch their e-newsletter

orafm logo

Dear ORAFM member,
it is a pleasure to announce the launchment of our

Click NewsLetter

It is an internal document edited by/for the members of the group to keep
us informed of the MOST important NEWS concerning us (as ORAFM group).

At a glance, you’ll see the latest news. In this first number, the
preparation of the stream within OR50, the meeting of the group and the
EURO Summer Institute in 2009. Don’t miss it!
Best wishes,

L.M. Plà
Coordinator of the EURO WG ORAFM

PS. It intends also to avoid multiple emails giving redundant
informations. We plan to edit one each one or two months. All of you can
contribute sending to the editorial team your comments and news.

OR 50 Discounted Attendence Rates

Members of the Operational Research Society and proven Members of affiliated EURO national OR Societies ( can claim discounted fees of around 20%. 

Students recieve a discount of c. 70% 

Also see the very restricted Assisted Places Scheme with deadline of 30th June

Call for papers OR50 (York 9-11 Sept 2008)

 The Operational Research SocietyAgriculture and natural resources stream

This is both a call for papers for a stream at OR50 (see attached) and an invitation to help relaunch this OR society special interest group.
An initiative is underway to rejuvenate interest in this topical area which also involves prominent Operational Research professionals Eric Audsley (Cranfield University) and Tahir Rehman (Reading University). In this endeavour we are strategically collaborating with Lluis Plà (University of Lleida), the coordinator of EWG-ORAFM (EURO working group on Operational Research in Agriculture and Forest Management)
Our scope aims to encapsulate the management of all of the biotic primary production industries (agriculture, forestry, fisheries, etc) and their underpinning natural resources (soils, water, ecosystems, etc), at policy, strategic and tactical levels. This definition includes the production of goods and [ecosystem] services as well as their related chains or webs of secondary industries and logistics. It is application orientated and not restricted to any particular method. Some of these methods will, of necessity, have been applied in a very innovative manner.Additionally, the governance and management of these industries place this area at the vanguard of operational research’s contribution to sustainability. We offer a platform for those working on such issues.


Papers can be accepted for presentation at any stage before the conference, but bear in mind these dates to obtain maximum impact and publicity.

  1. As Soon As Possible submit a working title and authors
  2. By 25th April submit a finalized title and authors for inclusion in the invitational programme
  3. By 1st July submit a finalized 250 word abstract for the conference handbook


Abstracts are submitted via the OR society’s website

Attendence fees are discuounted to members of the Operational Research society and to the affiliated societies within EURO

In addition to meeting at OR50 a relaunch event is planned for February 2009. Send expressions of interest in this special interest group to Daniel Sandars, Cranfield University, e-mail




Proceedings of the 3rd EWG-ORAFM meeting

Title:  Proceedings of the Third Meeting of the EURO Working Group on Operational Research (OR) in Agriculture and Forest Management (EWG-ORAFM)
Authors:  Plà, L. M.
Sandars, D. L.
Issue Date:  8-Jul-2007
Abstract:  This working group, which is concerned with operational research methods and applications to agricultural science in its broad meaning (i.e. including Forest Management and Fisheries), was formed in 2003 within the European Association of Operational Research Societies (EURO). The first meeting of the group was held at the former Silsoe Research Institute in 2004. The group intends to have regular meetings in Europe at approximately yearly intervals, usually within the EURO Conferences. However, the next meeting will be held in 2008 within the British Operational Research Society’s OR50 conference in York, followed by the EURO XXIII conference in Bonn in 2009 and the EURO XXIV conference in Lisbon in 2010. The third meeting of the working group; chaired by Dr L. M. Plà of the University of Lleida, with the assistance of D. L. Sandars of Cranfield University, and organised as a stream within the XXII EURO Conference; was held at the University of Economics in Prague from 8th-11th July 2007 where the following papers were read in a set of 10 sessions.





The editor’s final copy is available for download from Cranfield University’s pre-print server

journal coverThese proceedings have been accepted for publication later this year by the Journal of Agricultural Science, Cambridge