Research Projects

Information regarding bachelor’s and master’s theses / research projects

Currently, we are supervising bachelor’s and master’s theses as well as research projects on the following topics. Interested students can contact us by email at luisa.menapace[at] In the email, please, specify which topic you are interested in and attach your CV and university records. 

Area #1: Understanding quality and measuring preference for quality

Topic #1: What is the economic rationale for agri-food enterprises to pursue dual quality strategies within the Single Market?

‘Dual quality’ can be defined as the supply of food products in different varieties/grades without providing consumers information that are sufficient to detect and understand the differences among the varieties/grades. Dual quality occurs when “goods [are] marketed in the Single Market under the same brand or trademark but with differences in content, composition or quality in individual EU Member States” (EC 2017/C 327/01). The main concern is that “in some parts of Europe, people are sold food of lower quality than in other countries, despite the packaging and branding being identical” (President Jean-Claude Juncker's State of the Union Address 2017).

This study investigates the economic rationale for agri-food firm to produce and sell products with a different (i.e. dual) quality in different EU member countries.

Main activities: review of scientific literature; development of a conceptual framework based on industrial organization theory to illustrate the issue.

Area #2: Governance and quality (in developed countries)

Topic #1: Inducing honest reporting when the truth is unknown: An application to Unfair Trading Practices in business-to-business transactions

Recent work has investigated how to induce honesty when eliciting opinions from experts when there is no observable truth. Among these are scoring methods that assess the ‘honesty’ level of a response based on implications of Bayesian reasoning or on pairwise comparisons between reports of experts. An example of such methods is the Bayesian Truth Serum for subjective data published in Science in 2004. While these methods, based on complex theorems and mathematics, have been shown to work in theory, applications to real word problems are still rare.

In this project, we will apply such methods to the occurrence of Unfair Trading Practices in business-to-business transactions.

Main activities: review of scientific literature on methods to induce truthful reporting of private information; development of a questionnaire to interview experts.

Topic #2: Toward developing a theory of governance for the agri-food sector

Gereffi et al (2005) develop a theoretical framework to describe the governance of global value chains. They identify three factors that determine global value chain governance: (i) the complexity of information; (ii) the extent to which this information can be codified; (iii) the capabilities of actual and potential suppliers. Based on these three factors they identify three type of governance structures that are between the market and hierarchy: Modular, Relational and Captive value chains.

In this project, we will address the following questions:

·   How well do these governance forms describe value chains in the agri-food sector?

·   Are there other critical factors that determine the governance of a value chain in the agri-food sector?

Main activities: literature review and development of a conceptual framework.

Reference: Gereffi, Gary, John Humphrey, and Timothy Sturgeon. "The governance of global value chains." Review of international political economy 12.1 (2005): 78-104.

Topic #3: What are the impacts of Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) on the Lake Constance apple supply chain?

The issue of Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) in the food supply chain has assumed considerable importance within the European Union in recent years. The European Commission defined UTPs as practices that grossly deviate from good commercial conduct and are contrary to good faith and fair dealing. UTPs can exist from any side of the business-to-business (B2B) relationship and can occur at any stage of the contractual relationship: during negotiations, when the contract is performed, or can be imposed in the post-contractual phase.

This study investigates the effects of UTPs on the Lake Constance apple supply chain.

Main activities: Identification and review of relevant scientific literature; interviews and qualitative analyses; development of a conceptual framework

Topic #4: What qualifies food products for Geographical Indications?

In the EU, producer groups who apply for protection of a Geographical Indication (GI) need to explain the nature of the link between the geographical area of production and the quality of the product. While this seems like a simple concept, in practice it is not straightforward to understand the meaning of “quality” and which geographically-related factors are used by producer groups to substantiate the existence of “the link”.

A content analysis of the “Single Documents” can be conducted to provide insights into the following questions:

·     What is quality for GIs?

·     Which factors determine the link between quality and geography for GIs?

This analysis could provide insights that are necessary to advance research efforts concerning GIs. For example, we might discover how to rank GIs in terms of their quality requirements.

Main activities: Collection of “Single Documents” for a given group of GIs and content analysis and development of a conceptual framework.


Area #3: Agribusiness in developing countries

Topic #1: Value chain financing

Several cheap, innovative tools are being promoted to improve the financial inclusion of smallholder farmers in developing countries. One such tool is agricultural value chain financing. Value chain mechanisms and dynamics such as contracts with retailers, warehouse receipts and relationships between farmers and retailers are increasingly being leveraged to promote the financial inclusion of smallholders. Other potential value chain mechanisms however exist.

Similarly, the extent to which these mechanisms can promote access to financial services remains unknown. Value chain financing mechanisms are still ad-hoc processes in their nascent stages. Their acceptance by formal financial institutions is essential towards ensuring smallholders gain access to financial instruments.

This project attempts to identify all value chain financing mechanisms. The project will highlight the context and pathways through which these mechanisms can improve financial inclusion. This project will also examine how to establish value chain financing as an acceptable tool in financial lending.

Main activities: Literature review of different case studies on value chain financing to identify and classify value chain financing mechanisms. Construct a conceptual framework based on conditional process modelling. Develop a questionnaire to be administered in a household survey. Evaluate various scientific and management models for institutionalising new technologies (for example, capability maturity models, process models). Develop a questionnaire and guide for expert interviews

Topic #2: Smallholder farmers access to high-value markets and production efficiency

A popular contemporary strategy to improve the welfare of farmers hinges on facilitating their participation in supermarkets and modern high-value agrifood markets. In literature, ample empirical studies have investigated the benefits of transitioning to high-value markets on the incomes and revenue of smallholder farmers. Considerable gaps in the empirical literature concerning production efficiency and access to high-value markets underscores the minimal attention paid towards how entry into modern agrifood markets affects the technical and allocative efficiency of smallholder farmers.  

This project examines how entry into high-value markets has and can improve the efficiency of smallholders, thereby informing the nature and delivery of extension services to smallholders.

Main activities: Literature review to identify pathways through which participation in high-value markets influences production efficiency. Develop a conceptual framework highlighting these pathways. Econometric estimation of primary data collected from smallholder farmers in Kenya.

Topic #3: The role of cooperatives in facilitating access to high-value markets: a look at horticultural crops

Organising smallholders towards collective action have historically been successful in generating economies of scale that offsets structural production disadvantages associated with small-scale farming. These successes underline the global popularity of farmers groups and cooperatives. Contextual factors, including the type of crops cultivated by group members, determine the nature of cooperatives and their effectiveness. Compared to staple and cash crops, several issues raise the costs of establishing cooperatives for horticultural crops. Perishability and technical expertise needed to produce high-quality horticultural crops exemplify some of these issues. Identifying strategies to build and maintain successful horticultural cooperatives is central towards facilitating smallholders access to high-value markets and improving their economic situation.  This is important because the majority of smallholders in developing countries, especially women, cultivate horticultural crops.

This study answers the following research questions:

·     What are the determinants of successful cooperatives and farmers groups?

·     How does the nature of horticultural crops affect the ability of smallholders to establish successful cooperative organisations?

·      Which strategies are needed to establish and maintain effective horticultural cooperatives?

Main activities: Review of empirical literature on collective action and collective action groups. Develop a conceptual framework from the findings to be informed by collective action theory.


Please, contact us for details on specific research project topics
or to share with us your own ideas for a research project.

Examples of past projects:

Iulia Banescu/Shtefi Mladenovska/Triantafyllia Starova
    "The influence of consumer preferences on the governance of the apple value chain
     (BayWa and Melinda case studies)"

Oreoluwa Ola
The impact of PES on poverty: a critical review"

Anja Kubeneck/Aaron Kosovich/Cathrin Schmitz-Dräger
    "The potential of social influence to promote sustainable food consumption"

Franziska Runge
    "Lebensmittelverluste in der Landwirtschaft durch
     Ästhetik-Ansprüche an Obst und Gemüse"

Ellen Dankowski
    "Der Einfluss des Bayerischen Bio-Siegels auf nachhaltigen Nahrungsmittelkonsum"

Franziska Runge - Master Studentin

Im Rahmen der Suche nach einer passenden Betreuung für eine Projektarbeit innerhalb der Thematik Lebensmittelverluste, habe ich mich an den Lehrstuhl Governance in International Agribusiness und an Herrn Dr. Lang gewendet und bekam schnell eine positive Rückmeldung und Unterstützung.

Als besonders wertvoll empfand ich die zielführende, dabei aber inhaltlich nicht einengende Betreuung, die es mir ermöglichte, mein Forschungsprojekt mit dem Titel “Lebensmittelverluste in der Landwirtschaft durch Ästhetik-Ansprüche an Obst und Gemüse” zügig zu verwirklichen und gleichzeitig viel zu lernen. Herr Dr. Lang ermutigte mich auch meine Projektarbeit bei der Zeitschrift „Berichte über Landwirtschaft“ des Bundesministeriums für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft zur Veröffentlichung einzureichen. Mit Erfolg!

Die Erfahrungen und der Austausch mit dem Lehrstuhl waren für mich durchweg positiv und motivierend, deshalb freue ich mich, nun auch meine Masterarbeit unter Betreuung von Herrn Dr. Lang anfertigen zu können.

Franziska Runge – Masterstudentin Umweltplanung und Ingenieurökologie

Ellen Dankowski - Master Studentin

Meine Projektarbeit mit dem Titel: "Der Einfluss des Bayerischen Bio-Siegels auf nachhaltigen Nahrungsmittelkonsum" habe ich am Lehrstuhl Governance in International Agribusiness unter der Betreuung von Herrn Dr. Lang geschrieben. Die Offenheit von Herrn Dr. Lang und die aktive Unterstützung bei der Themenfindung habe ich als sehr motivierend erlebt. Während der Bearbeitungszeit erhielt ich von Herrn Dr. Lang konstruktive Anregungen sowohl in Bezug auf die methodische und theoretische Umsetzung als auch hinsichtlich der inhaltlichen Ausführung der Projektarbeit.

Herr Dr. Lang war zudem sehr bemüht auch außeruniversitäre Kontakte im Themenbereich Öko-Label von Nahrungsmitteln herzustellen. Dank diesem Engagement konnte ich Kontakte zum Ministerium für Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Forsten knüpfen und dadurch Zugang zu weiteren relevanten Datenmaterialien erlangen.

Aufgrund der positiven Zusammenarbeit und den thematischen Möglichkeiten die sich durch die Projektarbeit eröffneten, fiel mir die Entscheidung leicht, auch meine Masterarbeit am Lehrstuhl Governance in International Agribusiness unter der Betreuung von Herrn Dr. Lang zu verfassen.

A student's report: Research Project title "The Influence of Consumer Preferences on the Governance of the Apple Value Chain" by Shtefi Mladenovska, Iulia Banescu and Triantafyllia Starova

After successfully completing the module “Value Chain Economics” offered by Governance in International Agribusiness,we have undertaken a project to further explore the challenges faced by the EU agro-food sector. The research project provides an analysis of the Supply Chain of Fresh Apples in Italy and Germany.

Our first interaction with the group of Prof. Luisa Menapace was during the Value Chain Economics lectures. Due to her high involvement and willingness to support the students in her class, we were more than thrilled when the opportunity was offered to conduct a Research Project at the Governance in International Agribusiness group.

Our project focused on the analysis of the fresh apple supply chain in Italy and Germany. To better understand the actors in the apple fruit industry in the Italian and German market, we evaluated the supply chains of two different players: the consortium Melinda, formed by 16 Italian cooperatives in the Trentino-South Tyrol region, and the German shareholder company BayWa, that acts as a intermediary between various German apple producers and cooperatives in the national and in the international apple market.

Thanks to the excellent guidance and assistance from Prof. Menapace we were able to develop an extensive and accurate analysis on the apple supply chain in Italy and Germany. In addition, we were offered the opportunity to take part in an Intensive Study Program 2016 in Trentino-South Tyrol, Italy organized by the Governance in International Agribusiness group. During the Intensive Study Program we were able to get in direct contact not only with the companies under study, but also with other industry partners. We visited the companies on site and our discussions with the representatives proved to support and complement the findings of our research.

Individual Statements:

“This project enabled me to get a solid knowledge in the Agro-food economics. We examined two different institutional environments and run into different strategic interactions of the actors in the supply chain. It is interesting how diverse initiatives each of the actors undertake to compete and differentiate their food products to end consumers.” – Shtefi Mladenovska

"Through this project I was able to expand my experience in supply chain and market research as well as to improve my communication and presentation skills, especially when interacting with company representatives. After this successful project, I was fortunate enough to also be supervised by Prof. Menapace while I was working on my Master’s thesis."

“My participation in the research project, together with the guidance from Prof. Luisa Menapace, offered me valuable knowledge and skills in regards to conducting a research and delivering the results. The fact that we were able to witness firsthand the topics we were investigating in our research, during our ISP participation, was a unique opportunity.” – Triantafyllia Starova

We would like to thank Prof. Luisa Menapace for such a great and enjoyable opportunity as well as for her support and guidance.

Shtefi Mladenovska, Iulia Banescu and Triantafyllia Starova