Skip to navigation Skip to content

Simone Piras

Staff picture: Simone Piras
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
Agricultural / Rural Economist
+44 (0)1224 395 399

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK


I am agricultural and rural economist working in the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences (SEGS) department of the James Hutton Institute. I have an interdisciplinary background in development studies (economic and socio-political development). Prior to joining the James Hutton Institute, I received my PhD in Agricultural and Food Economics and Statistics from the University of Bologna, Italy, in 2016, and carried out three years of post-doctoral research at the same University. I was a visiting researcher at the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO), Germany, and I have study and research experience in Estonia, Georgia, and the Republic of Moldova.

My research activities evolve along two main lines: (1) the socio-economic development of rural areas, with a focus on smallholder farming and the relationship between economic and demographic change, including migration; and (2) the economics of food value chains, with a focus on loss and waste, and consumers' and farmers' behaviours. Besides traditional statistical and econometric methods, I have an expertise in survey design, experimental economics, and agent-based modelling.

Current research projects

  • H2020 FOODLAND "Food and Local, Agricultural and Nutritional Diversity" (2020-2024), coordinated by the University of Bologna, Italy. The project aims at promoting diversity of diets and more resilient supply chains in six countries from Northern and Eastern Africa. We implement lab-in-the-field economic experiments with rural smallholders and urban consumers to identify the behavioural determinants of their production and consumption choices, and decision-making patterns.

  • H2020 LOWINFOOD "Actor Design of Low-Waste Food Value Chains through the Demonstration of Innovative Solutions to Reduce Food Losses and Waste" (2020-2025), coordinated by the University of Tuscia, Italy. The project aims at testing a number of innovations to reduce food waste along food supply chains. We are leading Work Package 8 "Innovations to prevent and reduce fish losses and waste", where we promote the dialogue among stakeholders of the fish supply chain in Scotland and Germany, and Task 1.3 "Evaluation of economic and social impact", where we analyse the economic and social impact of deploying the innovations in all food supply chains.

  • H2020 RADIANT "ReAlising Dynamic vAlue chaiNs for undeuTilised crops" (2021-2025), coordinated by the Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, Portugal. The RADIANT project brings together a consortium of value chain actors, researchers and end users, to codevelop solutions and tools for boosting agrobiodiversity via dynamic value chains of underutilised crops (UCs). We lead Task 5.3 "Farmers’ and consumers’ expectations and preferences for UCs", where we use choice experiments and deliberative choice experiments to identify barriers to the uptake of UCs by farmers, and measure consumers' willingness to pay for derived food products. We test five UCs in as many workshops across different European pedoclimatic regions.

  • MDT project INTR-EXP-MET "Introducing experimental methods for the study of resource and land-related decisions in rural Scotland" (2021-2022). We aim at introducing economic experiments to Hutton employees and PhD students by making them play a real, incentivised behavioural game and illustrating the potential of such methods in a workshop. In parallel, we will establish a mobile experimental economic laboratory for future experimental research in Scottish rural areas.

  • RESAS RD 3.4.1 "Demographic change in remote areas" (2016-2021). We develop a novel economic-demographic model to assess the impact of different economic scenarios of population change in Scottish sparsely populated areas, and draw policy implications.

  • RESAS RD 1.4.3b "Realising multiple benefits and managing trade-offs" (2016-2021). We assess the potential for ecological focus areas and agri-environment climate schemes to deliver multiple benefits (economic, social, and ecological) at a landscape scale, with a focus on payment-by-result options and incentives to promote coordination and cooperation between farmers.

Past research projects

  • Horizon 2020 RELOCAL "Resituating the local in cohesion and territorial development" (2017-2021), coordinated by the University of Eastern Finland. In the framework of Work Package 8 "Coherence and Scenarios", we examine the logic underpinning different types of interventions targeting spatial justice in 33 EU case study localities, including the Isle of Lewis (Scotland), and develop plausible scenarios for 2030. Types of spatial injustice considered include territorial disadvantage, neighbourhood segregation, and place disempowerment.

  • ESPON ESCAPE "European Shrinking Rural Areas Challenges, Actions and Perspectives for Territorial Governance" (2019-2020), coordinated by the University of Eastern Finland. We analyse the phenomenon of population shrinking in EU rural areas by means of eight in-depth case studies and quantitative analysis of past and future trends in demographic and socio-economic variables.

  • AHDB "Grower platform to support resilient rotations" (2016-2021). We assess the impact of different rotation schemes on the economics of crops, primarily potatoes, by means of a panel dataset complied by growers all over Britain.

  • RESAS RD 3.2.4 "Food culture and dietary choices" (2016-2021). We develop an agent-based model of consumer food behaviours to assess the potential impact of eating networks in workplace canteens on the healthiness and sustainability of individual diets.


Printed from /staff/simone-piras on 30/03/23 08:44:49 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.