The process of using hybrid research methodologies in an interdisciplinary research project to improve the sustainability of the fruit industry


Bejaei, M. (August 2021). The process of using hybrid research methodologies in an interdisciplinary research project to improve the sustainability of the fruit industry. 14th Pangborn Sensory Science Symposium. (Virtual due to COVID-19)

Plain language summary

Identifying the factors influencing decision-making processes in each sector of the fruit supply chain, and applying the knowledge during the cultivar selection process can increase the possibilities of the production of new varieties that have higher chances of success in the market. Considering the complexity of the fresh fruit supply chain, the priorities of each sector for the adoption of new selections should be studied in interdisciplinary projects so that the research team can synthesize ideas and methodologies from several disciplines. The research team should work together from the earlier stages of the initiation of the project to co-develop research objectives and questions.
The current study was developed at the Sensory Evaluation and Consumer Research Program at SuRDC in collaborations with food market researchers and experts from university and government, breeding specialists, and new cultivar commercialization specialists from industry. The main objective of the study was to identify the influential factors for the adoption and success of new selections from a specific fruit category in the Canadian fruit retail sector to improve the precision of the selection process and the long-term economic viability of the industry.
Fourteen tasks, conducted by the research team members involved in the study were recorded using binomial variables. Hierarchical Cluster Analysis (HCA) was utilized to identify homogenous clusters of research team members with their common tasks to create the profile of the clusters. Members were grouped into four clusters on the basis of the results of the HCA, and the results demonstrated their distinct but collaborative roles in the study.


Interdisciplinary research is preferred in studying complex research topics related to sustainable agriculture and supply chain studies. Each sector of a fruit supply chain considers a set of intrinsic and extrinsic attributes, specific to the sector and region, in the evaluation of the fruit quality and adaptation of new cultivars. Identifying influential factors and their weights requires an integration of information, concepts, and methodologies from several disciplines. The results can assist in the selection of superior quality fruit cultivars with reduced environmental footprint.

An interdisciplinary research team consisting of sensory and consumer research scientists, market researchers, breeders, industry partners, and market and extension specialists collaborated in this project. A sector of the supply chain was identified by the research team to be studied, and a systematic literature review was completed to identify potential factors, survey questions and response options. Research objectives, research questions, and drafts of the research proposal and questionnaire were reviewed by the research team in several focus groups and all collaborators agreed on the final documents.

Hybrid research methodologies with combinations of qualitative and quantitative research methods were considered in the development of the project within the research team and in the developed questionnaire for research participants. In designing the questionnaires it was important to ask “what” attributes were considered by “whom”, “when”, “how” and “why”.

A Canada-wide interactive online survey was conducted in the selected sector to collect data. The pairwise comparison weighting methodology, part of the analytic hierarchy process decision-making framework, was utilized to develop weights for the identified factors. Preliminary results were presented to the research team, and a final report was prepared. The results will be applied to improve the sustainability of the fruit industry in Canada, and were obtained by applying selected hybrid research methodologies in a productive interdisciplinary research process.

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