Climate change and its repercussions are major challenges. Food production is a significant contributor to climate change. Therefore, food chains need to transition to more sustainable systems to contribute to mitigation and to ensure viable businesses for the future. Companies are facing the challenge to make decisions on the options that can potentially improve sustainability, thus reducing their footprint. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research and Wageningen Economic Research aim to develop a tool to support companies in these decisions.
Motivation and project focus
Currently, tools that support fast screening on climate impact are lacking. Specifically, reliable data specific enough data and of good quality to fit well with resources, activities and end products is a challenge.
There are multiple routes for companies for improving sustainability. This includes, for example, improving resource use efficiency by reducing food losses, use of alternative techniques that require less energy and water, use of alternative packing or ingredients with lower production footprints.
This project aims to develop a decision support tool to aid companies in prioritising options to improve on sustainability performance. The tool facilitates a stepwise approach. First, identification of hotspots regarding environmental impact by analysing the current situation. Secondly, possible options to reduce environmental impact are inventoried. And, thirdly, interesting options are put into the perspective of the relevant food system addressing what is needed for implementation. The tool will be demonstrated in company-specific use cases.
Data-driven decision support
Improvements should be prioritised on their impact on sustainability. This is only possible if improvements can be compared to the current situation based on reliable data. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) provides a thorough approach to achieve this. However, performing LCA is an expert task which many companies do not have easy access to or may be too resource-intensive in the exploration phase. Also, LCA requires company data as well as an elaborate dataset for background processes (fuel production, electricity production, transport emission, etc.), which is often difficult to obtain. The envisioned tool uses LCA data as expressed in impact indicators, combined with estimates for lacking data from expert knowledge and databases. This approach ensures critical judgement of data, resulting in harmonised data suitable for comparing different chain configurations.
The improvements have consequences for the company and its chain partners which should be incorporated in decision-making to achieve viable improvements. Therefore, impactful improvements are put into perspective of the specific context and aspects relevant for implementation are concretised.
Design your reduced impact
We invite companies that want to take a next step in reducing their footprints to contact us to discuss the project further.
The project will run 3 years, beginning in 2022. The project is being developed for application to the TKI subsidy, a Dutch governmental program sponsoring applied research. Each project requires at least one Dutch company partner, but additional partners from abroad are welcome to join. Granted projects receive 50% subsidy funding. The other 50% is contributed by industry partners, of which up to half (25% of total) may be in-kind.