Look for the optimal mix of different sustainability strategies

Published on
May 12, 2020

How do we make food systems - from farm to fork - more sustainable? That is the central question in today's agriculture. All kinds of different strategies are used to achieve a sustainable food system. In her dissertation "Towards efficient use of natural resources in food systems; exploring circular principles and strategies”, Heleen van Kernebeek explores the combined effects of different sustainability strategies. With an optimal combination of technical and consumption strategies, we can use resources much more efficiently, she concludes.

Natural resources, such as land, phosphate rock and fossil energy, are scarce. Yet these resources are used inefficiently in the food system. Waste of resources has major consequences for the living environment, such as emissions and soil degradation and biodiversity. Various sustainability strategies are used to combat this waste. Think of preventing and recycling waste, recovering waste as bioenergy and conducting public campaigns for sustainable food choices.

Heleen van Kernebeek obtained her PhD from the Animal Production Systems (APS) and Plant Production Systems (PPS) chair groups. In her dissertation, Heleen van Kernebeek investigates the combined effects of different sustainability strategies on the efficiency of the food system. After all, the strategies interact, so they must be viewed in conjunction. For example, waste prevention reduces land use, but also reduces the potential to recover energy from biomass and thus reduce the use of fossil energy.

Van Kernebeek has looked, among other things, from an integrated food systems approach at the role that farm animals can play in a food system that uses resources efficiently. What is the optimal consumption level of animal proteins for various circular paradigms and goals? She concludes that an integrated and combined food systems approach is needed to provide a growing world population with safe and healthy food within the borders of the Earth. With an optimal combination of technical and consumption strategies, resource efficiency - especially for phosphorus - can be significantly increased.