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Main research question/goal
This project aims to connect all resource-related aspects of agricultural production in one comprehensive, quantitative and modular model. Via this integrated model approach, ILVO strives to contribute to a more sustainable agricultural production in a theoretical and a practical way. Sustainable agriculture is complex and comprises economically sound and sustainable production processes, sustainable labour, and so on. Increasing sustainability requires insight into the entire production chain or life cycle, and in particular in the inefficiencies that occur. The life cycle method is applied in a tool that evaluates sustainability from a resources perspective, in a holistic way, and with the same systems logic of the production process under evaluation. The tool has high transparency and enables economical-ecological improvements and optimisation of the production process.

Research approach
The assessment of the life cycle of products and processes is a well known method in emission research. Yet the commonly-used method is not transparent enough, is inappropriate for the Flemish situation, and does not have a very good systems logic. The commonly-used method is thoroughly revised to meet the objective of our tool. The exergetic life cycle analysis (ELCA) is a resource-driven life cycle analysis that is based on the concept of exergy. It registers all in- and outputs at process level and chain level. The 'all in, all out' logic guarantees completeness, because emissions can be regarded as the result of an inadequate utilisation of resources. This simplifies the identification of possible improvements at the level of a single process as well as the entire life cycle.

The developed model enables the identification of potential improvements and the quantification thereof in terms of efficiency (at single process and chain level). The resource footprint (of land, water, fossil fuels and renewable energy, among others) can be determined. Emissions are calculated. A direct translation into emission-based impact categories such as the Carbon Footprint is possible by coupling with LCA databases such as Ecoinvent. Total sustainability means that the proposed improvements should be economically feasible. The method developed here comprises economical-ecological tradeoffs. First, the tool is used to guide research at ILVO. In the same way, the government's policy and the entire agricultural industry can be supported during the transition to a more sustainable production.

Funding provider(s)
IWT - Instituut voor de aanmoediging door wetenschap en technologie in Vlaanderen

External partner(s)
Effective start/end date1/09/1131/08/15

ID: 4147130