Agri-footprint: a keystone database for sustainable food worldwide

Worldwide, about 25% of all life cycle assessments are related to the agri-food sector. Good databases such as Agri-footprint therefore have a substantial impact. Agri-footprint has been available to the LCA community since May 2014. In December 2015, Agri-footprint 2.0 will be made available in SimaPro.

Since its release in 2014, Agri-footprint has been used for many interesting applications, from labeling schemes to product design tools. I’d like to take a moment to give you an overview of the most representative developments.

Product design tool

Nestlé, a leading nutrition company, has developed and implemented throughout its research and development functions EcodEX, a simplified product ecodesign tool. As part of Nestlé’s commitment to continually expand the scope of the agricultural LCI database in EcodEX by using publicly available databases, the tool will integrate Agri-footprint 2.0. The results of product design scenarios will influence the development process of new products.

Developing PEF-compatible product-specific labelling schemes

Nowadays, many companies measure or want to measure the environmental performance of their products and organization. To do this, they must choose from several methods and even more labels. In addition, mapping this performance costs a lot of money. Therefore, the European Commission proposed to develop two methods to measure environmental performance throughout the life cycle. The Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) is one of these methods. It aims to increase reproducibility and consistency of product environmental footprint studies. Currently, the PEF project is in its pilot phase.

Agri-footprint is being used for many screening studies. The following food pilots are using Agri-footprint:

  • Beer
  • Feed
  • Meat
  • Dairy products
  • Fish
  • Cat and dog food

Furthermore, Agri-footprint is being used to develop criteria for environmental labelling schemes such as hand dishwashing detergents and leather.

Scientific literature

Various scientific publications are based on Agri-footprint input. An interesting example is a paper from Washington State University, which claims that a 12.4% reduction in the environmental impact of beef is feasible if genetic and reproductive technologies are widely implemented in the US.

Natural capital risk exposure

Agri-footprint was also used to assess the natural capital risk exposure of the financial sector in Brazil. The study found that the financial sector relies heavily on Brazil’s natural capital. The sectors with the highest unpriced natural capital costs in Brazil are agricultural sectors like beef farming, the crushing industry, aquaculture and sugar cane cultivation. Natural capital costs are 371% higher than the total revenue of the animal slaughtering and processing sector.

Towards sustainable development

In my opinion, the examples above emphasize the added value of databases such as Agri-footprint to accelerate sustainable development.

Agri-footprint 2.0 includes new land use change data and many new processes, such as processing of pulses and rice. The database has been reviewed and the ILCD data quality system is fully integrated. We will keep developing Agri-footprint, by adding new products and processes, to maintain Agri-footprint as the keystone database for sustainable food worldwide.

Jasper Scholten

Life Cycle Assessment manager at Blonk Consultants

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