There is broad consensus about the importance of moving from linear to more circular food systems. But can we find good indicators to measure the effect of this? In a new article NORSUS researcher Hanne Møller and colleagues discuss circularity indicators using examples of environmental actions in pig production and testing various circularity indicators in comparison with LCA results.
The following measures were assessed: Treatment of livestock manure in biogas plants and use of digestate as fertiliser, biogas treatment of bread waste and use of digestate as fertiliser, precision fertilization, use of cover crops in feed production, and use of bread waste as pig feed. The functional unit was 1 kg carcass weight of pork, and treatment of 1.1 kg of bread waste. Based on this, the functionality and suitability of these circularity indicators were discussed.
Four of the circularity indicators were based on nitrogen (N) or phosphorus (P): N recycling index, partial N balance, consumption of fossil P fertilizers and emissions of P to water. Although the indicators do not show the effect of emissions of N and P in the form of eutrophication, they provide a useful indication of the circularity of agricultural production.
The three other circularity indicators that were tested were production of renewable energy, soil organic carbon and land use ratio. The renewable energy production indicator is easy to understand and communicate and provides unique information. Soil organic carbon is closely linked to greenhouse gas emissions because carbon sequestration in the soil captures CO2 from the atmosphere. However, this indicator must be reported separately from greenhouse gas emissions because there is still no agreement on methodology and to show the difference between actual emissions and carbon storage that may not be permanent.
The land use ratio is an indicator that measures the efficiency of land use in livestock production. The indicator is based on the same data as land use but includes the amount of plant protein from the area for feed to produce 1 kg of digestible animal protein. The indicator thus provides an assessment of whether the area for fodder production would have yielded more protein if it had been used for the cultivation of food crops directly.
Circularity indicators provide valuable information about the circularity of an agricultural product system and can be used either separately or together with LCA impact categories. Which indicators should be chosen depends on the questions being asked, i.e. goals and scope, and it is therefore important to have a number of circular indicators to choose from in order to achieve a holistic assessment.
See the full article here.
Norway is a special case compared to many other European countries. The amount of available agricultural land is low, the population density is also low, and the distances are large. From Oslo to the northern border is the same distance as Oslo to Rome. Self-sufficiency of animal-based food is high but low for vegetables it is low (46 %) and for fruits and berries extremely low (6 %). The consumption of fruits and vegetables also need to increase with more than 30% to reach the the recommended minimum of five servings of a day. The government has agreed on a commitment to innovation and growth in the vegetable and fruit sector, with the aim of increasing the Norwegian share of the market and meeting demand with as many Norwegian-produced goods as possible.
In the GreenRoad project, funded by the Norwegian Research Council and coordinated by NIBIO, inter-disciplinary research is being done to identify present status, opportunities, bottlenecks and possible transformation paths for fruit and vegetable production systems towards increased and long-term economic, social and environmental sustainability for the whole sector.
NORSUS is responsible for evaluating the current environmental, economic and social sustainability of horticultural production using carrot and apple production as cases. Options to improve sustainability for these production systems will be identified and the impacts of increased production will also be assessed. The goal is to ensure that the growth of Norwegian fruit and vegetable production will be as sustainable as possible.
The project involves a variety of disciplines (whereof biology, geography, economy and sociology) that will collaborate in different work packages. There is a strong involvement of business and national and international research partners. Partners and stakeholders will be involved throughout the project in focus groups and other forms of participatory research, and their feedback will contribute to develop innovation platforms and pathways towards GS35.
This literature review analyses the use of multi-criteria assessment (MCA) in food-based systems in order to assess sustainability. MCA is an umbrella term for methods and tools that can be used when different
indicators/criteria need to be incorporated in an analysis. Scoring and weighting can be used in MCAs to compare indicators with different units of measurement (Dean, 2022).
12 articles are reviewed, and they show different approaches to the MCA methodology. The studies use MCA to meet political goals/regulations, increasing resilience of farming systems, and/or for methodological development. The indicators assessed and the use of weighting differ between the studies. Furthermore, the methodological choices of an MCA and the use of software tools is assessed.
To conclude, there are several different ways of applying MCA in a study, and the methodology shows great flexibility in order to be fitted to the subject of study and the involved stakeholders. The weakness of MCA is that the methodology can be viewed as arbitrary, especially when applying weighting. Therefore, it is important to be transparent with regards to the methodolog
The Norwegian Government has, in its proposal for the update of the long-term plan for research and higher education 2023 – 2032, launched two national «societal missions». One of these is sustainable feed. This topic is within NORSUS’s core competence and is a priority area for our institute. We work with this topic in several research projects. The sustainable feed «societal mission» is described as follows [our translation]: «The Government has set a target […]
The sustainable feed «societal mission» is described as follows [our translation]: «The Government has set a target that all aquaculture and animal feed shall be sourced from sustainable sources and contribute to a decrease of greenhouse gas emissions in food systems. Population pressure, pressure on land and resources and less reliable supply chains pose a risk to national food security. The societal mission on sustainable feed shall contribute to new and innovative solutions to exploit resources in a more efficient manner. In addition, the mission will give important contributions to the targets that Norway has set in the areas of climate, food production, employment, and value creation. The final setting of the main target and the quantification and further development of sub targets will be done in a design- and implementation phase in 2022/2023.
According to statistics, Norwegians consumed on average 54,9 kg meat per capita (estimate from Animalia) and 5,6 kg farmed salmon (estimate from The Norwegian Seafood Federation). There are several sustainability challenges associated with livestock production and aquaculture. The production of feed is associated with most of these challenges. The production of feed causes, among others, greenhouse gas emissions, reduction of biological diversity and social challenges in the production countries. Other challenges include land use, deforestation, resource use, use of chemicals, pollution of air and water and indigenous people’s rights, to name a few. Hence it is important to find out how feed production can become more sustainable.
NORSUS has conducted research on feed and sustainability in several projects, e.g. in the European (Horizon 2020) research project SYLFEED. In this project, the environmental performance of SylPro®, a high protein fish feed made from bacteria fed with processed wood, was calculated using LCA methodology. The analyses were done in accordance with the European standard “Product environmental footprint calculation rules (PEFCR) for feed for food-producing animals». Other important feed protein sources were also analysed with the same methodology and compared. The assessments show that SylPro® has a relatively good environmental performance compared to the other protein sources. SylPro® has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions but is does not have the best environmental performance across all impact categories. The assessments also show large variation in results for several of the other protein sources. This means that to make a valid comparison, it is important to get specific information on how the feed is produced and, based on this, calculate the environmental performance of competing protein sources.
NORSUS has conducted Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) on livestock and aquaculture production, e.g. in the ongoing research project Livestock . The feed has been extensively researched and the results show that feed production contributes significantly to the environmental impact for pork, poultry and fish. The research in this and similar projects has contributed to increasing the knowledge of the environmental impacts of feed production and enabled identification of measures aimed at improving the environmental performance of meat and farmed fish.
NORSUS will, in cooperation with research and business partners, continually develop projects to analyse the sustainability of sustainable production and consumption of feed and identifying ways to further improve its environmental performance.
We at NORSUS look forward to contributing to new and innovative research in this field. We seek partners who want to participate in interesting interdisciplinary projects in the area of feed research. If you are interested, please contact Erik Svanes by email email@example.com or phone
Some of our feed-related publications can be found here:
Modahl, I.S., Brekke, A. (2022). Environmental performance of insect protein: a case of LCA results for fish feed produced in Norway. SN Appl. Sci. 4, 183. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42452-022-05065-1
Møller, H., Samsonstuen, S., Øverland, M., Modahl, I.S., Fjerdingby Olsen, H. 2022. Local non-food yeast protein in pig production–environmental impacts and land use efficiency. Livestock Science, vol. 260, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2022.104925
Brekke, A.; Soldal, E. & Johnsen, F.M. (2020). The consistency of protein sources’ environmental performance across LCI data sources and impact assessment methods. 12th International Conference on Life Cycle Assessment of Food (LCAFood 2020), 13-16October 2020, Berlin Virtually, Germany. DIL, Quakenbrück, Germany. Eberle, U., Smetana, S., Bos, U. (Eds.), 2020. Conference proceedings. ISBN: 978-3-00-067604-8. https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AP0nfW%5F0%5F6RRXRE&cid=E04FA834AFB66516&id=E04FA834AFB66516%2167672&parId=E04FA834AFB66516%2159394&o=OneUp
Modahl, I.S. & Brekke, A. (2020). Environmental performance of insect protein for fish feed. 12th International Conference on Life Cycle Assessment of Food (LCAFood 2020), 13-16October 2020, Berlin Virtually, Germany. DIL, Quakenbrück, Germany. Eberle, U., Smetana, S., Bos, U. (Eds.), 2020. Conference proceedings. ISBN: 978-3-00-067604-8. https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AP0nfW%5F0%5F6RRXRE&cid=E04FA834AFB66516&id=E04FA834AFB66516%2167672&parId=E04FA834AFB66516%2159394&o=OneUp
Brekke, A.; Soldal, E.; Modahl; I.S.; Johnsen, F.M. & Valente, C. (2020). Environmental performance of protein from wood compared to other protein sources. 12th International Conference on Life Cycle Assessment of Food (LCAFood 2020), 13-16October 2020, Berlin Virtually, Germany. DIL, Quakenbrück, Germany. Eberle, U., Smetana, S., Bos, U. (Eds.), 2020. Conference proceedings. ISBN: 978-3-00-067604-8. https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AP0nfW%5F0%5F6RRXRE&cid=E04FA834AFB66516&id=E04FA834AFB66516%2167672&parId=E04FA834AFB66516%2159394&o=OneUp
Anna Woodhouse, Hanne Møller, Erik Svanes og Kari-Anne Lyng participated virtually at the conference LCA Foods 2022 (13th International Conference of Life Cycle Assessment in the AgriFood sector) which was held October 12th-14th in Lima, Peru.
The conference was attended by a global audience of 437 people. More than 250 papers were presented in oral or by posters in a number of topics such as sustainable agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, crops, fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, viticulture, nutrition and diets. Other themes included food waste, ecolabelling, databases, food production in the tropics, biological diversity, water use, marine plastic pollution, in addition to improvements in LCA methodology.
Anna Woodhouse presented her work on biodegradable agricultural plastics from the project DGRADE – Environmental impact of biodegradable and conventional plastic mulching films, Hanne Møller presented her work on food waste and by-products as animal feed which has been conducted in the project LIVESTOCK-sustainable livestock productionKari-Anne Lyng also presented results from the LIVESTOCK-project with the poster: The potential impacts on climate change and farm scale economic sustainability from anaerobic digestion of manure.
The conference is global and is held every second year. The topic of the conference this year was «the role of emerging economies in global food security». This is a particularly important conference for NORSUS who work with sustainable production and consumption of food. There has been a lot of scientific progress in the field, as an example the trend is now to analyse whole diets and food systems rather than just single food products.
RoBUTCHER was represented with a poster presentation at the Italian LCA Association Network that was hosted in Palermo (Italy) on 22-24th of June.
The conference focuses on the role of Life Cycle Thinking and Life Cycle Assessment methodological evolutions and application aiming to guarantee a green revolution at national and international level.
Clara Valente from NORSUS presented in Italian a poster entitled “a positive working environment”. The presentation regards the results of a literature review’ study carried out by Clara valente and Fredrik Moltu Johnsen in the project RoBUTCHER. The review concerns the potential social factors for achieving the highest quality working environment in a company.
The main purpose of this poster is to examine how Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) methodology deals with assessing the quality of the working environment, by identifying potential social subcategories and indicators with the aim to improve working environment. For achieving a high quality of working environment, the personal capacity development and the involvement of employees in company practice in addition to worker wellbeing should be considered.
Our researcher Clara Valente presented “Sustainability of innovative solutions for agri-food processing” at the final consortium meeting in the iNOBox project at Nofima, Stavanger on date 14-15th June 2022. iNOBox-A Technology- and Market-driven Innovation e-Toolbox towards a Sustainable, Competitive & Science-based Agri-Food Industry in Norway, was funded by the Norwegian Research Council in the BIONÆR programme (p.nr 281106). The research was carried out by Nofima, NORSUS, Veterinærinstituttet, University of Liverpool, Campden BRI, University of Zaragosa, TNO and industrial partners were Fjordland, Matvarehuset, Fjordkjøkken, Matbørsen, Advanced Microwave Technologies AMT, ELEA; Hiperbaric, UV Yechnology Ltd, BAMA, Findus, Den Stolte Hane and Hoff. The total project budget was 30 MNOK and the time period was 2018 to 2022. The project focuses on the introduction of “more efficient, profitable and sustainable processing, ensuring the supply of safe, high-quality and nutritious foods in the Norwegian food industry”. Here you can read more.
Our research in the iNOBox project has focused on assessing the sustainability of a selection of innovative food processing technologies which aim to preserve food quality and increase shelf-life by means of environmental and social LCA. The main goal was to show if the introduction of innovative food processing treatment can contribute to enhanced environmental and social performances in the food production chains compared to the conventional food processing alternative.
For four years, Erik Svanes at NORSUS has conducted research on the protein rich crops peas, beans, and oilseeds. – We have found answers to many of the uncertainties regarding this subject, and the answers are positive, says Svanes.
It is well known that plant protein products in general have a lower environmental impact than products from animal protein such as meat, eggs, dairy products, and seafood. Nevertheless, NORSUS researcher Erik Svanes wanted a more detailed and thoroughly examination of the effect of increased plant protein production.
In the four-year project FoodProFuture, Svanes did research on the protein-rich crops peas, beans, and on the oil and protein rich plants rape and turnip rape (oilseeds). These crops are collectively known as High-Protein Plants (HPP). Svanes worked in collaboration with other research institutions and enterprises, and central questions in the research were: Which role can the HPP have in our food production system? How do natural conditions and the limited agricultural land in Norway affect production? What about consumer habits? And will a change in diet affect anything else than the climate?
The research work being divided into several disciplines, NORSUS was responsible for the sustainability part of the project.
– We aimed to determine how Norwegian grown plant protein affects the environment compared to the food we eat today. The protein in the current Norwegian diet comes mainly from meat, fish, eggs, wheat and dairy products and we were interested in analysing the environmental affect caused by this type of protein food. The same analysis was done on the HPP and products made from these crops developed in the project, explains Svanes.
Another important aspect of the project was to investigate how the processing affected the raw materials. Some of the plant food benefits can be lost if the raw materials are processed in an inefficient way.
According to the research results, food based on HPP grown in Norway gives 5-10 times lower environmental impact than the average Norwegian food protein. This applies not only to climate, but to all environmental categories. The HPP result in far lower emissions and far lower consumption of resources than most other protein food products in Norway.
– In addition, it provides several advantages in agriculture, such as larger crops and less plant disease pressure for the subsequent in the same area, Svanes points out.
Although Norway has a small area of arable land, the population is also low. This means that the amount of arable land per person is on par with the rest of Europe. The research results conclude that HPP can have a significant role in Norwegian food supply and meet 10-15 per cent of protein needs in the future. A transition to more plant protein will also have a beneficial effect on the populations health if it replaces for example meat. Other advantages will be greatly reduced environmental impact, reduced pressure on arable lands in Norway and other countries and make Norway more self-sufficient with food and animal feed.
The research also shows that eating habits, attitudes, and values are very different from person to person and that this has a great impact on their diet. As a result, the environmental impact of the food eaten is very different from person to person. Such knowledge can be used for targeted measures to get consumers to eat more plant-based diets.
– This allows us to help consumers follow the authorities' recommendations for a healthy diet and to eat more environmentally friendly, says Erik Svanes, researcher at NORSUS.
Researcher and PhD at NORSUS, Erik Svanes has written a report, four articles (two published) and several posts at scientific and other conferences during the four years of research at FoodProFuture.
As part of the work in the LIVESTOCK project a new paper has now been published. It is a life cycle study of the environmental impacts of pig production when the soybean meal in the feed is replaced by yeast protein produced from wood sugar.
The raw material for the yeast protein is hydrolysed wood sugar that can be produced from wood through a biorefining process. In this study, two processes were analysed: wood sugar (Excello) from Borregaard and wood molasses that can be hydrolysed to wood sugar from Glommen Technology. These processes are not yet in commercial operation in Norway, so the data in the study is based on test production and technical calculations.
The wood sugar is further used as the main component for fermentation of yeast, which in turn can be used as a protein source in feed for pigs. The results show that when this is compared with standard feed that contain soybean meal, the feed with yeast from wood sugar will have lower environmental impacts, especially reduced loss of biodiversity. It will also reduce the feed-food competition for arable land. Although the area requirement per kg of carcass weight is greater if wood sugar is used in the feed compared to soybean meal, the forest area cannot be used for food production. The use of wood sugar can also increase resource utilization because the refinery processes can use residual wood that does not meet the fibre length requirements for the cellulose and paper industry, e.g. sawdust.
Read the article here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1871141322001056?via%3Dihub
Photo: Håkon Sperre, NMBU
Our researcher Clara Valente presented “Social Aspects of the Pig Meat Processing Sector: The Way Towards Automation” at the International food automation networking conferenceSecuring the Future: Designing Robustness and Resilience into the Food Production System at Georgia Tech Hotel & Conference Center, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The presentation was part of the activity carried out in the EU funded project RoBUTCHER RoBUTCHER.The conference focusing on robotics and automation in the food industry and scrutinizing new technology trends, industry challenges, and developing research was organized by the Georgia Tech Research Institute on April 3-5th.