The increase in world population - which is expected to reach 9.2 billion people by the year 2050 - and the resulting demand for food, water and energy are exerting increasing pressure on soil, water resources and ecosystems. Agriculture is the largest consumer of the world’s freshwater resources, and more than one-quarter of the energy used globally is expended on food production and supply. The urgent need for doubling farms over the next 25 years on less land with less water through intensification would inevitably involve substantial social, economic and environmental costs. Agri-food sector, as all industrial processes, presents along its life cycle and production chain considerable environmental impacts. Identification of tools to minimize such costs through the enhanced environment is, therefore, crucial. The purpose of the study is to carry out an environmental analysis and optimisation of the agri-food sector in order to improve the energy-environmental performance of certain food products of the Conserve Italia company, one of largest European agri-food companies, specialized in vegetables and tomatoes preserves, fruit-based juices and beverages and fruit in syrup. After an analysis of the entire company production, the agricultural crops that have been identified as significant in terms of sales volumes, strategic importance, potential to improvement and direct control of the company over the entire supply chain, are the following: beans, peas, corn, chickpeas, and tomatoes. The selection of these crops also allowed the analysis of 40 different manufactured food products. Preliminarily, a “cradle to grave” perspective was applied to the afore mentioned products in order to analyse the environmental loads of the investigated products along their whole life cycles. This approach allows evaluating phases, such as cultivation, which might contribute considerably on the environmental impact of a product. The set of impact categories was identified in order to pave the way for water–energy–food (WEF) nexus quantification. For the purpose of this thesis, the focus was therefore put on four parameters considered most representative for the food–energy–water nexus: Carbon Footprint (CF), Water Footprint (WF), Ecological Footprint (EF) and Cumulative Energy Demand (CED). In particular, the CED and WF indicators, enable a complete computation of consumption of resources from a life cycle perspective for the two sectors (energy – food and water – food) linkages. The second phase of the research was mainly focused on the optimization of the production process focusing mainly on the cultivation phase. Through collaboration with the “Cassandra Lab” research centre of the University of Milan, it was possible to assess how, through precision agriculture, it is possible to improve the management of water resources and the inputs used. In particular, it was investigated how climate change can negatively affect environmental impacts and, therefore, it was evaluated how it is possible to mitigate the negative effects of expected climate variations by optimizing management adaptation strategies and identifying ideotypes. The environmental impacts of crate production for food packaging were assessed and a solution of food waste reutilisation for food packaging was analysed in order to close the life cycle analysis of food products. Finally, a single WEF indicator was defined in order to monitor and define company future strategies towards environmental sustainability. Through this analysis, the company would be able to undertake better agricultural management practices thus reducing the environmental impact and the use of energy and water resources along the supply chain.

Process optimisation in the agri-food industry chain from an Eco-design and Product Stewardship perspective

MORESCHI, LUCA
2022-07-26

Abstract

The increase in world population - which is expected to reach 9.2 billion people by the year 2050 - and the resulting demand for food, water and energy are exerting increasing pressure on soil, water resources and ecosystems. Agriculture is the largest consumer of the world’s freshwater resources, and more than one-quarter of the energy used globally is expended on food production and supply. The urgent need for doubling farms over the next 25 years on less land with less water through intensification would inevitably involve substantial social, economic and environmental costs. Agri-food sector, as all industrial processes, presents along its life cycle and production chain considerable environmental impacts. Identification of tools to minimize such costs through the enhanced environment is, therefore, crucial. The purpose of the study is to carry out an environmental analysis and optimisation of the agri-food sector in order to improve the energy-environmental performance of certain food products of the Conserve Italia company, one of largest European agri-food companies, specialized in vegetables and tomatoes preserves, fruit-based juices and beverages and fruit in syrup. After an analysis of the entire company production, the agricultural crops that have been identified as significant in terms of sales volumes, strategic importance, potential to improvement and direct control of the company over the entire supply chain, are the following: beans, peas, corn, chickpeas, and tomatoes. The selection of these crops also allowed the analysis of 40 different manufactured food products. Preliminarily, a “cradle to grave” perspective was applied to the afore mentioned products in order to analyse the environmental loads of the investigated products along their whole life cycles. This approach allows evaluating phases, such as cultivation, which might contribute considerably on the environmental impact of a product. The set of impact categories was identified in order to pave the way for water–energy–food (WEF) nexus quantification. For the purpose of this thesis, the focus was therefore put on four parameters considered most representative for the food–energy–water nexus: Carbon Footprint (CF), Water Footprint (WF), Ecological Footprint (EF) and Cumulative Energy Demand (CED). In particular, the CED and WF indicators, enable a complete computation of consumption of resources from a life cycle perspective for the two sectors (energy – food and water – food) linkages. The second phase of the research was mainly focused on the optimization of the production process focusing mainly on the cultivation phase. Through collaboration with the “Cassandra Lab” research centre of the University of Milan, it was possible to assess how, through precision agriculture, it is possible to improve the management of water resources and the inputs used. In particular, it was investigated how climate change can negatively affect environmental impacts and, therefore, it was evaluated how it is possible to mitigate the negative effects of expected climate variations by optimizing management adaptation strategies and identifying ideotypes. The environmental impacts of crate production for food packaging were assessed and a solution of food waste reutilisation for food packaging was analysed in order to close the life cycle analysis of food products. Finally, a single WEF indicator was defined in order to monitor and define company future strategies towards environmental sustainability. Through this analysis, the company would be able to undertake better agricultural management practices thus reducing the environmental impact and the use of energy and water resources along the supply chain.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11567/1091680
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