The Oxford Martin Programme on

Food Sustainability Analytics

The Challenge

How we produce and consume food has a huge bearing on multiple environmental problems including biodiversity loss, deforestation, climate change, water scarcity, and water pollution.

However, today, there is a major lack of comparable information about the environmental impacts of different food products produced using different practices:

  • Few farmers measure their environmental impacts and those that do use different methods.
  • Farmers struggle to access advice on how to reduce environmental issues.
  • There is no standardised format for sharing environmental data in food supply chains or between researchers.
  • There is a lack of publicly available data on the environmental impacts of foods produced using different practices in different geographies.

Without this information, the foundations for creating sustainable food supply-chains are missing.

The Oxford Martin Programme on Food Sustainability Analytics has created a data structure, data platform, and toolkit to calculate environmental impacts to help address these challenges. These are available via the HESTIA website. The programme has been supported by WWF-UK.

Now, with further funding from the Login5 Foundation we are scaling up our work and making this digital infrastructure available to farmers, other actors in the food supply chain, and researchers through a number of partnerships with digital farm tools and research institutions. We are also testing how much our analytical toolkit can change farmer behaviour by undertaking ambitious randomised controlled trials with farmers in multiple countries.

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The Work Programmes

Develop our standardised data format:

Representing agri-environmental data in a standardised way could unlock knowledge exchange between researchers and make communicating environmental impacts up supply chains easier.

We have built a standardised way to represent agri-environmental data. We are converting existing datasets into this format and working with partners to explore if it can become adopted in their organisations.

Expand the data on the HESTIA platform:

Data describing the productivity, practices, and environmental impacts of farms and food products can support new research, and support better decision making by businesses, consumers, and policymakers. We make such data freely available via the HESTIA platform. We are populating the platform with further data in three ways: meta-analysis by our team; partnerships with organisations such as World Fish and Rothamsted; and contributions from other researchers.

Make our toolkit available to farmers:

We have built a toolkit that allows farmers, food processors, and researchers to calculate the environmental impacts of food products on multiple indicators using Life Cycle Assessment methods. Our toolkit also validates data for errors and allows benchmarking of environmental impacts against similar producers and products.

We make this toolkit available to the digital tools that farmers use (rather than to farmers directly) in two ways: through the HESTIA API and through a community edition of HESTIA which can be installed on your servers or local machines.

Test the effectiveness of our toolkit:

Understanding how our work actually affects farmer behaviour is a key goal and measure of success for this project. Using a multi-country randomised controlled trial, we will test how much our toolkit for measuring environmental impacts affects farmer behaviour.

We are partnering with two digital tools which already work with farmers to test this.

The HESTIA Platform

HESTIA – Harmonized Environmental Storage and Tracking of the Impacts of Agriculture – is an online platform to enable the sharing of food sustainability data in a structured, open source and standardised way.

It collects the environmental impact data of everything from apples to zucchinis, from greenhouse- to pasture-based production. It puts the latest research findings across the agricultural supply-chain into the hands of other researchers, farmers, other businesses in the food supply-chain, and organisations that can drive positive environmental action.

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Farmer using sustainability data
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