The Oxford Martin Programme on

Food Sustainability Analytics

The Challenge

How we produce and consume food has a huge bearing on biodiversity loss, deforestation, climate change, water scarcity, and water pollution: ultimately on whether we deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.

However, today, information on the sustainability of foods produced using different practices or in different geographies is typically incomparable, unavailable, or unknown. There is no up-to-date, reliable, or practical way for users to ascertain the environmental impacts of different food products and production practices. Without this information, the foundations for creating sustainable food supply-chains are missing.

The programme is working to create the foundational underpinnings for action to develop sustainable food systems. Its researchers are working with partners across NGOs and businesses to deliver scientific data on food sustainability in a way that enables producers, supply chains, retailers, and consumers to track their environmental impact, and act to reduce it.

It is building an online platform called HESTIA that allows researchers and producers across the agricultural supply-chain to share data on the environmental impacts of different food products and production practices in a highly structured, open source, and standardised way. It builds a key part of the digital infrastructure for managing future food systems.

At its heart, HESTIA will be a place to store new research. This will allow environmental scientists and agronomists to share the results of their experiments and analysis with the world. This information will be delivered to:

  • other researchers, supporting scientific progress
  • food producers, enabling interventions to reduce their environmental impacts and enhance productivity
  • other actors in the food system seeking to drive positive environmental change

As a next stage in the project, we hope to expand the platform to allow producers to submit their own data. The programme is currently supported with an initial research grant from WWF UK.

The Work Programmes

Build the HESTIA platform:

We will build the data platform, and populate it with data on 40,000 farms and 1600 food processors, packaging types and retailers from a paper published by Poore & Nemecek in 2018 in Science.

Grow an active user base:

The programme will add to this initial dataset working with researchers from Europe, South America, and China. We are additionally working with food producers across the supply-chain to drive early uptake and adoption of the platform.

Develop biodiversity indicators:

The existing and future data gives us an unprecedented opportunity to assess the biodiversity impact of different food products. To do this, we will test existing methods, and develop new ones.

Enable sustainability tracking for producers:

With the platform, we will have a unique opportunity to drive environmental standards and transparency through the food sector. This will allow us to support producers to track and communicate their own sustainability.

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 will collect the environmental impact data of everything from apples to zucchinis, from greenhouse- to pasture-based production. It will put 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.

Visit HESTIA now
Farmer using sustainability data
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