Project aimed at helping farmers reduce their environmental impact receives funding boost

26 April 2023

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The HESTIA project, hosted between the Oxford Martin School and the Department of Biology, has received a donation from the Ardevora Charitable Trust. The funding will support research into the environmental impacts of arable farming and aquaculture, as well as pesticide toxicity

Agriculture is a major driver of biodiversity loss, tropical deforestation, climate change, water scarcity and ecological toxicity. There is an urgent need to reduce agriculture-related environmental impacts while ensuring sustainable food supply for the 9.7 billion people projected to be on the planet by 2050. However, a lack of high-quality and comparable data often hinders progress.

HESTIA is an online platform that provides data and models to quantify the productivity and sustainability of agricultural products in a structured, open source and standardised way. It has been developed over the last three years and is being used by multiple stakeholders to inform decision making and facilitate new research.

The philanthropic grant from the Ardevora Charitable Trust will support the HESTIA team to grow the volume of data held on the platform. Their efforts will focus particularly on arable farming and aquaculture, and will include the use of data from existing publications as well as the collection of new data through field work. The HESTIA team will also work to improve their models quantifying the toxicity of different pesticides.

E.J. Milner-Gulland, Tasso Leventis Professor of Biodiversity and principal investigator on the project, said: ‘The world needs to move rapidly towards more sustainable food systems if we are to stay within our planetary boundaries. A key prerequisite for doing this is an understanding of the current environmental impacts of agriculture and how to mitigate these impacts. Ardevora's support is critical to enabling our team to develop this understanding, working with farmers and partners around the world.’

Joseph Poore, Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Food Sustainability and lead researcher on the HESTIA project, said: ‘This work helps us extend and develop the HESTIA data platform to cover more products and environmental impact pathways. We will use this funding to focus on some major dark spots in our knowledge of global sustainability problems. We are very grateful to the Ardevora Charitable Trust for their support of this research.’

Patrik Henriksson, a HESTIA affiliated researcher at Stockholm Resilience Centre, said: ‘Blue Foods have potential to alleviate pressures from our food system but they are highly diverse, so with the support from the Ardevora Charitable Trust we will better be able to identify sustainable sources of foods from aquatic environments.’

The Ardevora Charitable Trust was established by Ardevora Asset Management, a boutique asset management firm, to provide support to a group of charities and social enterprises working in different ways to address and mitigate damage in the areas that Ardevora considers important, which are fairness in society and the environment.

Clare Singleton, Chief Administrative Officer at Ardevora, said: ‘We are delighted to be a supporter of the HESTIA project. Given the well-known data gaps and data quality issues which hinder the assessment of environmental impacts, HESTIA is undertaking important work to develop and provide standardised, open-source data on food sustainability.’