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Food & Bioproducts

Interacting with the Earth for food and bioproducts is delicate. EarthShift Global uses life cycle approaches to help you manage this process sustainably.

field of plants

There is a delicate balance in how we interact with the Earth’s natural systems to feed ourselves and derive raw materials for products and processes. EarthShift Global uses creative, anticipatory life cycle approaches and modeling work to help producers manage this balance in a sustainable way.

The systems surrounding our food supply are complex, dynamic, and include a fair amount of uncertainty. Yet these systems have well-identified areas of impact and of benefit, both to the environment and to society. EarthShift Global can help navigate these complexities more easily without sacrificing quality.

We’ve looked in detail at new agricultural practices to understand the environmental and social benefits to tomato production in Guatemala and cocoa production in Nicaragua, for example. We’ve also helped food processors look at new processing techniques like the production of xylitol as a coordinated process with paper pulp processing. Environmental and social impacts can occur throughout a product's life cycle. Danisco fine-tuned their approach to include Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and environmental footprinting to guide product development efforts towards reducing their impact and to provide quantitative impact data to their customers, retailers, and consumers. XIVIA is a sustainable, naturally occurring sweetener with all the sweetness of sugar but with 40% less calories. 

Resource download: lca-environmental-footprinting-xivia-danisco-ESG-whitepaper.pdf

Our Agriculture and Food clients include:

Aquaculture is one the fastest growing food-producing sectors in the world and is expected to provide over 60% of seafood for human consumption by 2030. It is a diverse global industry and the environmental implications of aquaculture vary widely depending on the species being farmed and the form and intensity of production. As the industry grows, many new innovations in production technology are emerging, and LCA has been shown to be a useful tool for understanding the environmental performance and potential trade-offs associated with alternative systems.

EarthShift Global’s Senior Sustainability Advisor Nathan Ayer has applied LCA to quantify the environmental impacts and benefits of a range of aquaculture production systems, including closed-containment systems for salmon farming, and most recently working with the International Copper Association on exploring the environmental performance of copper-alloy net-pens from cradle-to-grave. Nathan has also been involved in methodological development related to LCA and seafood production and recently collaborated with SustainAqua to apply a screening-level LCA to inform a feasibility study for upgrading a trout and salmon hatchery.

Resource download: Algae-biodiesel-lca-using-current-commercial-data-ESG.pdf

Our Aquaculture clients include:

EarthShift Global has studied the environmental, social and economic impacts of a wide range of biofuels including biodiesel from rape seed, used cooking oil, algae, etc.; ethanol from corn, sweet potatoes, sugar beets, etc.; methane from digester wastes of various types; ethyl levulinate from cellulosic wastes; as well as the use of wood, both purpose cut and scraps, in a number of different fuel applications.

By leveraging the use of GREET and SimaPro for Life Cycle Assessment, and 3Pillars Software for Sustainability-ROI, and through the newly developing dynamic and anticipatory LCA fields, EarthShift Global has a wide range of tools and knowledge to address the many questions surrounding biofuels sustainability, including:

  • Does the biofuel meet the GHG standards set by the US DOE for biofuels today?
  • Could the biofuel meet the GHG standards set by the US DOE in the future?
  • What are the other lifecycle environmental impacts of the biofuels production process and how might they be reduced?
  • What economic benefit does the production of biofuels bring to different stakeholders?
  • What risks are associated with the production of the biofuels? Could displacement of currently grown crops cause environmental or social problems locally or in other parts of the world?
  • Is there an issue with growing crops for fuel instead of food

S-ROI – Papers Presented at the Eco-Balance Conference in Japan

Sustainability Return on Investment (S-ROI) originally developed as an industry MDCA tool, provides more transparency in how weights are defined and how they are applied. It allows for scenario development and associated probabilities. This methodology shows promise in its ability to assess the sustainability of policy from the perspective of the environment and groups affected by the decision.

Sustainability Return on Investment: A Scenario-based Multicriteria Assessment Tool for Policy-Making (PDF)

Pilot biofuels projects in Japan have allowed a better understanding of the actual land use, processing requirements, and economic impacts of biofuels. Through the use of Total Cost Assessment (TCA), this study looks at the costs and benefits of Japanese investments in biofuels production in order to determine whether the projects are sustainable. This study applies the methodology to two projects: one project focuses on fuel from waste bioproducts, such as animal manure, sludge, and food processing residues; the other focuses on fuel production from crops grown specifically for this purpose.

The Environmental and Social impacts of Biofuels Production: Total Cost Assessment of Biomass Utilization Trials in Japan (PDF)

Our Bioenergy clients include:

Biomaterials can provide and innovative alternative to fossil based materials, but there can be environmental trade-offs. Learn how to best manage these systems for improved environmental performance.

Resource Download: A Comparative LCA of Npulp® and Molded Paper Packaging Summary Report (PDF)

Our Biomaterial clients include:

The global forest industry is evolving, and as a result of technological development and policies favoring renewable materials and energy, there is growing interest in using wood for energy production, building construction, and a range of bio-based materials. Wood is attractive for these uses because it is a renewable resource, however, LCA research has indicated that depending on the feedstock used and the production technology, there are potential environmental trade-offs associated with bioenergy and bio-products from wood. In addition, wood is a resource with many local and regional socioeconomic implications, further increasing the complexity of decision-making around this resource.

EarthShift Global can work with clients using their tools and expertise in LCA and S-ROI to quantify the life cycle environmental benefits and costs of alternative wood products and energy production, including supply chain activities. In his Ph.D. research, Nathan Ayer, our Senior Analyst, applied LCA to study the environmental implications of substituting wood biomass for fossil fuels in a wide range of energy applications, including wood pellet production, combined heat and power, and pyrolysis to produce bio oil. EarthShift Global has also applied S-ROI to gasification of forest residues for a government study in Japan.

Our Forestry, Lumber, and Paper clients include: