From the plough to the plate: reducing environmental impact and improving efficiency

From_the_Plough_SOne of Britain’s biggest and best-loved bread makers has joined forces with University researchers and a leading agricultural intelligence provider. They aim to better understand the impact its business is having on the environment – from the plough to the plate.

“It’s important for the company to know where the environmental hotspots in their supply chain are,” says University of Sheffield supply chain and energy efficiency researcher, Dr Liam Goucher. “By working with us, we can help them identify those hotspots. Then we can develop targeted solutions. Solutions that both reduce the impact on the environment and make them more efficient as a company.”

From the plough to the plate

They will use real-world data such as energy consumption of ovens and mills, the volume of fertiliser used on its farmers’ fields. Then members of a multidisciplinary research team will undertake analysis. They will use the Supply Chain Environmental Analysis Tool (SCEnAT) developed by Professor Lenny Koh at the University’s Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre.

“This tool allows us to pin point where the weak points in a supply chain are and assess their impact across a range of environmental indicators,” says Professor Koh. Early results, are currently being pored over by the bread maker and independent agricultural intelligence services company, Agrii.

“What makes this project especially interesting to a company like this one is that not only can it identify and quantify environmental impact throughout the supply chain. It can also address the problems. This is because our multidisciplinary team are able to develop viable and sustainable interventions,” says Dr Liam Goucher, who has undertaken much of the original research.

Whether it is a way to reduce the energy inputs needed to bake the more than 60 million loaves annually in a single bakery, or the development of novel seed varieties and production techniques, the Sheffield team has the intellectual resource to design these solutions.

But for biochemist, Professor Peter Horton, this specific piece of research has much wider implications. “We know that big challenges such as sustainable food production will not be met by research within a single discipline. That’s why we are so passionate about the integration of science, engineering and social science here at Sheffield. By creating teams like this we can not only identify the problems, we can also design the sustainable solutions,” he added.

Originally published in:Discover_7_small