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

Posted on November 27, 2015 in Features by . Share this article
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, to better understand the impact its activities are 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 and develop targeted solutions that both reduce the impact on the environment and make them more efficient as a company.”

Using real-world data ranging from the energy consumption of its ovens and mills, to the volume of fertiliser used on its farmers’ fields, members of a multidisciplinary research team are now undertaking analysis using 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, which 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 once we have identified and quantified environmental impact throughout the supply chain, the members of our multidisciplinary team are able to develop viable and sustainable interventions to address key problem areas,” 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, of the University’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, 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