Agricultural supply chains are critical when it comes to tackling climate change, as this often accounts for large proportions of a producer’s greenhouse gas emissions. Many crop-based industries and major food producers have set themselves ambitious environmental targets, aiming to reduce their carbon footprint by improving the management of their supply chains.

The problem

There is a lack of environmental data at sufficient detail for large stakeholders to effectively understand and manage their carbon emissions. To accelerate sustainable crop supply chain management to the necessary levels, more robust, transparent and compatible environmental data is needed.

The goal of the geoFootprint project, co-financed by the EIT Climate-KIC, is to bridge this data gap, removing inconsistencies and incompatibilities between data sources and datasets, and providing a more in-depth view of the current environmental situation in each supply chain. Through the development of a commodity monitoring tool designed specifically with climate footprint in mind, geoFootprint’s service will determine and define the impact of major commodities across the planet. This means producers and suppliers will be able to monitor, track, and improve progress toward regional and global sustainability goals.

The solution

To ensure the relevance of the tool, geoFootprint has been developed in a collaborative initiative involving more than 25 corporate, public, global, academic and non-profit organisations: including consulting group Quantis in partnership with the Cool Farm Alliance and ArxIT, it will eventually take the form of a user-friendly online world map to measure the environmental footprint of agricultural practices with an incredible level of detail for major crops.

Companies and other relevant stakeholders will have access to key environmental information to help them make sustainable decisions and support better crop management practices. The world map will be an online, public and collaborative tool, with different levels of license fees depending on the depth of information required.

geoFootprint will enhance and merge available data to derive generic emission factors and environmental metrics at unprecedented levels of specificity and accuracy. Its main innovation is to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) location technology, allowing a 10km by 10km level of precision. Based on this, changes in soil quality or management practices can be modelled instantaneously.

It is aimed at all stakeholders that interact with some part of the supply chain, and will be especially useful to those managing the most complex ones. It will allow decision-makers in food, textiles, cosmetics, biofuel and other key industries to make science-based choices on their supplies.

The impact

geoFootprint will empower companies in crop-based industries with much more granular supply chain data so they can make better environmental management decisions and accelerate their transition toward sustainable agriculture. The tool will also enhance our understanding of how farming practices and local characteristics affect the environment, and how environmental changes are affecting the supply of critically-important crops. Governments and companies will have a new capacity to model and visualise farming practices, and determine where the strong and weak points are in the supply chain regarding environmental sustainability. Investments will be more targeted, increasing their potential and letting investors directly engage with suppliers and authorities, drawing on facts.

The tool is scheduled to launch in 2020. After this, several pilot projects will enable the geoFootprint team fine-tune the tool and assess how itbest supports science-based decisions. It is too early to say what the environmental impacts will be but strong interest from leading companies and organizations in crop-based industries confirms that geoFootprint meets an important data need in this field.

It will increase the value of information gathered by companies on environmental factors associated with supply chain management.The data gathered through the project will enhance climate risk information, which will lead to more secure supply chains in a future set to the backdrop of evolving climate change.

Much of the data will be publicly available, so everyone from smallholder farmers to international conglomerates can see how the sector is progressing towards decarbonisation, and find out which sustainable practices are working best and where. Spatially sensitive data will dramatically advance our knowledge of farming practices and their potential in mitigating both the causes and effects of climate change.

EIT Climate-KIC’s role

geoFootprint is co-financed by the EIT Climate-KIC and could not have been launched without its support. Success so far is reflected in the repeated interest and support from the largest food corporations in the world, as well as the support and advice given by other key stakeholders such as the WBCSD, the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative platform, FAO and UNEP.

The EIT Climate-KIC has been providing almost 1 million Euro for the project. It’s being used to scaling up a prototype that Quantis had internally developed into a global, robust and engaging platform.

The geoFootprint project is led by environmental consulting group Quantis and formed from a consortium of over 25 organisations from the corporate, academic, public and private spheres. This collaboration would not have been possible without the help of the EIT Climate-KIC.

More information about the project and how to get involved can be found at http://geofootprint.net.

 
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