Calculating a production chain in TCA, and data that are required from farmers
The foreground system
The following foreground issues related to Natural Capital need to be addressed in TCA:
- Carbon footprint emissions: CO2 emissions caused by operations,
Carbon footprint emissions are dealt with in E-LCA. To calculate the kg CO2/kg crops, the amount of diesel/kg crops must be known.
Note that some LCI databases (e.g. the EF database) provides data for agricultural processes like harvesting, however, these are generic data. It is better to ask for the specific use of fuels (kg fuel/kg crops; plus the type of fuel), and disregard of the secondary data to build the machines (as is done in LCA practice). The reason is that the ecoburden of the machine is in most cases not more than 15%, whereas the inaccuracy of the amount of fuel can be more than a factor 2 when generic data are used (in contrast to specific data).
- Carbon footprint emissions: N2O emissions caused by crop production
The N2O emissions from land, caused by fertilizers, are the main source of global warming.
The required data and the calculation of the emissions are described in the Datasheet Fertilizers
Note. Note: For milk and meat the calculation is a bit more complex, see Vonk J et al. 2016, “Methodology for estimating emissions from agriculture”, WUR
- Water scarcity caused by irrigation.
The issue is the use of ‘green’ water and especially ‘blue’ water. ‘Green’ thus means ‘originating from rainwater’ and ‘blue’ means ‘originating from groundwater or surface water’. When the amount of blue water to the farm (irrigation water) is known, the calculation is simple. However, when the amount of irrigation water is not known, there is no simple default value: the default value is a rather complex and laborious calculation. See Datasheet Water
- Biodiversity and Soil fertility both strongly depend on the farm management.
These are important issues that are complex, see eco-costs of land-use.
Required data are for biodiversity: (a) geographical location of the farm, (b) number of vascular species per km2, (c) meters of hedges and meters of scrubland around farmland fields (per ha farmland).
Required for soil fertility: (d) kg of harvested product per ha (e) % SOM in the top 15, 30 and 60 cm (if available) (f) how often cover crops (or crop rotation) is applied?
The calculations are rather complex, see Datasheet Soil and Biodiversity
The following foreground issues related to Social Capital and Animal Wellbeing need to be addressed in TCA:
- Minimal Acceptable Living Wage.
It is based on local standards on a wage that is sufficient for the living of a family, the so-called ‘decent living wage’ of the Anker and Anker method. In many cases Anker and Anker data are not available. An approximation is calculated then, see Datasheet Living Wage
- Extreme Poverty (Slavery) and Child Labour.
When the living wage becomes under the level of enough nutrition for the family (so far below the Minimal Acceptable Living Wage), i.e. below the so called “1 $/day World Bank level”, another issue becomes at the surface: people get ill because of malnutrition, children are forced to work, and people are caught by their bosses that supply just enough food to stay alive (slavery). It becomes impossible for the families to escape from this life.
The eco-costs of the Minimum Acceptable Living Wage is in such cases insufficient to describe the real situation. In such a case of extreme poverty (causing physical and mental health by food shortages) the eco-costs are calculated in terms of the DALY (Disability Adjusted Life Year). See Datasheet Extreme Poverty (Slavery) and Child Labour
- Excessive Working Hours.
These working hours are a separate issue for adults, mainly in Chinese manufacturing plants (according to the norms of the International Labour Organization). In agriculture it is only an issue for children when they are deprived from school. See Datasheet Extreme Poverty (Slavery) and Child Labour, and see at s-eco-costs
- Occupational Safety and Health (OSH).
OSH is about work related accidents that caused injuries or were fatal. In can be measured in big agricultural companies, not in small family farms. See Datasheet OSH.
- Animal Wellbeing.
The unacceptable living conditions for animals in the modern bio-industry is an important aspect in TCA. In the eco-costs system, 4 categories of food are distinguished: (a) milk of cows (b) bovine, i.e. calves and cows (c) porcine, i.e. pigs (d) poultry, i.e. chicken. For details see Well-being for Animals (Fig 6.5).
The following foreground issue related to health of Consumer food (‘internalities’) need to be addressed in TCA:
Since the fraction that resides in the harvested product is not known within a reasonable accuracy, and since the pesticides in the product decay, the only way to determine this internality is to measure the amount of pesticide in the products at the retailer, and multiply that to the eco-costs that are given in a table.
When measured data are not available, the default value is the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL).
See Datasheet Pesticides
The background system
Note that all materials that are supplied to the farm (“scope 3”) are calculated with E-LCA (the production of diesel, fertilisers, pesticides, etcetera)
Sukhdev, P. 2012. “How do we value Nature?”. A video of a 52 min lecture on the findings of the TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) project. Highly recommended to get an understanding of the general philosophy and its practical applications.