Frequently Asked Questions about Agri-footprint

Availability of Agri-footprint

In which LCA software is Agri-footprint available?

Agri-footprint is available in the following LCA software:

  • SimaPro
    Included in a SimaPro license. 
  • openLCA
    Available as a 'for purchase databases'. 

Besides that, there is an Excel version available. 

Crop processing

Does the data for crops concern only crop cultivation? How could we know specific data for processing in Agriculture?

Agri-footprint includes many processing LCIs such as different crushing processes, dry milling, wet milling, sugar processing, oil refining, and many more.

Allocation

Does Agri-footprint recommend using one or another of the 3 allocation approaches by default?

We do not recommend a default allocation approach in Agri-footprint because the choice also depends on the purpose of your LCA. In our LCAs we often include a sensitivity analysis of the used allocation 1.
With Agri-footprint you can perform such an analysis with 3 different libraries (Economic allocation, Mass allocation, Gross Energy allocation).
The economic allocation approach is most compatible with LCI databases, such as ELCD, USLCI, and ecoinvent 2.2/ ecoinvent 3 cut-off by classification.

1 As mentioned in section 4.3.4.1 of the ISO 14044 (ISO, 2006).

Regarding the allocation methods, it is possible to choose a different allocation rule for a same LCI?

Yes, since the 3 libraries contain the same products, only with different allocation rules. Therefore users can select one of the 3 pre-defined allocation LCIs. The LCIs of these 3 pre-defined allocations are exactly the same except for the allocation percentages.

Cultivation data

Does Agri-footprint include data for pesticides? If not, how do you deal with the impact of pest control?

Yes, emissions of active ingredients from pesticides are integrated in each cultivation LCI of Agri-footprint. We performed a thorough literature study to develop all these crop/country specific pesticide application inventories. For more details, please see section 2.7 of the Agri-footprint data report.

Since Agri-footprint version 3, the production of pesticides are also included in the inventories.

Are there different inventories for organic and conventional food productions?

No, this version of Agri-footprint currently contains only conventional LCIs. We did include some typical processing steps for organic products such as pressing of oil crops (instead of solvent crushing). 

Do you include direct field fertilizer and pesticide emissions to the database? How do they are modelled?

Yes, direct emissions from fertilizers are included as well as indirect emissions and emissions from crop residues. Section 3.5 of the Agri-footprint methodology report (part 2) provides a detailed description of how emissions from fertilizers are modelled. Section 3.7.5 provides information on the fate of the pesticides emissions.

How is pesticide application distributed between air/ground/water?

This is described in the methodology reports; in essence we follow the same approach as what is described in the Product Environmental Footprint guidance. This means: 90% to soil, 1% to fresh water and 9% to air.

Will crop rotation be looked into in future versions?

We have done studies on specific crop rotations and their impacts on the LCA-results. However, since Agri-footprint is a background database we do not intend to include specific crop rotations per country/region in the near future.

Land Use Change

Is it possible to consider specific dLUC to updated the LCI data for different situations/countries?

Yes, direct land use change is included in Agri-footprint with the flow “Carbon dioxide, land transformation” to air. So you can easily adapt it or report separately in your impact assessment, which is done for example in the GHG protocol method in SimaPro. The emissions and land transformation can be recalculated with the user friendly LUC Impact tool or using the pre-calculated crop and country specific dataset.

Is INDIRECT land use change considered in any way in the Agri-footprint database?

No, indirect land use change is not taken into account.

Carbon storage/sequestration/soil degradation

Did you account for soil carbon sequestration in the calculation of carbon footprint of crop production?

No, Agri-footprint does not take into account carbon storage/ sequestration but users can easily include the uptake of biogenic carbon in the LCIs.

Why is there no implementation for carbon storage for crops?

The carbon stored in crops is short-cyclical, because when it is used as feed or fuel the carbon will again be released into the atmosphere. Therefore, it is not taken into account. Regarding the carbon storage and/or removal in agricultural soils no consistent methodology is available in LCA.

Parameterized models

When we change an amount of an input in a process, what happens to the emissions to air, soil or water in this process? Are they changed automatically?

These emissions do not change if you adapt an input because the default Agri-footprint LCIs are not parameterized. We offer detailed and tailor-made parameterized LCIs.

Regionalization

How representative is the data for different regions/countries?

We tried to make the data geographically as representative as possible. There are cultivation data from many countries in Europe, Asia, America and Oceania. Cultivation processes are all 100% country specific. For a couple of crop processing no data is available. If this was the case these processes where not included or a proxy was included underpinned by industry experts (e.g. no data is available for crushing of sunflower seed so crushing of another softseed – rapeseed - was used).

Products in Agri-footprint

Does Agri-footprint also include processed foods consisting of more than one ingredient?

No, we started Agri-footprint with the fundaments of our food which are mostly commodities.
More information about the products in Agri-footprint

Documentation

Is there a guide or a report in which the database and model choices are detailed and for the use of Agri-footprint database?

Yes, you can find the documents on the Agri-footprint page. 

Data quality

Which quality criteria have been used in the review of the dataset/database?

The data quality procedure of Agri-footprint is described in section 4. of the Methodology and basic principles report.
The review letter and our response is included in appendix A and B of that same report. Also several LCA food experts performed a review of the beta-version of Agri-footprint.

Where do the data come from?

Data comes from several sources such as:

  • Statistical databases (e.g. FAOstat),
  • Case studies from scientific literature (e.g. Renouf, Wegener, & Pagan, 2010),
  • Primary data from companies,
  • Emission models based on IPCC calculation rules (e.g. IPCC, 2006),
  • And many more

Which background databases are used for energy and fuels in Agri-footprint? Why have you chosen to use these?

For energy and fuels we use ELCD because these datasets are free to use. It is not possible to use other commercially databases (like ecoinvent) in your database. Transport datasets are all modelled by ourselves. Some other background datasets are also modelled by us. We hope in the future to also model energy datasets ourselves so that we are not dependent anymore on other datasets.

How is the consistency between the ecoinvent database and the Agri-footprint database? Are there methodological challenges when it comes to mixing data from the two in an assessment?

For the modelling of agro-food processes ecoinvent and Agri-footprint both make use of different methodologies and use different activity data. The modelling of field emission from cultivation is mostly done using similar methodologies, but there are exceptions (e.g. nitrate emissions). In general, Agri-footprint strives to build datasets based on large datasets and statistics, while ecoinvent relies more on data from specific (case) studies and reports. However, since both databases provide background datasets there is no problem in using datasets from both databases. The main challenge of using processes from both databases is in the impact assessment methodology, where Agri-footprint is directly developed to be compatible with Recipe and ILCD (as implemented in SimaPro), ecoinvent flows/substances have been mapped by PRé to match their equivalents in SimaPro.

How does data quality compare between the different crops datasets/countries in the database?

The data quality method is aligned over all the crop datasets. So, all processes have a data quality score given their representativeness for the given crop, country, technology etcetera. For more information on our data quality procedure, please see the Agri-footprint methodology report (part 1).

What methods are used to calculate emissions?

Several methods are used like methods from the IPCC background documents, scientific literature for heavy metal emissions, etcetera. Detailed information can be found in the Agri-footprint methodology report (part 2).

Uncertainty

Could you show how uncertainty is documented?

Uncertainty distributions are defined for specific input or output data of LCI processes that incorporate some main factors defining uncertainty and variability around the average. The focus is on key parameters related to the average efficiency of processes in the regions for which average process data are derived.

For example, a crop growing process, all uncertainty modelling is concentrated in the yield per hectare. In this way, all the relationships between input of fertilizers and its emissions due to use are kept, using the efficiency (yield, in this case) of the process as description of its uncertainty.

For more details, please see section 3.8 of the Methodology and basic principles report.

Impact assessment

Is the water footprint also included?

Water inventories are included to calculate, for example, the ‘Water scarcity index’ according to Pfister, Koehler, & Hellweg (2009) and other water scarcity methods at midpoint or endpoint. Water polluting emissions are included in the inventory; so, you can also do impact assessments analysis on water polluting impact categories. Agri-footprint is not equipped to calculate water footprint based on the method of Hoekstra (Hoekstra & et al., 2011), because green water sources (rainwater) is not included in the water balances.

Have you quantified impacts on organic farming or food products separately?

No - this is still a wish. Most questions and projects we deal with are for conventional farming. It looks like organic farming is not that interested in LCA - off course due to the limitations of food LCAs (e.g. soil quality) which do not capture (yet) well enough some positive aspects of organic farming. It's a big wish of our team.

Nomenclature

Does the database use the same nomenclature as ecoinvent?

The nomenclature of Agri-footprint is based on ecoinvent 2.2. The product categories and process naming has the same structure as ecoinvent 2.2. However, the names of substances is not exactly the same as ecoinvent (in the ecospold format), as SimaPro and openLCA use their own set of substance names.

Updates

How often are you going to update your database?

We aim for an annual update. 

Other questions

Are there both unit and system (aggregated) processes?

All processes in Agri-footprint are modelled as unit processes. For some background processes we use the ELCD 3.0 database, which are mainly system processes.

Is food waste accounted for? Including disposal? Based on what data?

Waste of processing is included and accounted for. Also emissions due to crop residues on the field are accounted for. Food waste at the consumer is not included. See the Agri-footprint documents for all the data sources.

Has Agri-footprint data been used within Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) ?

Yes, many Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) pilots have used data from Agri-footprint. For example, the following PEF-pilots: Beer, Red Meat, Animal feed, Dairy, Pasta and Pet food.

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