23 Nov 2020

APS-footprint Update

Towards more sustainable animal production

We are happy to share the latest APS-footprint developments with you. After our launch webinar on September 30th we received a lot of positive reactions from companies, that are recognizing the importance of making their business future-proof by incorporating sustainability.

This update informs you about the latest APS-footprint developments. Also, we are giving you a sneak peek behind the scenes and introducing one of the developers to you!

Currently working on

At the moment, with APS-footprint you can already calculate the environmental impacts of 5 different animal production systems. We have modules available for dairy, broiler, layer, pig and piglet. In addition, there is a separate “feed module”, in which you can define and experiment with your own, custom-made compound feed.

Cultivation module

However, we like to keep developing. It is our ambition to be the worldwide go-to for companies in the animal production sector that want to stay ahead in the sustainability field and keep their business future proof. Therefore, amongst others, we are currently working on a cultivation module. This module allows you to simulate your own on-farm cultivation of crops and grassland for grazing. These crops can then be used as single ingredients complementing your compound feed, with the first main focus on yearly arable products for poultry and pig feed.
For example, imagine there is corn cultivated on the farmland of a pig producer, and this corn is fed to the owned pigs. In this situation, with the new cultivation module it is possible to account for the specific details of the used cultivation methods. This way, the specific cultivation output of the pig producer will be accounted for in the environmental impact of the total farming system - and thus of the output per kg pork. Similarly, if for example cattle grazes outside on the fields for a certain amount of hours per week, there can be accounted for the farmer’s specific management details of this grassland.

In summary, with this new module, the tool is able to give you an even more accurate result on the environmental performance of your system.
Improving the presentation of results

On a longer term, we will improve the way we present results to users of APS-footprint. In its current version, all modules provide results for 18 environmental impact categories*. Results for each impact category are shown in the reporting format characteristic of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) framework. These environmental impact categories are a pre-defined set for which impacts are calculated using an internationally recognized LCA-impact assessment method.

The current approach of reporting in the APS-footprint tool is designed for users with some LCA expertise such as sustainability managers with a technical background or LCA specialists. However, the APS-footprint tool provides integral information, which is helpful and insightful for other users as well, like the board of directors, marketing departments or stakeholders like investors and public organisations.

While we are happy with what the APS-footprint tool offers, Blonk Sustainability Tools is committed to provide a tool that can be used by all stakeholders in the animal production value chain, regardless of their LCA expertise.

This is why we are working on the development of a new reporting structure where the user can select different “environmental performance” (around themes such as nitrogen balance and energy use) using terminology familiar to the different type of users. Furthermore, this new reporting structure helps users to trace back the environmental impact results to actual farm activities. In this way, it becomes clear where the impact is coming from, or what drives it. As a result, the environmental impact results will be more suitable to use in sustainability or CSR reports, to inform clients and other stakeholders on your performance, or to inform colleagues who might have less expertise on environmental performance topics and life cycle assessment.

* All animal modules also include the emissions per housing system.

APS-footprint - Measure, monitor and improve the impact of animal production systems

Blonk developed the Animal Production System footprinting platform (APS-footprint) to help stakeholders in the animal production value chain tackle the sector’s environmental challenges. It enables organizations to develop, apply and monitor proven solutions to reduce the environmental impact and create more sustainable products. 

APS-footprint behind the scenes - Meet the team

We’d love to give you a look behind the scenes of the APS-footprint developments and introduce our dedicated team to you. Today we kick off with Nicolò Braconi.

To start. Can you tell a little bit about yourself?
My name is Nicolò, I have been working for Blonk Sustainability Tools for the past two years, initially as sustainability consultant and now as data and methodology specialist. My background is only partially on data and LCA, since I am a food technologist, specialized in sustainable process engineering at Wageningen University.

More about your job. What is your role within Blonk Sustainability Tools?
I am involved in different projects, such as database developments, model developments, consultancy project support and in general the on-going internal task of assuring that the data and models used by Blonk Sustainability Tools and Blonk Consultants are up to date and meet high quality standards.

What are you currently working on?
My main involvement is currently on developing the methodology used for the APS-footprint tool and using the tool for case studies and consultancy.

How do think software, such as APS-footprint, can make the change to a more sustainable world?
In practice, such software can help assessing environmental impact and estimating interventions effects and trade-offs, which are, together with the people and economic impact, keys for decision making and concrete actions. Still, what I think is the greatest potential of such tools, is that it enables understanding the complexity and uncertainties of reality, first step to grow a mindset really able to grasp the sustainability concept.

What is your favorite part of your work for APS-footprint?
I especially like the process of developing a new module, functionality or update. This goes through brainstorming, creating a proof of concept (my favorite!) and then defining more in specific the concrete implementation plan, through interaction with other departments.

What do you find most challenging about the development of APS-footprint?
The most challenging aspect for me is to manage the various aspects (data, standards, model) of a tool that is in constant evolution.