Multi-objective optimization identifies trade-offs between self-sufficiency and environmental impacts of regional agriculture in Baden-Württemberg, Germany

  • Christian Buschbeck University of Freiburg
  • Larissa Bitterich University of Freiburg
  • Christian Hauenstein University of Freiburg https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9077-2220
  • Stefan Pauliuk University of Freiburg
Keywords: Environmental Impact, Evolutionary Algorithm, Foodshed, Life Cycle Assessment, Multi-Objective Optimization, Organic Farming, Regional Agriculture, Self-Sufficiency, Scenario Analysis, Germany

Abstract

Regional food supply, organic farming, and chang­ing food consumption are three major strategies to reduce the environmental impacts of the agricul­tural sector. In the German Federal State of Baden-Württemberg (population: 11 million), multiple policy and economic incentives drive the uptake of these three strategies, but quantitative assessments of their overall impact abatement potential are lacking. Here, the question of how much food can be produced regionally while keeping environmen­tal impacts within political targets is tackled by comparing a scenario of maximum productivity to an optimal solution obtained with a multi-objective optimization (MO) approach. The investigation covers almost the entirety of productive land in the state, two production practices (organic or conven­tional), four environmental impact categories, and three demand scenarios (base, vegetarian, and vegan). We present an area-based indicator to quantify the self-sufficiency of regional food sup­ply, as well as the database required for its calcula­tion. Environmental impacts are determined using life cycle assessment. Governmental goals for reducing environmental impacts from agriculture are used by the MO to determine and later rate the different Pareto-efficient solutions, resulting in an optimal solution for regional food supply under environmental constraints. In the scenario of maxi­mal output, self-sufficiency of food supply ranged between 61% and 66% (depending on the diet), and most political targets could not be met. On the other hand, the optimal solution showed a higher share of organic production (ca. 40%–80% com­pared to 0%) and lower self-sufficiency values (between 40% and 50%) but performs substan­tially better in meeting political targets for environ­mental impact reduction. At the county level, self-sufficiency var­ies between 2% for densely popu­lated urban dis­tricts and 80% for rural counties. These results help policy-makers benchmark and refine their goalsetting regarding regional self-sufficiency and environmental impact reduction, thus ensuring effective policymaking for sustainable community development.

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Author Biographies

Christian Buschbeck, University of Freiburg

Industrial Ecol­ogy Group, Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources

Larissa Bitterich, University of Freiburg

Industrial Ecology Group, Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources

Christian Hauenstein, University of Freiburg

Industrial Ecology Group, Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources

Stefan Pauliuk, University of Freiburg

Industrial Ecology Group, Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources

Published
2020-10-16
How to Cite
Buschbeck, C., Bitterich, L., Hauenstein, C., & Pauliuk, S. (2020). Multi-objective optimization identifies trade-offs between self-sufficiency and environmental impacts of regional agriculture in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 10(1), 1–20. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2020.101.003