Development of a life cycle assessment tool for the assessment of food production systems within the energy, water and food nexus

As the demand for services and products continues to increase in light of rapid population growth, the question of energy, water and food (EWF) security is of increasing importance. The systems representing the three resources are intrinsically connected and, as such, there is a need to develop assessment tools that consider their interdependences. Specifically when evaluating the environmental performance of a food production system, it is necessary to understand its life cycle. The objective of this paper is to introduce an integrated energy, water and food life cycle assessment tool that integrates EWF resources in one robust model and at an appropriate resolution. The nexus modelling tool developed is capable of providing an environmental assessment for food production systems utilising a holistic systems approach as described by a series of subsystems that constitute each of the EWF resources. A case study set in Qatar and characterised by an agriculture sub-system, which includes the production and application of fertilisers and the raising of livestock, a water sub-system represented by mechanical and thermal desalination processes and an energy sub-system, which includes fossil fuel in the form of combined cycle natural gas based energy production and solar renewable energy is used to illustrate the model function. For the nexus system analysed it is demonstrated that the food system is the largest contributor to global warming. The GWP can be reduced by up to 30% through the utilisation of solar energy to substitute fossil fuels, which, however, comes with a significant requirement for land investment.