One of Britain’s biggest and best-loved bread makers has joined forces with Management School researchers and a leading agricultural intelligence provider, to better understand the impact its activities are having on the environment – from the plough to the plate.
Hovis are using real-world data ranging from the energy consumption of its ovens and mills, to the volume of fertiliser used on its farmers’ fields, members of a multidisciplinary research team are now undertaking analysis using the Supply Chain Environmental Analysis Tool (SCEnAT) developed by Professor Lenny Koh at the University’s Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre.
“This tool allows us to pinpoint where the weak points in a supply chain are and assess their impact across a range of environmental indicators,” says Professor Koh. Early results, which are currently being pored over by Hovis and independent agricultural intelligence services company, Agrii.
“It’s important for Hovis to know where the environmental hotspots in their supply chain are,” says supply chain and energy efficiency researcher, Dr Liam Goucher. “By working with us, we can help them identify those hotspots and develop targeted solutions that both reduce the impact on the environment and make them more efficient as a company.”
“What makes this project especially interesting to a company like Hovis, is that once we have identified and quantified environmental impact throughout the supply chain, the members of our multidisciplinary team are able to develop viable and sustainable interventions to address key problem areas.”
Whether it is a way to reduce the energy inputs needed to bake the more than 60 million loaves annually in a single bakery, or the development of novel seed varieties and production techniques, the Sheffield team has the intellectual resource to design these solutions.
But for biochemist, Professor Peter Horton, of the University’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, this specific piece of research has much wider implications. “We know that big challenges such as sustainable food production will not be met by research within a single discipline. That’s why we are so passionate about the integration of science, engineering and social science here at Sheffield. By creating teams like this we can not only identify the problems, we can also design the sustainable solutions,” he added.
Originally published in the university's Discover magazine.
(Main Image Credit: Bart Everson on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0) )