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Developing a Life Cycle Inventory for Australian Agriculture

Project start date: 01 December 2011
Project end date: 01 November 2013
Publication date: 01 November 2013
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Sheep, Goat, Lamb, Grassfed cattle, Grainfed cattle


The objectives of the project were to: 1. Identify supply chains for each commodity, as agreed by each sector, that are representative of the major production systems in Australia. These defined supply chains formed the basis of the pilot study. 2. Locate existing source data and Life Cycle Inventory that covers key supply chains and build this data into the Australian Agriculture Life Cycle Inventory (AusAgLCI). This involved marshalling data, standardising and parameterising for national LCI database, and technical review by industry stakeholders. 3. Publish the database (AusAgLCI) in a form that is compliant with national guidelines as defined by AusLCI so that it can be taken up for use by Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) practitioners using commonly available proprietary software. 4. Undertake a gap analysis to assist in identifying priorities for further investment in LCI by industry sectors.
Over the last decade there has been a significant focus on the environmental impact of products and services across the economy, resulting in environmental product declarations and delivery agreements where the supplier is required to demonstrate an on-going improvement program of environmental sustainability. Once action is required, primary producers need to be able to make an objective assessment of their environmental impact (by Life Cycle Assessment, LCA) so that "hot spots" in their production system can be identified, and options to reduce these impacts can be investigated. The goal of inventory collection for AusAgLCI was to provide underlying data to ensure Australian primary producers can readily, and objectively, demonstrate that their products are being produced in a responsible manner, in a system where environmental assessment is used to aid and drive improvements. This will assist producers to meet marketing requirements and to benchmark their production in global markets.
AusAgLCI was financially supported by industry via the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) in conjunction with Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC), Dairy Australia (DA), Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA), Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL), Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), Sugar Research Australia (SRA) and project partners Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, Queensland (DAFF Qld), University of Southern Queensland (USQ) and CSIRO. Country specific Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) for agricultural products is essential for Australian agriculture to undertake environmental impact studies related to food and fibre, especially where differences in management systems and regional climate, soils and vegetation significantly affect LCA results. AusAgLCI delivers a framework for transparent and robust LCI in a form that can be accessed by Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) practitioners both within Australian and internationally.
The main path to impact for the project is the uptake of the inventory by LCA practitioners that are undertaking environmental assessment that include Australian agricultural products in their supply chain. Therefore, the main target audiences are the software providers who will incorporate the inventory into their products (via SimaPro, Pre; GABI, PE) and the LCA research community and practitioners in Australia (and to some extent overseas). The secondary audiences are the investing Research and Development Corporations (environment program managers), businesses involved with environmental performance assessment (ALCAS members, SAI Platform), and policy groups both industry (Cattle Council, Sheep Meat Council, Grain Corp, NFF) and government (Dept of Agriculture, Dept of Environment). AusAgLCI has delivered a scientifically robust, standardised and transparent system for developing life cycle inventory specific to Australian agricultural production with key inventory being prepared for cotton (eastern Australia), grains (nationally), horticulture (predominantly Queensland), and livestock feeds (for beef, dairy and sheep). Publication of AusAgLCI gives LCA practitioners access to country specific inventory that they can use to assess supply chains that contain Australian agricultural inputs. This has been a pilot project and as more inventories are developed they will be added to AusAgLCI to build comprehensive national coverage. Many sectors of the Australian community will benefit from this life cycle inventory, as it will allow more accurate environmental assessment of food and fibre products consumed both domestically and in international markets.
AusAgLCI project has delivered a scientifically robust, standardised and transparent system for developing life cycle inventory specific to Australian agricultural production with a selection of key inventory being prepared for cotton, grains, horticulture, livestock feeds and sugar. AusAgLCI will grow in utility as future inventory is developed to give national coverage for all major production systems. Currently AusAgLCI contains approximately 180 inventories representing either agricultural product at the farm gate or key process inventory as inputs to production (Table 9). LCI for the sugar industry covers five regional production systems to the farm gate, raw sugar and molasses. For grains, inventory has been developed for winter cereals for a number of regions across Australia plus additional key crops such as canola, lupins and sorghum. In the horticulture industry, inventory has been produced for nine crops, including three orchard/plantation establishment processes on a regional basis. For cotton, four inventories have been developed to reflect the three main regional differences in irrigated production systems, plus one dry land system. To support each product, specialised inventories of key processes such as cultivation, irrigation, and harvesting have also been developed. For the red meat sector supporting inventory (for major inputs) only has been developed at this stage, as a number of methodology issues in this sector are yet to be resolved by stakeholders. In addition to producing the database, the AusAgLCI project also fostered and built LCA capability in Australia through workshops on LCA modelling, an LCAS Roundtable on PestLCI and discussion groups and papers on key methodological issues. International links were forged with France, Canada, USA and China to assist in bringing a common international approach to agricultural inventory development.
The AusAgLCI database and guidelines are available for downloadhere
Please click on the links to the reports AusAgLCI - A Life Cycle Inventory database for Australian agriculture andAusAg LCI – Methodology for developing life cycle inventory