Assessing strategies for achieving environmentally sustainable food systems using robust optimization

Abstract

[EMBARGOED UNTIL 5/1/2024] With growing populations and affluence, many organizations predict that food demand will increase, which presents considerable challenges to achieving economic, environmental, and social sustainability 1. At the same time, more people are living in urban environments. In 2018 in the United States (U.S.) 82 percent ( percent) of the population lived in urban areas, with an anticipated increase to 89 percent by 2050 1. Increasing food production within urban areas could alleviate pressure to increase conventionally-grown agricultural commodities and the foods produced from them. Further, many entities promote localizing or regionalizing food systems in support of economic, social, and environmental sustainability 2. For these reasons, it is important to determine the extent to which localized food systems can be realized, including urban agricultural activities, changing food diets, and agricultural conservation practices given the nutritional needs of the population as well as the corresponding land available. In this research, we first used non-robust (average yield) and robust (varying yield) optimization techniques to find the minimum radius required from the center of Chicago, Illinois, accounting for differences in land area by type, to meet the population's nutritional needs given yield data for conventional and urban agricultural products. Then, we extended the optimization models to find if shifting from the current American diet to other diets would help with localizing food systems: What would be the benefits and costs in terms of nutrient adequacy and environmental footprints associated with each diet, and to what extent would potential future climate change impact on crop yields change the results? Finally, we assessed the impacts of an agricultural conservation practice called prairie strips in which we allocate some percent of corn and soybean fields to prairie strips to determine how this strategy would change the ability to localize food system among all diets/scenarios and what would be additional environmental changes associated with this practice.Includes bibliographical references

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University of Missouri: MOspace

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Last time updated on 21/08/2023

This paper was published in University of Missouri: MOspace.

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