Clean Technologies in Agriculture - How to Prioritise Measures?

Authors: Deborah Scharfy, Norman Boccali and Matthias Stucki

Journal Title: Sustainability

ISSN: 2071-1050 (Online)

Publisher: MDPI AG

As agriculture continues to be under pressure due to its negative environmental impacts, resource-efficiency and the use of clean technologies gain importance. Meanwhile, there is an abundance of technological solutions that help “clean” agriculture’s hotspots, either by reducing inputs, by producing renewable energy or by protecting ecosystems. Decisions about clean technologies remain difficult due to the variety of options, difficulties in cost-benefit calculations, and potential trade-offs in sustainability. We therefore addressed the issue of decision-making regarding clean technologies in agriculture. A multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) was used to rank the most sustainable technologies. Evaluation of 17 selected clean technologies was based on literature information and expert opinion. Wireless sensor irrigation networks, frequency converters for vacuum pumps and stable air conditioning, PV electricity and drip irrigation were the five technologies with the highest sustainability scores, outperforming the 12 other clean technologies. When all sustainability dimensions and criteria were equally weighted, PV electricity was superseded by variable speed drive technology for irrigation in the top five. This paper shows that MCDAs are a useful method for choosing between sustainable clean technology options. By applying different weighting, the MCDA can reflect the priorities of the decision maker and provide customised results.

Illustration Photo: Humidity and temperature sensors and underground soil tensiometers are strategically located throughout Reiter Berry Farms, in Watsonville, CA, on Thursday, August 27, 2015. Data from this and other sensors will be transmitted to a comunication repeater on the hill in the distance, where it will go to a cloud-based irrigation management system. The farms are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to improve on the 30% water savings they already achieve with precision micro subsurface irrigation. The use of a Wireless Irrigation Monitoring Network (WIN) to collects data from wireless solar powered soil tensiometers, and weather field stations positioned throughout farms in three counties enable them to track soil, temperature, and humidity conditions with a cloud-based irrigation management system, to better manage watering and soil conservation efforts in more than 700 acres. They actively share their data, methods, and experiences with other producers. Better management by producers using a currently dwindling supply and quality of ground water (wells) in this county will help recharge the aquifer and prevent the migration of nearby Pacific Ocean salt water into the ground water they use...

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Ag Sustainability And Innovation
Ag Sustainability And Innovation