What are we doing?

The Farm Sustainability Toolkit Project aims to be at the cutting edge of research into the sustainability of the global food system, using evidence-based research to drive the development of digital sustainability tools.

Unlike the current in-person model of farm advice, which is costly and hard to scale, digital tools can scale rapidly. Embedding environmental impact calculations into the digital tools that farmers are already using could enable sustainability monitoring to reach farms worldwide. 

Therefore, we're integrating with digital tools used by farmers and running trials to examine what effects this may have on farmer behaviour. The evidence we gain will contribute to our understanding of how best to use digital tools to improve agricultural sustainability. We're specifically focussed on how solutions may be scaled, harnessing their potential to revolutionise our global food system. 


How are we doing it?


HESTIA (Harmonised Environmental Storage and Tracking of the Impacts of Agriculture) is a platform built to provide a standardised format with which represent agri-environmental data. The HESTIA platform allows users to upload and download data on farming, food processing, and other processes in the agri-food system, detailing the sustainability and productivity of different food products and production practices. These data are stored using a standardised format, have been validated, and are open access. 

HESTIA's data format, data, and software will be integrated with an existing digital farm tool in order to add a sustainability component built upon reliable, harmonised data. The Farm Sustainability Toolkit Project will then research the impacts of using this tool on farmer behaviour and attitude. 

The integration of the HESTIA platform with existing digital farm and business management tools will allow the toolkits to run multi-environmental impact indicator full-life cycle calculations. This will allow farmers to estimate their environmental impacts across a range of different indicators, including greenhouse gas emissions, eutrophication potential, acidification pesticide toxicity, water use, and biodiversity impacts. 


Social comparison can be a powerful incentive for change. The toolkits will allow farmers to evaluate their own environmental performance by comparing their environmental impacts against national and global benchmarks.


The toolkit advice engine will deliver evidence-driven advice, tailored to individual farms, on steps that farmers can take to mitigate the environmental impacts of their farming practices. This will provide farmers with the information they need to independently reduce their impacts or can be integrated into existing farm management practices to boost environmental performance. 


We are currently setting up field trials to test the impacts of digital toolkits designed to monitor the sustainability of agricultural practices. Our selected toolkits will be integrated with the HESTIA platform. Our field trials will focus on the production of cereals. Cereals have the largest global land use footprint of all crops, and are an essential component of plant-based and mixed diets. Using randomised control trials in both industrialised and emerging economies, we will measure the impacts of using the toolkits on farmer attitudes to the environment, the adoption of farming practices showing to benefit the environment, and on-farm environmental impacts.