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The National Environmental Sustainability Tool (NEST) – Discussing the rationale behind a sector-specific, life cycle-based, decision support tool for Canadian egg farmers

2021 CPRF
Due to the complexity of both the concept of sustainability and quantitative sustainability assessment methods, farm-level Decision Support Tools (DSTs) have become increasingly popular in the agri-food sector for their user-friendliness and design for independent use by farmers. These tools are often web-based and simplify complex sustainability issues, making them more tangible and thus supporting effective decision-making at the farm-level. A review of such farm-level DSTs highlighted that due to the trade-offs developers make in the development process, farm-level DSTs that focus on a specific agri-food sector/product, have narrower geographic scope and consider multiple dimensions of sustainability appear to be potentially most efficacious. A DST with such characteristics – NEST – is currently under development for Canadian egg farms. NEST’s exclusive focus on Canadian egg farms will ensure the delivery of customized and relevant sustainability assessment and decision support capabilities for farmers. This narrow scope – both in terms of geography and product – is actually beneficial as it enables the adoption of ISO 14044 standardized, multi-criteria, life-cycle based quantitative modelling that assures scientific rigor and validity to the results obtained in NEST. NEST’s design will also deliver value to Canadian egg farmers through specific decision support features such as benchmarking, comparing multiple assessments, monitoring progress and knowledge transfer. Finally, NEST can also be useful at the industry-level by supporting standardized data collection, sustainability reporting, and development of industry-wide sustainability targets and policies. In conclusion, sector-specific tools such as NEST have the potential to make sustainability assessment more accessible and deliver significant decision support capabilities to farmers, thus enabling more effective progress towards increasingly sustainable agri-food systems.
Tags :
decision support tool,egg farmers,NEST,sustainability
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PhD Candidate

University of British Columbia

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