Multi-objective optimization identifies trade-offs between self-sufficiency and environmental impacts of regional agriculture in Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Keywords:Environmental Impact, Evolutionary Algorithm, Foodshed, Life Cycle Assessment, Multi-Objective Optimization, Organic Farming, Regional Agriculture, Self-Sufficiency, Scenario Analysis, Germany
Regional food supply, organic farming, and changing food consumption are three major strategies to reduce the environmental impacts of the agricultural sector. In the German Federal State of Baden-Württemberg (population: 11 million), multiple policy and economic incentives drive the uptake of these three strategies, but quantitative assessments of their overall impact abatement potential are lacking. Here, the question of how much food can be produced regionally while keeping environmental impacts within political targets is tackled by comparing a scenario of maximum productivity to an optimal solution obtained with a multi-objective optimization (MO) approach. The investigation covers almost the entirety of productive land in the state, two production practices (organic or conventional), four environmental impact categories, and three demand scenarios (base, vegetarian, and vegan). We present an area-based indicator to quantify the self-sufficiency of regional food supply, as well as the database required for its calculation. Environmental impacts are determined using life cycle assessment. Governmental goals for reducing environmental impacts from agriculture are used by the MO to determine and later rate the different Pareto-efficient solutions, resulting in an optimal solution for regional food supply under environmental constraints. In the scenario of maximal output, self-sufficiency of food supply ranged between 61% and 66% (depending on the diet), and most political targets could not be met. On the other hand, the optimal solution showed a higher share of organic production (ca. 40%–80% compared to 0%) and lower self-sufficiency values (between 40% and 50%) but performs substantially better in meeting political targets for environmental impact reduction. At the county level, self-sufficiency varies between 2% for densely populated urban districts and 80% for rural counties. These results help policy-makers benchmark and refine their goalsetting regarding regional self-sufficiency and environmental impact reduction, thus ensuring effective policymaking for sustainable community development.
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