Institute for Sustainability

Heidrich

GOALPOST (Global and local supply of nutrients for cities)

Key Words: models; cities; systems engineering; business; flows

Summary

Lead Supervisor: Dr Oliver Heidrich

Project Studentship Code: IFS007

Programme Code: 8040F

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To provide nourishment, end hunger, achieve food security, and improve nutrition more sustainable agriculture practices are needed. Modern agriculture may be inadequate for feeding 9 billion people by 2050 because it is dependent upon adding fertilisers to the soil artificially. Key nutrients (N/P/K- Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) are added as fertilisers to enhance root growth and crop resilience. Whilst N and P can be recovered from waste and wastewaters, Potassium (K) cannot, and it is a finite resource. However mineral based nutrients are vital to meet agricultural demand for growing populations. It is mined around the globe, but primarily in northern latitudes, leading to a high transportation burden to the southern hemisphere, where demand is set to increase and food security is a challenge. All this is not sustainable as more and more minerals must be added to the soil to obtain the same yield (Ciceri et al., 2015). New methods of managing nutrients and resources are needed.

These will connect existing institutional frameworks to oversee responsible sourcing of minerals, supply chain management and increase consumer awareness of the effects of increased consumption (Ali et al., 2017). To link social economic issues and physical limitation Oliver and colleagues developed a Multi-Sectoral Systems Analysis (MSA) to determine the Urban Metabolism of London quantifying energy-water-food nexus (Villarroel Walker et al., 2014, Villarroel Walker et al., 2017). This research did focus on the disposal and recovery route but importantly missed the supply chain and mineral nutrients. GOALPOST will apply triangulation methods from analytical tools like Material Flow Accounting to qualitative methods. Providing alternatives fertilisers is changing the supply and disposal chain significantly. Such changes require new business development that can be seen as disruptive innovation to the existing market model which is currently led by a handful of large-scale fertiliser providers.

GOALPOST will provide new models, theoretical understandings and interpretations to build new systems that are needed for the multi-local supply and recovery of nutrients. It will advance the research fields of Industrial Ecology, Resource and Business Management by conducting transdisciplinary research: 1) Improve data disaggregation related to the physical information for nutrients from “mine to mouth”; 2) Determine the urban metabolism of cities; 3) Contribute to alternative sourcing of nutrients along the global supply and local consumer chain; 4) Highlight the environmental and social impacts linked to nutrient flows from supply to disposal chain and 5) Investigate disruptive innovation options to the existing market and business models of large-scale fertiliser providers and consumers.

References: Ali et al & Yakovlea, N. 2017. Mineral supply for sustainable development requires resource governance. Nature, 543, 367-372. Ciceri, Manning, D et al 2015. Historical and technical developments of potassium resources. Science of the Total Environment, 502, 590-601. Villarroel et al & Heidrich, O. 2014. The energy-water-food nexus: Strategic analysis of technologies for transforming the urban metabolism. Journal of Environmental Management, 141, 104-115. Villarroel et al & Heidrich, O 2017. Identifying key technology and policy strategies for sustainable cities: A case study of London. Environmental Development, 21, 1-18