Food Transportation Emissions and Estimation Tools

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Opp, Breuklyn
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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Food transportation is an increasingly important consideration to total food sustainability in a rapidly globalizing world. To maintain the efficiency of regionalized production, food travels great distances to the consumer’s plate. To reduce emissions due to transportation, many have tried to limit miles traveled. However, the mode of travel is an equally important factor. To effectively model these routes, a set of transportation emissions estimation tools has been created. This program uses an Excel interface to allow users to input key factors and experiment with different modes and routes of travel to find the optimal transportation system for their application. This program may be used to analyze or improve the total life cycle analysis of a variety of products. In a case of the comparison of transportation modes, a salmon transportation route from the Faroe Islands to Richmond, VA resulted in a roughly 98% reduction of emissions when shipped via sea rather than flown. In a case of transportation optimization, the reciprocal trade of beef between Costa Rica and the United States was found to result in at least 158,000 kg of CO2 equivalent annually. These cases (and others) show the great need for better route optimization in food transportation systems.