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Dissertation Defence: Development of the National Environmental Sustainability and Technology Tool (NESTT) – A sustainability measurement and management platform for Canadian egg farmers
July 24, 2023 at 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Vivek Arulnathan, supervised by Dr. Nathan Pelletier, will defend their dissertation titled “Development of the National Environmental Sustainability and Technology Tool (NESTT) – A sustainability measurement and management platform for Canadian egg farmers” in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies.
An abstract for Vivek Arulnathan’s dissertation is included below.
Examinations are open to all members of the campus community as well as the general public. This examination will be offered in hybrid format. Registration is not required for in person defences; however, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the zoom link for this defence if you plan to attend online.
The global agri-food system is necessarily central to contemporary sustainability discourse due to its significant contribution to major environmental issues such as climate change, deforestation, and land degradation. Within agri-food systems, livestock-based food production is particularly impactful and considered among the top three contributors to most serious global environmental issues. As a result, there is growing consumer and regulatory demand for better sustainability measurement and management capabilities in the agri-food sector. Farm-level sustainability decision support tools characterized by their ease of access, simplified sustainability assessment models, and emphasis on effective communication and aesthetic appeal are particularly salient in this context. The dissertation research reported herein culminated in the development of a tool with such characteristics – the National Environmental Sustainability and Technology Tool (NESTT) – which was developed for the Canadian egg industry. NESTT can help Canadian egg farmers measure their farm’s environmental impacts, evaluate the mitigation potential of sustainability technologies and strategies, benchmark their performance against industry standards, and track their performance over time. The sustainability assessment framework in NESTT was based on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) – a globally recognized method for assessing environmental impacts of products over their entire life cycles. A new allocation method based on metabolic energy partitioning in hens was developed to address multifunctionality (a major methodological consideration in LCAs) in NESTT in way that is compliant with the natural science basis and requirements of the ISO 14044 standard for LCA. For measuring impacts, a modular approach based on multi-level aggregation of life cycle impacts across six modules – pullets, feed, energy inputs, water, manure management, and transportation – was implemented. In light of the need to ensure that NESTT meets the requirements of farmers, a participatory design approach involving surveys and interviews of egg farmers was employed. Improvements related to user-centeredness, aesthetic appeal, and accessibility were achieved and long-term strategic options such as integrating economic assessments and adding more customized decision support features were identified in consultation with farmers. In support of these long-term goals, a preliminary economic assessment framework was also developed and integration of Multi Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) methods with LCA for customized decision support was explored. Overall, NESTT provides a unique, first of its kind tool to provide farmers with multi-criteria, LCA-based assessment capabilities in both Canada and the egg sector globally.