Scope 1, 2, 3 emissions and agri-food supply chain

by | Aug 30, 2023 | Agricoltura digitale, Agronomy

This article discusses the classification in scope 1, 2, 3 emissions and how, combined with their quantification, it can help increase efficiency, reduce pollution and obtain value-added products in the agri-food sector – all thanks to digital agriculture. 

Agriculture is responsible for about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe or 20% if livestock farming is also considered. When discussing greenhouse gases, we generally refer to carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. It is estimated that agriculture emits about 50% of anthropogenic methane, resulting from fermentation in ruminants and flooding of rice fields, and 60% of nitrous oxide. However, emissions can also be classified  according to the step in the supply chain where they occur: these are known as scope 1, 2, 3 emissions.

Emission classification: scope 1,2,3 emissions

According to the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) protocol, within a company all the emissions can be classified into three categories: scope 1, scope 2 and scope 3.

Scope 1 emissions are those that occur directly from sources controlled or owned by a company, such as a proprietary tractor used to plough a field. Scope 2 emissions are indirect GHG emissions associated with purchased electricity, or heating or cooling systems, e.g. cold rooms used to store fresh food. Finally, scope 3 emissions are the result of activities that are not owned or controlled by a company but are nevertheless related to the generation and transportation of a company’s products, such as emissions related to the production of agricultural machinery, fertilisers and pesticides that farmers use on crops. These emissions may occur downstream or upstream of a farm.

Scope 1,2,3 emissions EPA

According to this scheme, it goes without saying that the scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions of one company are the scope 3 emissions of another one. So, in the case of the agri-food sector, the scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions generated by a farm to obtain the raw materials that agri-food companies process will be the scope 3 emissions of agri-food companies.

According to the 2021 ESG Report issued by the Kraft Heinz Company, scope 3 emissions accounted for more than 90% of their total emissions. Consumer awareness of environmental issues is increasing nowadays. Therefore, there is growing interest among food companies in obtaining data on the emissions related to the raw materials they use. For farms, being able to provide this information can give their products added value within the supply chain. Moreover, this allows farmers themselves to better quantify the emissions related to their activities, so as to understand how to limit them. By doing so, it is possible to increase farm efficiency, reduce pollution and cut costs.

Digital agriculture meets sustainability

But how can all this data be collected, simply and effectively? The answer is through digital agriculture: the xFarm app makes it possible to keep track of all the activities carried out on the farm, automatically recording all agricultural operations, with the corresponding diesel consumption, as well as the quantities of fertilisers and pesticides used. This provides an extremely accurate and timely database from which all the information needed to calculate the emissions associated with the cultivation of the various products can be easily extracted. This data can be used directly by the farmer, or passed on to agribusinesses.

All this information is called farm-level insights. They allow the emissions associated with the production of an agri-food product to be calculated very precisely, for example through Life Cycle Assessment analyses. In the past, these estimates were based on a collection of data from the farm notebook of a small sample of farms in a supply chain, therefore operating with a large margin of error. Today, however, Farm Management Information Systems (FMIS) such as xFarm allow us to do much more. Farms that use these tools to record all their activities end up with an automatically compiled farm notebook. The data collected, which is extremely precise, allows the footprint of agri-food products to be estimated ever more accurately. In particular, through the xFarm Analytics platform, agri-food companies can consult in real time the aggregated data of the farms contributing to the supply chain, or coming from the sensors, in order to get an overview of the entire production process. Finally, with the Sustainability module, they can calculate the specific environmental impact of all activities and the overall impact of the supply chain.

Towards a greener future

Quantifying emissions is the first step to reducing them. If we really want to halve our emissions by 2030, as indicated by Agenda 2030, we need to understand where we can act most effectively. Only by digitising the agri-food supply chain can we obtain objective data that will allow us to understand where and how to intervene, with an eye to increasing sustainability, but also the efficiency of farms, avoiding waste of inputs and thus of time and money.

Once it is clear where to act, precision agriculture can make a big contribution to optimising the use of resources, thereby enhancing farms environmental and economic sustainability. In this respect, xFarm provides its users with a range of useful services for introducing various precision farming practices on farms. These range from vigour maps with vegetation indices, to forecasting models that monitor insects and phytopathologies, to decision support systems that help to decide how and when to intervene, e.g. with irrigation.


IPCC: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg3/

GHG protocol: https://ghgprotocol.org/sites/default/files/standards/ghg-protocol-revised.pdf

ESG report Kraft-Heinz 2021: https://www.kraftheinzcompany.com/esg/pdf/KraftHeinz-2022-ESG-Report.pdf

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