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Ekqvist, Ida, 2024. Shifting focus from yields to food supply : an evaluation of the ‘number of people fed per hectare’ indicator at farm and national level. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Department of Molecular Sciences



The challenge of feeding a growing global population while reducing the pressure on climate and ecosystems has gained much attention in research over the last decades. A crucial yet often overlooked aspect in research addressing this complex challenge is the efficiency of food production in meeting nutritional needs within the constraints of global cropland resources.
Addressing this gap requires a perspective on productivity that extends beyond the traditional metric of yield per hectare to also consider the diverse nutrient needs of a complete diet. An indicator that effectively capture this aspect is the 'number of people that can be fed per hectare' in terms of adequate intake of calories, protein and fat. The mission of this thesis is to evaluate if and how this indicator can offer valuable insights at different levels in the food system. To comprehend the potential benefits of using the indicator and identify its most suitable area of use, the indicator was applied at two different levels in the food system. Calculations were conducted at 1) the national level, focusing on Sweden as a whole, and 2) the individual farm level, applying the indicator to a selection of real farms in order to explore the strengths and shortcomings of the indicator at different scales of application. The case farms, consisting of nine livestock farms that started a transition to a more diversified agriculture, were analysed before and after implemented production changes.
At national level, the indicator proved effective in providing information on the current utilization of edible nutrients in the food system and by highlighting the supply capacity within existing agricultural production. The application of this indicator to Sweden’s agricultural output show that the country's current food production can meet the daily calorie needs of about 5 people per hectare and slightly fewer in terms of protein and fat. Shifting the crops currently used for feed, fuel and other uses towards direct human consumption would double calorie provision and increase protein supply by 50%. Less than half of the edible fat and only around 30% of the proteins and 40% of the calories from crops produced in Sweden 2020 were used as food, with 11% of plant protein and 10% of edible fat going to biofuel and ethanol production.
Applied at farm level, the indicator can serve as a tool for understanding the performance of individual farms, providing insights into how different production decisions affect farm output and land use efficiency in terms of food supply. Its primary utility at farm level lies in tracking the impact of agricultural practices on a particular farm over time. However, it is not ideally suited for benchmarking performance across farms with different natural conditions for agricultural produc-tion.
Finally, this thesis emphasizes the necessity of adopting a holistic approach in the assessment of a farm or region. To ensure a multi-dimensional evaluation that captures the complexities and inter-dependencies inherent in sustainable agricultural systems, the 'number of people fed per hectare' needs to be integrated with a broader range of sustainability indicators, covering ecological, eco-nomic, and social aspects.
In conclusion, the 'number of people fed per hectare' indicator demonstrates greater utility when applied at the national scale than at the farm level. Its application to broader food systems offers valuable insights into agricultural productivity and food supply capacity of a country, which can be useful to evaluate the land use efficiency of current production and further to identifying possible actions to increase the national food supply.

Main title:Shifting focus from yields to food supply
Subtitle:an evaluation of the ‘number of people fed per hectare’ indicator at farm and national level
Authors:Ekqvist, Ida
Supervisor:Röös, Elin
Examiner:Tidåker, Pernilla
Series:Molecular Sciences
Volume/Sequential designation:2020:36
Year of Publication:2024
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:NM028 Sustainable Food Systems - Master's Programme, 120.0hp
Supervising department:(NL, NJ) > Department of Molecular Sciences
Keywords:Land use efficiency, Sustainability indicators, Agricultural productivity, Food production
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Deposited On:01 Mar 2024 08:54
Metadata Last Modified:22 Mar 2024 14:13

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