ESU World Food LCA Database interview

15 April 2024

The ESU world food LCA database is a paid database that can be used in SimaPro. It includes thousands of data sets covering global impacts of food-related areas of interest such as agricultural production services, vegetable production, fruits, animal products, and many more. It is developed by our Swiss partner ESU-services Ltd., who core objectives are consulting, coaching, training and research in the fields of life cycle assessment (LCA), carbon footprints, water footprint in the sectors energy, civil engineering, basic minerals, chemicals, packaging, telecommunication, food and lifestyles.

Martin Ulrich, Project Manager and data sales at ESU-services Ltd., kindly shares with us his expertise and explains us why choosing the ESU World Food LCA Database when working in the food sector.

What content can someone expect from the ESU World Food Database and what was the original idea behind the database?

Containing over 2500 datasets on food production and consumption, regularly refreshed, this database offers a comprehensive view from field to supermarket, addressing factors such as food losses, transport, packaging and supermarket distribution. It includes datasets covering agricultural production practices like fertilizer and pesticide usage, as well as food processing operations such as dairy production and meat alternatives. Moreover, it encompasses datasets related to food consumption patterns, including data from restaurants, canteens, cooking activities, and whole meal analyses. Find more information via

What is the methodological approach selected for this database?

Pesticide emissions are fully covered in the datasets of agricultural production. Data for feed production include imports to Switzerland. The methodology for agricultural emissions has been simplified compared to ecoinvent data. Constant emission factors for nitrate, N2O, etc. are applied based on fertilizer use. Agricultural datasets include the detailed list of pesticides applied, where information is available. All agricultural datasets also include emissions from peat use and decomposition. Water use and consumption are included in the database with separate flows for each country and thus allows the use of regionalized impact assessment methods.

When was the data first published and to which years does data refer? Is the database updated?

The food production and consumption inventories developed at ESU-services were initially based on a Ph.D. thesis investigating purchases of meat and vegetables by Niels Jungbluth (et al. 2000). The inventories have been continuously updated and extended since then and are representative for today’s agricultural practice. Additional data have been collected in numerous consulting projects.

Allocation can be a touchy subject for the agricultural and the livestock farming sectors. If systems have several co-products, how does the database manage allocation?

For agricultural multi-output processes, economic allocation is used by default for the ESU world food database.

Are processes available for more geographical areas? If yes, what kind of adaptation are applied in order to differentiate the datasets (water flows, power mix etc)?

Only if their inventory is assessed for this specific region. Agricultural production processes usually vary significantly between different geographical areas. However, all relevant products for the Swiss consumption including are covered to a major extent regarding their production geography. A full list of all datasets contained, including country code, is available via our website. The parametrization of the energy production in the background database (ESU-Database) facilitates adaptions regarding energy production.

Considering the existing LCA databases covering the food sector, why should customers choose this database?

Our database stands out due to its comprehensive and consistent balancing of food products pertinent to the Swiss market, supported by background database that is recommended by Swiss Federal Authorities. It encompasses the entire supply chain from field to consumption for numerous products, providing crucial insights into food waste and water usage. Additionally, it offers parameterization for key processes to facilitate seamless adaptation and includes uncertainty information for Monte-Carlo simulations. Furthermore, it features proper electronic documentation in EcoSpold v1 format, with many freely accessible reports on our website, coupled with ongoing development and updates.

Additional information can be gathered from this dedicated page.

Categorie: Interviste