Energy in New Zealand apple production : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements of Doctor of Philosophy in Science at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Agriculture is the largest contributor to the New Zealand economy, and apple (Malus sp.) production is a significant component of that. Apples are exported from New Zealand to global markets, including Asia, the UK, Europe and North America. New Zealand prides itself on a ‘clean green’ image, and its agricultural industry, while already recognized as highly efficient, has sought to move towards sustainability. To further understand the sustainability of its production systems, the New Zealand apple industry sponsored a study to measure energy inputs into those systems. Global food supply chains impinge on a broad range of issues, and have attracted academic commentary from a range of academic disciplines, ranging from the sciences and social sciences to the humanities. This inter-disciplinary study was structured as a scientific investigation of energy inputs into New Zealand farm level and post-harvest apple production (to destination port), with a parallel examination of the research process from a philosophical and systemic frame of reference. The author examined boundary judgments and presuppositions, drawing from the philosophical concept of tacit knowledge. The research process was structured so that outputs might contribute to further studies following the life cycle assessment (LCA) framework. Aspects of LCA methodology were therefore examined, particularly the construction of sustainability indicators. The most significant contributions to the New Zealand apple production supply chain were found to be shipping (4.24 MJ kg-1), packaging (1.46 MJ kg-1), followed by farm processes (1.45 MJ kg-1) and post harvest processes (0.51 MJ kg-1). The total system inputs were 7.7 MJ kg-1. The philosophical and systemic inquiry found that LCA methodology should take further account of normativistic elements to sustain the claim of being an holistic or systemic methodology. The meaning of sustainability indicators was found to be materially affected by tacit knowledge imbedded in apparently value-free metrics, and further affected by tacit assumptions imbedded in the LCA methodology itself. An approach (total life cycle intervention) was proposed, incorporating aspects of soft-systems thinking, taking account of critical system heuristics (CSH), and systemic intervention approaches.
Apple industry, Apple production, Energy consumption, Environmental sustainability, Food miles, New Zealand