Multi Criteria Decision Models to increase resource efficiency in the agrifood chain

Aiming to reduce waste or reuse by-products more efficiently? This tool will help you take the right decisions, thinking of exergy, cost and more.

In today’s world, resources are becoming scarce, ecosystems are threatened and the consequences of climate change are having a large impact on the living environment. In order to create a more sustainable food chain, the agrifood sector needs to focus on minimalizing the (current) losses of scarce raw materials, energy, water and chemicals.


The aim of the TI Food and Nutrition project ‘ Valorization of raw materials and process efficiency’ is to supply the key actors in the food chain with a scientific approach to quantify the sustainability of their current and future processes and food chains. The project will provide a tool for food manufacturers and retailers to help them to reduce waste in the production chain and to reuse by-products in a more efficient way.

Study design

The sustainability of three different production chains, including the bread and mushrooms chain, is studied with an exergy-based method measuring raw materials, energy, water and chemicals. An exergy-analysis provides much more details than CO2-footprint and can be used to calculate/evaluate alternative processes or food chains. The outcome of the exergy-analyses are combined with data on logistics, quality and costs into a newly developed decision model. This model will enable the food sector to evaluate alternative processing methods, logistics, reuse of waste streams or alternative designs of entire food chains, with respect to sustainability and other factors such as costs.


Scientists have developed and tested Multi Criteria Decision Models (MCDMs), that are based on criteria like exergy, logistics, quality and costs. In 2013, the applicability of the MCDM was already shown for bread. The model could evaluate and compare the production processes for fresh, par baked and bread produced with fermented old bread, and could provide insight where in the baking processes improvements are possible. The research showed e.g. that reuse of waste (bread) not only improves the sustainability of the process but also the quality of the bread. The MCDM can support the food sector to optimize the use of raw materials in the production processes.

The final Multi Criteria Decision Models are expected in 2016. The MCDMs will be able to evaluate (alternative) processing methods and entire chains, not only with respect to sustainability but also to food quality and company profit. This combination of criteria will make the TI Food and Nutrition MCMDs unique in the world.