News J-WAFS Announces 2020 Grant Supporting Research to Improve the Sustainability of Animal Agriculture Systems

J-WAFS has selected a research project to receive a grant of $25,000 to support sustainable agriculture systems

Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab August 4, 2020

A factory in a grassy area creating emissions

A factory producing emissions (Credit: Jonathan Wilkins / CC BY

We are pleased to announce the award of our 2020 J-WAFS Grant for Transforming Animal Agriculture Systems. This grant provides funding for MIT research projects addressing the negative impacts of industrial animal food production. The funding supports the advancement of work being pursued by individuals as part of their MIT research, innovation and entrepreneurship activities, or coursework, and are open to members of the MIT community in all departments and programs. The project selected for funding, Multi-Criteria Formulation for Sustainable Swine Production, will receive $25,000 to support research and development through 2021.

2020 Grant Award Winner

In the production of animal agriculture, it is no surprise that the formulation of livestock feed is largely based on the cost of ingredients for producers. However, the composition of animal feed also plays an important role in the quality of the animal products—the meat, dairy, and eggs—that are produced as well as the environmental impact of their production. While farmers weigh costs, nutritional value, and quality when considering which feed to use for their livestock, environmental sustainability is a critical factor to consider.  Feed ingredients contribute 50% of the total greenhouse gas emissions of swine production systems.  While some studies have been done by agriculture researchers in Washington and Montana to formulate swine feed that can decrease these emissions, they have resulted in increased cost, disincentifying adoption by farmers.

Modern-day sustainable swine production needs strategies to reduce environmental impact of pig diets. This project aims to create a feed formulation for swine that lowers both production costs and emissions while preserving or enhancing nutritional quality. The result of this work will be a model that provides recommendations for feed ingredients that can be used by top swine producing states like Iowa, Minnesota, and North Carolina, enabling feed producers and processors to begin to include environmental impact considerations in diet formulation. The project, which involves collaborations between MIT researchers and colleagues at the University of Arkansas, aims to provide research-informed tools for swine producers that prioritize ecological impacts alongside economic needs in order to improve the environmental footprint of pork production.

This research project will be led by Dr. Jasmina Burek, a postdoctoral associate in the MIT Materials Systems Laboratory. Dr. Burek received her master of science in mechanical engineering from the University of Zagreb and a PhD in engineering from the University of Arkansas. Dr. Burek has over 12 years of experience in the agriculture field, with a focus on carbon life cycle assessment research. She has co-authored over 15 publications related to agriculture as well as other areas of focus such as renewable energy.