On-farm circular technologies for enhanced sustainability: The case of Uruguay

K.S.K. Freeman*, V. Valencia, Juan Baraldo, R.P.O. Schulte, H.H.E. van Zanten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


An increasing global population is putting stress on the food system. On-farm technologies to close resource loops will play a role in increasing food production without stressing natural resources. What are these applied on-farm circular technologies and what impact do they have on the food system? This paper develops a framework for defining the potential of on-farm circular technologies for benefits across multiple spatial scales. It then applies the framework to Uruguay to examine what economic and environmental benefits on-farm circular technologies, namely biomass for nutrient cycling (manure management) and on-farm water cycling, can have at multiple spatial scales – on-farm, regionally and nationally. Using data from a government program in Uruguay's most important watershed, the work shows that investments in on-farm manure management technologies yield economic and sustainability benefits that are unequally distributed across scales (Figure 1). It demonstrates that famers only receive a small percentage (16% on average) of the total benefits yielded by manure management and on-farm water cycling technologies, while most benefits (84% on average) occur at regional level. The analysis by technology demonstrates that the benefits of technologies also depend on how they are combined. For example, installing only a waste management pool on-farm increases the GHG emissions, while installing a waste management pool combined with a separator decreases the GHG emissions and magnifies the benefits of reduced water pollution. These findings raise questions regarding whether these technologies should be subsidized since most benefits occur beyond the farm level to the benefit of society. This has implications for how governments and private actors co-finance on-farm technologies to make farming practices more circular and sustainable.
Original languageEnglish
Article number133470
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2022


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