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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Multi-criteria decision analysis comparing agricultural production methods : protocol for analyzing British Columbia blueberries El-Sayegh, Rami


INTRODUCTION: Methods such as Multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) are often applied to assess how preferences to make rational choices are applied. This thesis aims to examine how farmers balance environmental and social factors of sustainability and health with economic factors (e.g. costs) by assessing their preference for applying alternative agricultural approaches (e.g. conventional, agro-ecological/organic, and integrated farming/mixed-methods). METHODS: First, a systematic bibliometric review of studies that used MCDA techniques for agricultural purposes was conducted to consider the ways that the analytical approach was being applied in this area. The review was restricted to all English language studies of farm-based agricultural studies that considered cost in their analysis. Studies from the Web of Science, CAB Direct, and Agriculture & Environmental Science databases were reviewed to identify publication trends that helped situate the objectives the thesis’ own MCDA feasibility study. Second, a small group (9) of BC Blueberry farmers were interviewed using an Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) MCDA technique to elicit their preferred production system while considering potential constraints. The costs of agricultural production systems were divided by the aggregate value scores of the AHP, and systems ranked on their cost-benefit ratio. RESULTS: MCDAs in agriculture have become increasingly popular over time, particularly AHPs in Europe and Asia, and in fruit, vegetable, and nuts farming sectors. Most studies considered costs as one of the criteria in the analysis, most often as a production/operating cost. Health was not mentioned extensively in these studies. The MCDA study showed that organic farming is the most preferred method without the consideration of costs, but conventional farming was the most preferred in the cost-benefit ratio. CONCLUSION: Farmers prefer to be more mixed-methods or ecological (without the consideration of costs), constraints (specifically costs) prevent them from practicing their preferences. As a novel approach in agriculture, the MCDA-CBA is a feasible tool to understand farmer preferences and how they can be advocated for to achieve more sustainable and healthy processes in policy. MCDA-CBA has potential for understanding health and sustainability as connected with similar, if not the same, goals and criteria.

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