Tello E.; Galán E.; Sacristán V. et al. 2016. “Opening the Black Box of Energy Throughputs in Agroecosystems: A Decomposition Analysis of Final EROI into Its Internal and External Returns (the Vallès County, Catalonia C. 1860 and 1999).” Ecological Economics.


We present an energy analysis of past and present farm systems aimed to contribute to their sustainability assessment. Looking at agroecosystems as a set of energy loops between nature and society, and adopting a farm-operator standpoint at landscape level to set the system boundaries, enthalpy values of energy carriers are accounted for net Final Produce going outside as well as for Biomass Reused cycling inside, and External Inputs are accounted using embodied values. Human Labour is accounted for the fraction of the energy intake of labouring people devoted to perform farm work, considering the local or external origin of their food basket. In this approach the proportion of internal Biomass Reused becomes a hallmark of organic farm systems that tend to save External Inputs, whereas industrial farming and livestock breeding in feedlots tend to get rid of reuses replacing them with inputs coming from outside. Hence, decomposing the internal or external energy throughputs may bring to light their contrasting sociometabolic profiles. A Catalan case study in 1860 and 1990 is used as a test bench to show how revealing this decomposing analysis may be to plot the energy profiles of farm systems and their possible improvement pathways.