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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Introduction and Critical Analysis of the Terracopia Methodology for Product Sustainability Assessment: The Case of the Chilean Farmed Salmon

Felipe Dussaillant

Introduction and Critical Analysis of the Terracopia Methodology for Product Sustainability Assessment: The Case of the Chilean Farmed Salmon


Natural resources are utilized to create products and services for human daily consumption. Increasing scarcity of such resources (water, fertile land, fossil fuels, etc.), accompanied by growth in demand from an increasing world population, has led to efforts to optimize the efficiency of productive processes and activities. Assessment methodologies (such as life cycle assessment and others) have also been developed in order to quantify the resources embedded in the productive process of goods, as a way to identify hotspots for environmental impact improvement. However, there is no global agreement on a standard to be implemented for these means.

This dissertation focuses on one specific sustainability assessment methodology, called Terracopia. This novel approach differs from existing ones by the fact that it considers the total abundance of resources in the world, and normalizes every quantity to a single unit. This study will critically analyse this methodology in terms of its robustness and reliability, as well as its implementation feasibility and projected performance. Terracopia will then be applied theoretically to the Chilean farmed salmon, due to its regional and national importance and its environmentally intensive nature.

The research approach adopted in this dissertation includes a critical analysis of Terracopia and the concept of abundance, benchmarking it with Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) as an established methodology. In addition, research on the Chilean salmon has been done through public industry information and scientific papers, and is complemented with fieldwork and interviews with key players and institutions in the South of Chile.

Application of the Terracopia philosophy to salmon is performed considering the main environmental hotspots of salmon farming activity. These are feed composition and transport, antibiotic use, farm energy, and nitrate and phosphorus emissions to the water column. Essential contributions to this part of the study come from previous LCAs on farmed Norwegian, British, Canadian and Chilean salmon, together with the information gathered in the trip to the southern regions of Chile where the industry resides.

The findings from this research provide evidence on the strengths, gaps and main areas of improvement of Terracopia at assessing the sustainability of a product, and shows these through the practical example of farmed salmon. The study also provides recommendations on how to consolidate a more solid assessment tool based on this initial version of Terracopia, also integrating theoretical and practical aspects about sustainable development seen in the course and brought forward by the critical analysis.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.