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The project “The Sun in the Plate” is supported and promoted by the Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena and its main purpose is to carry out a characterization of foods based on the Emergy methodology.

The agricultural productions of 24 farms selected by Coldiretti, CIA, and Confagricoltura are analysed. These farms are distributed throughout the Siena area, with very varied productions: wine, oil, beef and pork meat, honey, vegetables, legumes, cereals, beer, truffle, pasta, and many other products!

The official name of the project is ‘Emergy – Indicators of Sustainability’, but it has been nicknamed ‘The Sun in the Plate’ to immediately understand how important the contribution of the sun, and therefore of nature, is in the realization of food we eat every day.

The logo can be used by farms that took part in this project to show it on their products.

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The Emergy is a methodology that allows identifying the direct and indirect contribution that nature has provided to the production processes.

All that we use and consume daily has been generated by processes that are both anthropic, through agriculture and industry, and natural origin, guaranteed by ecosystem processes.

The unit of measurement used is the solar emergy Joule (sej) or equivalent solar energy unit, since the sun, both the present and the past, is the basis of all the transformations that occur in the biosphere and the anthroposphere.
Any form of energy and matter used in a production process can, therefore, be traced back to solar energy, using a backward path.

The energy can be considered as an ‘energy memory’, or a memory of all the solar energy that it was necessary to support a system, considering the work that the environment was done to produce a certain good or product.

In the image, we can see an example of  Emergy diagram that describes in a simplified way one of the farms taking part in the project. It includes renewable resources (R), local non-renewable resources (N), and non-renewable inputs from outside the system (F)


Project goals:

  • Classify and characterize the foods analysed through the use of different units of measurement that allow to express the emergy on the basis, for example, of the quantity produced and consumed of a given product (sej/g), of the energy supply of the food (sej/cal) and other characteristics of the different types of food, such as protein intake, sweetener potential, profitability, etc.
  • Determine the “type of sun” that is embedded in the products. An agricultural product is composed of ‘current’ and ‘ancient’ sun. The first is the sun intercepted directly by the plants, through photosynthesis; the latter is the sun stored in other production processes or products. An example of this indirect contribution of the sun may be the fuel which, deriving from oil, is the result of millions of years of solar energy storage. The renewable and non-renewable component of the sun that was needed to produce a given food will, therefore, be identified.
  • Realize dissemination and communication tools to spread both the results of the project and the methodology used to a wide audience. Emergy can become a way to introduce important elements in common reasoning such as the renewability of resources and the pressure on the environment exercised by production processes and our habits. The information obtained with the project will be used to create communication tools that make the emergy easily understandable to the widest range of people possible, through diets, menus, books, labels and much more!

The experimentation of some communication tool has already begun.
For examples:

  • Food pyramid built based on emergy values (sej/g) of foods


  • Menu of a hypothetical restaurant in which in addition to the economic value is represented the environmental contribution to the food, through the ‘suns’ that express an emergy value (sej/g)

Menu - 20.01.18


  • The label of the project ‘The Sun in the Plate’ was created to identify the farms that participated with commitment and generosity in our project, providing us with the data necessary for the evaluation. It demonstrates the willingness of farms to feed research and innovation in the direction of process sustainability. The results of the surveys will allow over time to improve the productions and inform consumers about the sensitivity of the producers and the progress they will want to make.Immagine-SitoWeb-300x274