To address sustainability challenges, agricultural advances in Mediterranean horticultural systems will necessitate a paradigmatic shift toward smart technologies, the impacts of which from a life cycle perspective have to be explored. Using life cycle thinking approaches, this study evaluated the synergistic environmental and economic performance of precise irrigation in greenhouse Zucchini production following a cradle-to-farm gate perspective. A cloud-based decision support system and a sensor-based irrigation management system (both referred to as “smart irrigation” approaches) were analyzed and compared to the farmer’s experience-based irrigation. The potential environmental indicators were quantified using life cycle assessment (LCA) with the ReCiPe 2016 method. For the economic analysis, life cycle costing (LCC) was applied, accounting not only for private product costs but also for so-called “hidden” or “external” environmental costs by monetizing LCA results. Smart irrigation practices exhibited similar performance, consuming on average 38.2% less irrigation water and energy, thus generating environmental benefits ranging from 0.17% to 62%. Single score results indicated that life cycle environmental benefits are up to 13% per ton of product. The cost-benefit analysis results showed that even though the implementation of smart irrigation imposes upfront investment costs, these costs are offset by the benefits to water and energy conservation associated with these practices. The reduction of investment costs and higher water costs in future, and lower internal rate of return can further enhance the profitability of smart irrigation strategies. The overall results of this study highlight that smart and innovative irrigation practices can enhance water-energy efficiency, gaining an economic advantage while also reducing the environmental burdens of greenhouse cultivation in a Mediterranean context.
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