Circular Bioeconomy in Tucson, Arizona MSA
Population growth, climate change, and urbanization present significant challenges for economies with limited natural resources. Governments around the world, at all levels, are developing strategies for more efficient and more sustainable resource use.
One such strategy proposed in recent years is to foster and grow the bioeconomy, by embracing technological advancements (both within biological sciences as well as engineering, computing, and information sciences) and transitioning towards a more biology-based economy through the use of renewable biological materials (plant and animal products, wood, manure, food waste, algae) for inputs and energy.
Southern Arizona Bioeconomy Components
Another strategy proposes to transition away from a linear take-make-use-dispose paradigm towards a circular economy that optimizes the use of energy, materials, and other resources and minimizes waste through reuse, sharing, repairing, refurbishing, remanufacturing, and recycling.
Southern Arizona Circular Economy Components
Relationship Between the Bioeconomy and Circular Economy
While there is significant interest in growing these areas of the economy, monitoring progress toward that goal requires establishing a baseline. This study defines the bioeconomy and circular economy within Southern Arizona (Cochise, Pima, Santa Cruz, and Yuma counties) and establishes a baseline for each by assessing the size, composition, and total contributions, including multiplier effects, to the greater Southern Arizona economy. The baseline year is 2019, the last full year before the COVID-19 pandemic when many economic relationships were affected and are not necessarily representative of “business as usual.” The study also presents the economic contributions of the bioeconomy and circular economy, combined.
The study also explores and identifies examples of the bioeconomy, circular economy, or circular bioeconomy in Southern Arizona through the use of case studies. These case studies illustrate ongoing efforts in Southern Arizona to shift toward more efficient resource use and/or more effective utilization of waste and byproducts. These case studies illustrate a robust innovation ecosystem supporting the bioeconomy and identify activities that occur at the intersection of the bioeconomy and circular economy. We conclude by identifying some economic development opportunities for the circular bioeconomy in Southern Arizona.
What Did the Study Find?
- There is no single, consistent conceptual definition for the bioeconomy.
- Some definitions focus more on economic activity related to the production and use of biological resources and include agricultural production and processing while others focus more on economic activity associated with scientific breakthroughs and technological advancements enabled by research, innovation, and applications of biological and life sciences.
- Similarly, though there is generally agreement on the goal of the concept, there are more than 100 definitions of the circular economy.
- Some definitions focus on minimizing consumption of natural resources and maximizing use of waste and byproduct materials by any means possible (new designs, packaging, technologies) while others focus more on achieving circularity through the “4R” framework- reduce, reuse, repair, recycle.
- The multi-disciplinary and inter-sectoral nature of the bioeconomy and circular economy creates challenges for monitoring and measuring economic activity.
- In some industries, bio-based activities may be only a part of overall production. For example, soy ink or bioplastics production are parts of larger ink and plastics manufacturing. Data needed to separate out such specific biobased activities for measurement in the broader bioeconomy are often rare or non- existent.
- Similarly, circular activities and practices can exist within individual businesses, within a given industry, or even within a cluster of industries, and can include both biological and non-biological resources. Data needed to separate circular activities (for example, the proportion of economic activity generated from the sale of byproducts or waste as inputs to the production processes of other businesses) from non- circular activities are non-existent.
- Nevertheless, measuring economic activity taking place in businesses that operate in existing industries can act as a useful proxy and serve as a baseline for the current scale of the bioeconomy and circular economy in Southern Arizona.
- This study uses the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes to identify which industries are included within the bioeconomy and circular economy and which are not.
- This study, as presented in Section 2.3 of this report, defines the bioeconomy and circular economy in Southern Arizona by four and three components, respectively:
- Bioeconomy industries are engaged in: (1) Production of Biological Resources (plants, animals, micro-organisms), (2) Processing of Biological Resources, (3) Health Biosciences, and (4) Bio-based Private Sector Research and Development.
- Circular industries are engaged in: (1) Repair and Maintenance, (2) Reuse and Resale, and (3) Recycling and Remediation.
- Because many NAICS codes are not granular enough or data does not exist to separate out bio-based or circular activities from larger industry sectors, there may be many industries (or activities within industries) in Southern Arizona that are engaged in both bio-based activities and/or circular activities that are not captured in this study.
Southern Arizona Bioeconomy Contributions
- In 2019, the bioeconomy was estimated to directly account for 21,400 jobs in Southern Arizona and directly contributed $1.7 billion to the Gross Regional Product (GRP) and $4.2 billion to regional sales.
- The largest component of the bioeconomy in Southern Arizona is comprised of industries involved in the production of crops and other agricultural products in the region’s farms and ranches, accounting for approximately 80% of bioeconomy jobs and labor income, 75% of the value added attributed directly to the bioeconomy, and 60% of sales.
- Total bioeconomy employment is geographically concentrated in the western portion of Southern Arizona, in Yuma County, an important agricultural county in the region and state.
- Agricultural commodities produced in Yuma County account for nearly one-third of agricultural sales in the state and 83% of agricultural sales in Southern Arizona.
- Including direct, indirect, and induced multiplier effects, the total contribution of the bioeconomy to Southern Arizona in 2019 was more than $6.5 billion in sales.
- This level of sales supported 36,400 jobs and more than $2.0 billion in labor income (proprietors’ income plus employee compensation). The total contribution of the bioeconomy to the Southern Arizona GRP in 2019 was $2.9 billion.
Southern Arizona Circular Economy Contributions
- In 2019, the circular economy directly contributed to the Southern Arizona economy by providing 8,700 full- and part-time jobs, contributing $584.2 million to the Gross Regional Product (GRP), and generating an estimated $792.7 million to regional sales.
- The largest component of the circular economy in Southern Arizona is comprised of industries involved in repair and maintenance activities, with a majority of employment and wages occurring within the automotive repair and maintenance industry.
- Economic activity related to the circular economy is geographically concentrated in Pima County, Southern Arizona’s most populous county.
- Including direct, indirect, and induced multiplier effects, the total contribution of the circular economy to Southern Arizona in 2019 is 12,600 jobs, more than $600 million in labor income, and approximately $1.3 billion in sales. The total contribution of the circular economy to the Southern Arizona GRP in 2019 was nearly $0.9 billion.
Southern Arizona Circular Bioeconomy Contributions
- Combined and including direct, indirect, and induced multiplier effects, the total contribution of the bioeconomy and circular economy to Southern Arizona in 2019 was nearly $7.9 billion in sales.
- These sales supported 49,000 jobs, more than $2.6 billion in labor income, and nearly $3.8 billion of Southern Arizona GRP.
Examples of the Circular Bioeconomy in Southern Arizona
- Due to data limitations, estimates are not developed for economic activity occurring at the intersection of the bioeconomy and circular economy (economic activities that are both biologically-based and circular). However, Section 6 of this report highlights activities within the circular bioeconomy in Southern Arizona through the use of case studies.
- Taking place at the intersection of the bioeconomy and circular economy, there are a wide variety of research and innovative efforts occurring in Southern Arizona to achieve more efficient resource use, particularly water resources, through expansion and enhancement of a circular bioeconomy.
- Several case studies focus on innovative techniques, new technologies, or novel approaches to reduce both land and water requirements for agricultural production, many of which take place in controlled environment agricultural (CEA) systems. Others promote harnessing biological processes and utilizing technological advancements and specialized equipment to increase production of bioproducts. Yet others highlight opportunities to produce and utilize bioproducts by changing current agricultural practices.
- In many of the case studies, circularity is introduced into the bioeconomy through the use of waste streams and/or byproducts for productive uses.
- While some of the case studies rely on technological advancements and patented and patent-pending applications, others achieve more efficient resource use by doing things in new and novel ways.
Circular Bioeconomy Opportunities in Southern Arizona
- The wholesale trade, insurance, warehouse and storage, and scientific research and development service industries present areas where the Southern Arizona economy could expand to better serve existing bio- and circular-economy businesses. By shifting purchases from out-of-region suppliers to local Southern Arizona suppliers, a higher proportion of dollars would stay in the Southern Arizona economy.
- The case studies highlight the role of the University of Arizona in general and the Division of Agriculture, Life and Veterinary Sciences, and Cooperative Extension (ALVSCE) in particular as innovation catalysts for Southern Arizona. The two main hubs of the region’s circular bioeconomy are Tucson and Yuma. The university serves as a conduit for federal R&D funding and local expertise that joins and supports bio-economic activity across these hubs.
- A key theme amongst nearly all case studies is increasing efficiency and circularity in water use. These case studies illustrate Southern Arizona’s potential to be a test-bed for 21st agricultural technologies for arid regions globally.
- Case studies demonstrate local expertise in controlled environment agricultural (CEA) systems. Such land- and water-saving systems may be transferable to a host of different urban contexts. Applications may even support future space exploration.
- Finally, the "Growing Our Own" (GOO) Initiative of Yuma County, Arizona and Imperial County, California illustrates how federal support along with the University of Arizona’s Land Grant University infrastructure (human capital, extension resources) can support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) workforce development in rural areas.