Advancing sustainable food, energy and water solutions
Rapid population growth over the last century has placed enormous strain on communities — and on the planet itself. Countries around the world are struggling to meet the exploding demand for more food, energy and water (FEW), using systems that come with serious environmental consequences. Without integrated FEW systems, producing one vital resource often depletes others; for example, increasing agricultural production diminishes water supply, and increasing production of solar energy can prevent effective land use for food production. These challenges will only become more critical as the world's population grows by an anticipated 2 billion in the next 30 years.
As part of its commitment toward a healthier Earth and environment, the U.S. National Science Foundation Research Traineeship Program (NRT) is supporting researchers across the country in developing sustainable, integrated FEW systems. While each project approaches this challenge through its own unique lens, their collective focus is on finding innovative ways to support our planet's growing population while protecting its natural resources for future generations. Read about three projects working to address society's greatest FEW challenges:
The Sustainable Food Energy and Water System (SFEWS) at Purdue University and Florida A&M University
The Sustainable Food Energy and Water System (SFEWS) NRT (Purdue University and Florida A&M University) was created through a deep commitment by Purdue and Florida A&M universities to provide a new generation of graduate students with the "skills needed to produce sustainable supplies of FEW for a more heavily populated Earth." By bringing together the perspectives of agricultural scientists and practitioners, engineers and economists in both the public and private sectors, SFEWS has developed into a cutting-edge collaboration, offering trainees with interdisciplinary opportunities to pursue crucial research centering around the core question: How can the power of solar energy be harnessed to meet the planet's FEW needs? The SFEWS team is helping prepare the workforce to understand the complex interdependencies of FEW systems and imagine and implement innovative solutions to protect vital natural resources, whether as researchers, business and industry leaders, policymakers, teachers or entrepreneurs.
Agricultural Biotechnology in Our Evolving Food, Energy and Water Systems (AgBioFEWS) at North Carolina State University
The Agricultural Biotechnology in Our Evolving Food, Energy and Water Systems (AgBioFEWS) NRT (North Carolina State University) is working to spark innovations in agricultural biotechnology to support both people and the planet. AgBioFEWS brings together researchers from across NC State and the university provost to provide trainees with interdisciplinary opportunities to deepen their understanding of agriculture, ecology and genetics. Trainees not only engage with experts from industry, government and nonprofit agencies, but they also work directly with farmers, extension agents, conservationists and other public stakeholders in rural North Carolina, where they gain real-world experience working in a small farming community. The goal is to inspire new thinking about agricultural biotechnology applications that can advance FEW systems in ways that protect the environment.
Interdisciplinary Training, Education and Research in Food-Energy-Water Systems (InTERFEWS) at Colorado State University
The Interdisciplinary Training, Education and Research in Food-Energy-Water Systems (InTERFEWS) NRT (Colorado State University) centers on the idea that understanding issues at the core of FEW systems is vital to developing meaningful, sustainable solutions for the future. Trainees and faculty work together to develop a deeper, system-level understanding of FEW issues and how they affect each other, particularly in semiarid climates where water shortages threaten both communities and industries. InTERFEWS Director Sybil Sharvelle frames the program as "interdisciplinary collaborations formed among students" that weave together research with industry, government and advocacy-based perspectives. Through that convergence, trainees are exploring cutting-edge FEW research.