What does INFEWS stand for?
It represents Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems. These three elements are an umbrella of integrated systems that are present in our daily lives in some form or another. The National Science Foundation for the 2016 Fiscal Year has requested $74.96 Million for funding INFEWS.
The spirit of this program follows the NSF motto “Where Discoveries Begin”
NSF’s investment in “Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems” (INFEWS) will:
- Support integrated experimental research towards creating a comprehensive food-energy-water sociotechnical systems model;
- Advance knowledge/technologies that foster safer, more secure, and more efficient use of resources within the food-energy-water nexus, and;
- Support an integrated approach to build the next-generation INFEWS workforce.
So at a university level what does this mean?
Across the United States there are many institutions of higher education to enhance the minds of the population. For many of these institutions the goals and responsibilities don’t stop there. A key component of the land-grant system is the agricultural experiment station program created by the Hatch Act of 1887. Experimentation and research at these institutions has taken on a more urgent initiative in recent years to find solutions regarding conservation and sustainability of resources.
Unfortunately over the years federal funding has become more uncertain for these institutions on an annual basis. This uncertainty though has been an incentive to focus on the multidisciplinary funding of sustainable research focusing on water, food, and energy.
These goals for the University of Nebraska translate into focusing on collaborations across not only campuses, but departments as well. What this means is touching all academic enterprise across, but also outside the campus in extension. The ultimate goal in doing this is Big Team Science. Creation of collaboration from the fringe in brings all expertise to the table to create and solve big problems.
Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development, Dr. Prem Paul believes for Nebraska that this “Fits in our wheelhouse as a land grant university. No other university can match our capacity and power…we already have the right culture to foster interdisciplinary collaborations.”
One of the leading programs of focus at Nebraska is the Food for Health Initiative. The outlined goals of this initiative hold incredible potential to positively influence the effect not only on the final food product, but also energy and water used throughout the food supply chain. With an excellent and growing food sciences program, now located on Nebraska Innovation Campus, research possibilities integrated with industry leaders are another unique benefit to Nebraska. Their motto falls right in line with these goals as well stating “We thrive in a dynamic environment where university and private sector talent connect to transform ideas into innovation that impacts the world.”
The first goal of this research to be funded is to address and reduce the presence of urban and rural food deserts. This can be accomplished through broadening access and availability of produce perhaps through technology in urban gardens. Here there is also a interdisciplinary cross with marketing and logistics, which can make the delivery systems of agriculture more sustainable and efficient.
The next focus is how how to create foods that can positively impact the diets of the population to reduce obesity and cancer. In turn also research to develop effective strategies to influence behavior related to food choices will be pursued in regards to consumer perspectives on agricultural systems.
The sustainable focus of this program comes to fruition in the focus producing abundant and healthful foods. Healthful in this context is not relegated only to the foods effect on an individual, but also its growing environment. Integrated production systems that maintain healthy soil, roots, water, crop-animal, and food storage-processing will be studied to create a more economic and resourceful utilization of systems.
Food security also stems from this sustainable arm highlighting:
- Urban Agricultural Systems
- Efficient Abundance
- Farm to consumer food systems
- Consequence management
Ultimately the goals of these programs at a university level are not so different from those of the small farmer in the ever-changing landscape of farming. In fact mutual collaboration and benefits are the ultimate goal in a system where nationally food production still rests on the shoulders of the family farm.