Engineering solutions for food-energy-water systems: it is more than engineering

M. L. Wolfe, K. C. Ting, N. Scott, A. Sharpley, J. W. Jones, L. Verma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Food, energy, and water systems interact extensively, giving rise to the term “food-energy-water (FEW) nexus,” with the term “nexus” signifying connectedness and interrelationships. A systems approach involving multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary teams and partnerships is needed to address complex challenges of the nexus. A concurrent cyber-physical framework comprised of systems informatics, information analysis methods and tools, and systems analytics and decision support could provide a viable approach for addressing FEW system challenges. A fundamental requirement for implementing the framework is data. Needed data are often difficult to obtain; for example, while much agricultural production system data are collected, the data are not generally available. A priority for addressing FEW system challenges must be development of mechanisms for widespread curation and sharing of data; a few such efforts are underway. Implementing the framework also requires many collaborations. Creating new collaborations among multiple disciplines and organizations to implement the framework could be aided by convergence thinking, which engages approaches to problem solving that transcend disciplines and integrates knowledge from the physical, biological, social, and mathematical sciences and engineering to form comprehensive and integrated thinking at the interfaces of areas. A variety of organizations, private and public, can help in facilitating collaboration and partnerships among the disciplines. Government agencies, industry, academia, and professional societies can all play significant roles in furthering collaboration to address challenges in integrated FEW systems using a systems approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)172-182
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Environmental Studies and Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Convergence thinking
  • Cyber-physical framework
  • FEW nexus
  • Professional societies
  • Transdisciplinary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Engineering solutions for food-energy-water systems: it is more than engineering'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this