Water, energy and food (WEF) are pillars for human’s life, at the same time they are interconnected. Water is required to grow crops, breed livestock and for cooking. Water help to generate energy by means of hydropower methods, and generally used for different energy generation processes such as cooling. Biofuel production requires water for both feed stock and processing.
Energy serves to treat and convey water, additionally, to transport food from farms and food processing factories to market channels, and then to consumers.
On the other hand, food is used to produce energy through biofuel, and contributes in transporting virtual water from a country to another.
At current time WEF resources are under stress. This challenge is expected to exacerbate in the future with rapid population growth and increased anthropogenic economical activates that is accelerating the climate change.
World Population was estimated at 3 Billion in 1960 rising to 7.84 billion in 2021, yet global projections predict the number to raise up to 9.4 – 10 billion in 2050. Consequently, people have to produce more food in the future, and hence consume more energy and a lot of water. With a changing climate we have to produce more with less WEF resources.
We are at critical time to understand the connections of WEF Nexus and to adopt innovation solutions that helps to produce our needs efficiently and effectively. It is the time to adopt water and energy conservation and eco-friendly techniques for production.
Natural ecosystems are essential for earth and it is strongly interacted with human system. Humans highly rely on natural resources to meet survival needs (e.g. Food security), however, the depletion of natural resources to limits beyond sustainable thresholds lead to deteriorate natural ecosystems. Long time is needed to restore those systems to its natural healthy conditions. At the same time humans will lose the privilege of having ecosystem services such as water filtration and retention, wood for energy, and biodiversity conservation. Eventually, it is essential to consider ecosystems in the WEF NEXUS, thus having the more comprehensive NEXUS approach water energy, food and ecosystem (WEFE).
Soilless agriculture techniques power by solar energy is a sustainable agriculture method representing a model of WEFE nexus. This system helps to reduce water through recycling the irrigation water (i.e. no water is lost due to leaching and percolation). The system also helps to deliver water and nutrients directly to plant which improves its quality. The production yield per unit area is increased compared to traditional agriculture, i.e. food production efficiency is increased with less land resources. Solar power is used to pump water, in order to adopt clean water source and to reduce carbon emissions.
The system uses alternative substrate (e.g. volcanic tuff) this reduce the pressure on soil ecosystems for food production. Additionally, the system doesn’t allow fertilizers leaching to ground water which help to protect the ground water from potential pollution by agriculture nutrients and preserve groundwater dependent ecosystems.
The system allows conducting agriculture activities with lower effort compared to traditional agriculture, enabling women participation and gender mainstreaming in field work.