skip to main content

Title: Agent-Based Modeling for Integrating Human Behavior into the Food–Energy–Water Nexus
The nexus of food, energy, and water systems (FEWS) has become a salient research topic, as well as a pressing societal and policy challenge. Computational modeling is a key tool in addressing these challenges, and FEWS modeling as a subfield is now established. However, social dimensions of FEWS nexus issues, such as individual or social learning, technology adoption decisions, and adaptive behaviors, remain relatively underdeveloped in FEWS modeling and research. Agent-based models (ABMs) have received increasing usage recently in efforts to better represent and integrate human behavior into FEWS research. A systematic review identified 29 articles in which at least two food, energy, or water sectors were explicitly considered with an ABM and/or ABM-coupled modeling approach. Agent decision-making and behavior ranged from reactive to active, motivated by primarily economic objectives to multi-criteria in nature, and implemented with individual-based to highly aggregated entities. However, a significant proportion of models did not contain agent interactions, or did not base agent decision-making on existing behavioral theories. Model design choices imposed by data limitations, structural requirements for coupling with other simulation models, or spatial and/or temporal scales of application resulted in agent representations lacking explicit decision-making processes or social interactions. In contrast, several methodological more » innovations were also noted, which were catalyzed by the challenges associated with developing multi-scale, cross-sector models. Several avenues for future research with ABMs in FEWS research are suggested based on these findings. The reviewed ABM applications represent progress, yet many opportunities for more behaviorally rich agent-based modeling in the FEWS context remain. « less
Authors:
Award ID(s):
1856054
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10253600
Journal Name:
Land
Volume:
9
Issue:
12
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
519
ISSN:
2073-445X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Most people in the world live in urban areas, and their high population densities, heavy reliance on external sources of food, energy, and water, and disproportionately large waste production result in severe and cumulative negative environmental effects. Integrated study of urban areas requires a system-of-systems analytical framework that includes modeling with social and biophysical data. We describe preliminary work toward an integrated urban food-energy-water systems (FEWS) analysis using co-simulation for assessment of current and future conditions, with an emphasis on local (urban and urban-adjacent) food production. We create a framework to enable simultaneous analyses of climate dynamics, changes in landmore »cover, built forms, energy use, and environmental outcomes associated with a set of drivers of system change related to policy, crop management, technology, social interaction, and market forces affecting food production. The ultimate goal of our research program is to enhance understanding of the urban FEWS nexus so as to improve system function and management, increase resilience, and enhance sustainability. Our approach involves data-driven co-simulation to enable coupling of disparate food, energy and water simulation models across a range of spatial and temporal scales. When complete, these models will quantify energy use and water quality outcomes for current systems, and determine if undesirable environmental effects are decreased and local food supply is increased with different configurations of socioeconomic and biophysical factors in urban and urban-adjacent areas. The effort emphasizes use of open-source simulation models and expert knowledge to guide modeling for individual and combined systems in the urban FEWS nexus.« less
  2. The world faces mounting challenges related to food, energy, and water security. Modeling approaches have emerged in the last decade to address this problem with mixed outcomes across a range of boundaries, including local, regional, national, and by research agendas. This paper delves into a comprehensive meta-analysis of the literature to identify the prevalence and strengths of these emergent approaches on the agendas they were applied to, the boundary levels, nexus dimensions, and the perspectives of the social and political dynamics. The research highlights the critical gaps that remain in the intersection of the different nexus agendas. A crucial observationmore »was the scarcity of food, energy, and water models that incorporate technology adoption and economic implementation of nexus projects. On the core dimensions of the nexus, there is an important opportunity to include ecosystems, soil health, human health, and waste as key nexus dimensions. Although it is difficult to include social and political dynamics in nexus studies, this research identified proxies including (1) stakeholder interactions; (2) the intersection of access, security, and education; and (3) trade patterns and measures of prosperity.« less
  3. Sustainable provision of food, energy and clean water requires understanding of the interdependencies among systems as well as the motivations and incentives of farmers and rural policy makers. Agriculture lies at the heart of interactions among food, energy and water systems. It is an increasingly energy intensive enterprise, but is also a growing source of energy. Agriculture places large demands on water supplies while poor practices can degrade water quality. Each of these interactions creates opportunities for modeling driven by sensor-based and qualitative data collection to improve the effectiveness of system operation and control in the short term as wellmore »as investments and planning for the long term. The large volume and complexity of the data collected creates challenges for decision support and stakeholder communication. The DataFEWSion National Research Traineeship program aims to build a community of researchers that explores, develops and implements effective data-driven decision-making to efficiently produce food, transform primary energy sources into energy carriers, and enhance water quality. The initial cohort includes PhD students in agricultural and biosystems, chemical, and industrial engineering as well as statistics and crop production and physiology. The project aims to prepare trainees for multiple career paths such as research scientist, bioeconomy entrepreneur, agribusiness leader, policy maker, agriculture analytics specialist, and professor. The traineeship has four key components. First, trainees will complete a new graduate certificate to build competencies in fundamental understanding of interactions among food production, water quality and bioenergy; data acquisition, visualization, and analytics; complex systems modeling for decision support; and the economics, policy and sociology of the FEW nexus. Second, they will conduct interdisciplinary research on (a) technologies and practices to increase agriculture’s contributions to energy supply while reducing its negative impacts on water quality and human health; (b) data science to increase crop productivity within the constraints of sustainable intensification; or (c) decision sciences to manage tradeoffs and promote best practices among diverse stakeholders. Third, they will participate in a new graduate learning community to consist of a two-year series of workshops that focus in alternate years on the context of the Midwest agricultural FEW nexus and professional development; and fourth, they will have small-group experiences to promote collaboration and peer review. Each trainee will create and curate a portfolio that combines artifacts from coursework and research with reflections on the broader impacts of their work. Trainee recruitment emphasizes women and underrepresented groups.« less
  4. Abstract

    Essential for society to function, the production and consumption of food, energy, and water (FEW) are deeply intertwined, leading to calls for a nexus approach to understand and manage the complex tradeoffs and cascading effects. What research exists to date on this FEW nexus? How have scholars conceptualized these interactions at the urban scale? What are some promising approaches? Where are the research gaps? To answer these questions, we conducted a quantitative review of the academic literature on the FEW nexus (1399 publications) over more than four decades (1973–2017), followed by in-depth analysis of the most influential papers usingmore »an evaluation matrix that examined four components: 1) modeling approach; 2) scale; 3) nexus ‘trigger’; and 4) governance and policy. Scholars in the fields of environmental science predominated, while social science domains were under-represented. Most papers used quantitative rather than qualitative approaches, especially integrated assessment and systems dynamics modeling although spatial scale was generally recognized, explicit consideration of multi-scalar interactions was limited. Issues of institutional structure, governance, equity, resource access, and behavior were also underdeveloped. Bibliometric analysis of this literature revealed six distinct research communities, including a nascent urban FEW community. We replicated the analysis for this urban group, finding it to be just emerging (80% of papers have been published since 2010) and dominated by scholars in industrial ecology. These scholars focus on quantifying FEW flows of the urban metabolism in isolation rather than as a nexus, largely ignoring the political and socio-economic factors shaping these flows. We propose the urban FEW metabolism as a boundary object to draw in diverse scholarly and practitioner communities. This will advance research on complex FEW systems in four key areas: (1) integration of heterogeneous models and approaches; (2) scalar linkages between urban consumption and trans-boundary resource flows; (3) how actors and institutions shape resource access, distribution and use; and (4) co-production of knowledge with stakeholders.

    « less
  5. Abstract Scientific study of issues at the nexus of food–energy–water systems (FEWS) requires grappling with multifaceted, “wicked” problems. FEWS involve interactions occurring directly and indirectly across complex and overlapping spatial and temporal scales; they are also imbued with diverse and sometimes conflicting meanings for the human and more-than-human beings that live within them. In this paper, we consider the role of language in the dynamics of boundary work, recognizing that the language often used in stakeholder and community engagement intended to address FEWS science and decision-making constructs boundaries and limits diverse and inclusive participation. In contrast, some language systems providemore »opportunities to build bridges rather than boundaries in engagement. Based on our experiences with engagement in FEWS science and with Indigenous knowledges and languages, we consider examples of the role of language in reflecting worldviews, values, practices, and interactions in FEWS science and engagement. We particularly focus on Indigenous knowledges from Anishinaabe and the language of Anishinaabemowin, contrasting languages of boundaries and bridges through concrete examples. These examples are used to unpack the argument of this work, which is that scientific research aiming to engage FEWS issues in working landscapes requires grappling with embedded, practical understandings. This perspective demonstrates the importance of grappling with the role of language in creating boundaries or bridges, while recognizing that training in engagement may not critically reflect on the role of language in limiting diversity and inclusivity in engagement efforts. Leaving this reflexive consideration of language unexamined may unknowingly perpetuate boundaries rather than building bridges, thus limiting the effectiveness of engagement that is intended to address wicked problems in working landscapes.« less