Food, Energy and Water Nexus in Urban Farming

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Current practices of urban food production are not ideal as they rely extensively on land usage, intensive inputs of water and synthetic chemicals, and are hampered by limited knowledge of the nutritional content, and energy- and water-use efficiency. Increasingly, urban farming is faced with the challenges of climate change, prolonged drought, floods, and land crunch that severely impact productivity and consequently, jeopardise food security.

At NERI, through a space, water and energy nexus approach, we aim to develop novel technologies for a more sustainable food production, with a primary focus on Asian green leafy vegetables.The research team involved is looking into the threepronged nexus, with the ultimate aim of increasing food production through efficient utilization of space and water while minimizing the energy demand and reliance on synthetic chemical and fertilizer inputs. This will be achieved by utilizing the synergy between plant characteristics, their associated microbes and physico-chemical traits of soil substratum and light.

Highlights

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Value-added Vegetables

Involving the selection of Asian vegetables, with high nutritional values and biomass growth properties;

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Effective Microbial Solutions

Involving microbiomes (microbialcommunities) of highly nutritional vegetables and developing beneficial microbial consortia to improve plant nutrients and defense againsturban pests and diseases, thereby increasing yields and reducing theneed for synthetic chemical inputs. To date, while the agricultural research community is well aware of food, energy and water challenges, it has only addressed them in isolation. A nexus approach among these three challenges is needed to ensure that co-benefits and tradeoffs are considered to develop a cost-effective integrated farming solution.

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Cost-effective Agrotechnologies

involving development of novel soil substitutes - NUSoil based on food waste toretain water and release nutrientsslowly, and wavelength-controlled LED lighting systems to improve growth and resilience of urban leafy vegetables.