The Newsletter of the AWESOME Project
AWESOME: mAnaging Water, Ecosystems and food across sectors and Scales in the sOuth Mediterranean
AWESOME (mAnaging Water, Ecosystems and food across sectors and Scales in the sOuth Mediterranean) is a four-year project funded by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 Prima Programme. The main objective of AWESOME is developing a decision-analytic platform based on a multi-level, integrated Water, Energy, Food, Ecosystems (WEFE) modeling framework to better understand multi-sectoral WEFE tradeoffs and to capitalize on potential synergies, also exploring the interdependencies and feedbacks across a hierarchy of spatial scales, from the macroeconomic development of the Mediterranean region and national scale, to regional planning at river basin scale, down to the single farm.
The AWESOME path continues with a thriving second year
Elena Matta, Postdoctoral researcher at Politecnico di Milano and AWESOME project manager
In a year dense with dramatic facts and international tensions, ranging from the last COVID-19 waves to the non-sense war in Ukraine and an exceptionally long and hot summer, the AWESOME project made big steps forwards in its achievements.
The case study has been widely characterized, including elaborating on the key WEFE nexus challenges and identifying relevant stakeholders to involve. A methodology for convening the multi-actor working groups was developed, along with a mental model of the WEFE Nexus at the micro and meso levels. The outputs of this mapping support the prioritization of the key ecosystem services that are currently under evaluation and their cross-reference with the catalogue of international policies on environmental protection. Also, they allow the elicitation of the key drivers of WEFE change that influence the modelling analyses.
At the larger scales, downscaled demographic and socio-economic projections, climate and energy scenarios, and dynamically and spatially distributed agriculture water needs have been produced for current and future conditions. The outcomes confirm a high population growth, especially in countries where food self-sufficiency is at risk. Also, a strategic crop reallocation, coupled with a balanced diet and agricultural intensification, generates a positive impact on food self-sufficiency while preserving excessive water consumption. Finally, the macroeconomic models have been set up and calibrated: the Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model also includes a sectoral representation of alternative water sources (e.g., reused, desalinated) for the macro-economic assessments influencing river dynamics.
The strategic model at the meso level (Nile River Basin) has been developed and its interactions with the macro and micro levels, including its methodological components, are being assessed. First simulations of existing water availability and water distribution systems account for the water, food, and energy demands, as well as for the regional policies and ecosystems defined at the macro level and the technological solutions tested locally. The identification of the relevant evaluation indicators with reference to the WEFE nexus has been completed and the analysis of some candidate planning portfolios and their associated performance is ongoing - in terms of water supply and water demand.
At the micro level, the innovative technological solutions (hydroponics and aquaponics) have been demonstrated in the lab-scale facility built in the suburbs of Cairo, Egypt, and the experiments are evaluated in different seasons. The results are promising, demonstrating water productivity of almost 7 times higher than in traditional soil cultivation. The hydroponic and aquaponic systems have been also recently designed at the pilot scale and operations started, while the maraponics is under development.
Finally, the project received a green light from PRIMA for the second and final project period, as it successfully passed the midterm revision.
In this newsletter, we provide the reader with some highlights from the modelling outcomes, the last updates from the field, and the main events in which the project partners participated. We are also happy to report that we had our first General Assembly in physical presence last spring, in the beautiful FEEM Headquarters in the centre of Milan, Italy.
AWESOME // General Assembly in Milano
Ilenia Gaia Romani, researcher at FEEM and PhD candidate at Università degli Studi di Brescia
For two days, the 11th and 12th of May, 2022, FEEM headquarters in Palazzo delle Stelline, Milan (Italy), were animated by the members' of the AWESOME project, for our first in-presence general assembly.
After the greetings from FEEM Director, Prof Alessandro Lanza, and the AWESOME project coordinator, Prof Andrea Castelletti, several activites begun straight away: the project overview, together with the midterm evaluation, some comments by our Project Officer, Ali Rhouma, and clearly the presentations and discussions by every work package.
Luckily, there has been no shortage of occasions for team building and internal networking, such as a nice walking tour, from the church 'Santa Maria delle Grazie' to the Columns of 'San Lorenzo', ended up with a nice italian dinner and some good wine.
AWESOME // Update from the field
Ricarda Lothmann, Researcher at the Academic and Research Department Engineering Hydrology, RWTH Aachen University
RWTH Aachen University and Zon Gardens are performing hydro- and aquaponic lab-scale experiments testing different hydroponic subsystems: Deep Water Culture (DWC), Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), media-bed with gravel, and Sandponics. The growth of a Batavia variety of lettuce and Nile tilapia are tested in our systems.
The experiments’ results obtained so far were analyzed applying a multi-criteria decision analysis approach to determine the best performing setups. The results indicated that in this setup the best performing hydroponic subsystems were DWC for the hydroponic setup and Sandponics for aquaponic setup. Therefore, these subsystem types were implemented in our commercially operated pilot plant facility. Our pilot plant is ready for operation and we are waiting impatiently for the arrival of the fish.
We have also created a video update which shows the progresses that were made in our Lab-Scale Facility in Egypt:
A graphical factsheets will tell you more about the deliverable by Work Package 2 - Future Scenarios Generation.
You can check all the factsheets out on the AWESOME website!
AWESOME // Events
The AWESOME team participated to different international events and conferences during its second year.
Details follow here:
14 Dec. 2021, A regional integrated assessment model for the Mediterranean Region Online, Workshop on the research projects Faro and InvestExl, Portugal
- 23 Nov. 2021, Nexus Cluster Workshop: Advancing the Nexus for Science and Policy, Online
6-8 Dec. 2021, Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems (WEFE) Nexus: From Research to Practice, Online
- 7 Dec. 2021, A regional integrated assessment model for the Mediterranean Region Online, Workshop Research dialogues on the complexity of the energy transition, Italy
20 Jan. 2022, Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis for Hydroponics, Online
- 24 Jan. 2022, CGE modeling workshop (invited speaker: Dr. R. R. Palatnik), Online
25 Mar. 2022, Round table “Economic diplomacy of the European Union in the context of modern globalization”, Chișinău, Moldova (attended online)
- 8 Apr. 2022, ISPEC 1st International Agricultural Research Congress, Adana, Turkey (attended online)
22 Apr. 2022, 10th IAERE Annual Conference, Hybrid mode (Cagliari, Italy, and online)
- 23-27 May 2022, EGU General Assembly, Vienna, Austria
- 23 Jun. 2022, CSSI Partnerships Conference 2022, Wageningen (attended onlne)
30 Jun. 2022, 27th EAERE Annual Conference - 2022, Hybrid mode (Rimini, Italy, and online)
- 2 Aug. 2022, IAEE Tokyo Conference, Tokyo (attended online)
AWESOME // Outcomes
We close this second newsletter with our results and remind you that they are available on our AWESOME website which will stay as an accessible resource to the public. The project deliverables and communication material produced so far are the following:
AWESOME // Early career scientists
In this section we are glad to introduce you our post-graduate and post-doctoral researchers.
We are delighted to have them involved in the AWESOME project.
Veronica Piuri is a researcher at the Department of Electronics, Informatics and Bioengineering, Politecnico di Milano.
With the POLIMI team, Veronica is developing an integrated water demand and supply model to improve the Nile's water resources management. In particular, her efforts in recent months have focused on assessing the integration of aquaponics and desalination in the basin's water resources ensemble.
Orna Raviv works in the research area of environmental economics and focuses on the technical-socio-economic analysis of alternatives, as in the case of natural resources management and policy, energy and agriculture scenarios, and cost – benefit analysis.
As part of the AWESOME project, she focuses on the macro modeling of food security in the Mediterranean Sea basin, following the potential implementation of irrigation in crop fields and using several types of water, including surface, ground treated/reused water, and desalinated seawater.
Politecnico di Milano (POLIMI), Italy
POLIMI is bringing expertise on participatory decision-making, robust adaptation measure design, and water-energy-food nexus modelling and management. POLIMI coordinates the project and leads WP1 and WP4 (meso-scale modelling).
Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB), Greece
AUEB is bringing its expertise on socio-economic modelling as well as water management modelling and providing feedback from other AUEB projects that feed into this project. AUEB is leading WP2 (macroscale modelling) and also WP6 which is stakeholder engagement and interaction.
Yezreel Valley College (YVC), Israel
YVC is bringing expertise on macro-economic modelling, water-energy-food nexus modelling, economic and policy analyses. YVC co-leads WP2 (macro scale modelling) and contributes to WP3 (meso-scale modelling), WP4 (micro-scale modelling), WP5 (stakeholder engagement and interaction) and WP6 (dissemination).
University of Haifa (UH), Israel
UH is contributing to the macro-economic assessment using their research experience on WEF Nexus topics. UH is responsible for testing the transferability and portability of the proposed solutions, via analyzing the challenges and opportunities in terms of portability of AWESOME framework results to other basins in the Mediterranean region.
Zon Gardens (ZG), Egypt
ZG is responsible for designing, developing and operating the different innovative technological solutions demonstrated at the micro-scale to produce more crop per drop, specifically a medium scale leafy Green and Red Batavia hydroponic system possibly powered by solar power technology in Egypt in WP5, for informing strategic planning at the meso (river basin) scale.
RWTH Aachen University (RWTH), Germany
RWTH Aachen with its wide experience in managing EU funded project is supporting the grant applicant in managing this project. In addition, with ZG, it is responsible for WP5, whose goal is to demonstrate the potential of new technological solutions applied at the micro-scale pilots to maximize the productivity of a unit water in terms of valuable products such as crops and fish.
Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM), Italy
FEEM has long and well established experience in terms of scientific communication and dissemination. Hence, FEEM is leading WP7-Dissemination outreach and policy. In addition, FEEM is contributing to WP3 with the implementation of dynamic stochastic models to study the effects of uncertainty at micro and macro level.
Looking forward to knowing about the next steps?
Check out the news on our website and follow us on twitter:
The AWESOME newsletter is published annually by project partners.
Editor: Ilenia Gaia Romani
Associate editor: Marta Castellini
For specific questions on AWESOME:
Andrea Castelletti and Elena Matta
Department of Electronics, Information, and
Bioengineering of Politecnico di Milano
Via Ponzio 34/5, 20133 Milan, Italy