AWESOME: mAnaging Water, Ecosystems and food across sectors and Scales in the sOuth Mediterranean
The Newsletter of the AWESOME Project
Welcome to our first newsletter!
Interested in learning how AWESOME is exploring the Water, Energy, Food, Ecosystems (WEFE) nexus?
In this first issue we briefly present you the AWESOME project and provide you with updates about the research we have carried out during its first year.
We hope this newsletter finds you safe and healthy, anywhere it will reach you in the world!
Enjoy reading our first Newsletter!
In this issue:
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.
Andrea Castelletti, Professor of Natural Resources Management and Environmental Systems Analysis at Politecnico di Milano and AWESOME project coordinator
Rapid population growth and rising economic prosperity are imperatively challenging the South Mediterranean and the African North-East to a point where they may compromise the sustainable use of natural resources. In those regions, the demand for water, energy and food are expected to increase relevantly and the preservation of ecosystems is at risk. Transboundary rivers like the Nile River Basin represent a fundamental source of water, energy, food, and ecosystems (WEFE), which often brings conflicts and individualistic policies among the sharing countries. The adoption of integrated and participatory approaches that explicitly account for the WEFE Nexus are necessary to explore multisectoral synergies and tradeoffs and to generate shared economic, environmental, and societal benefits.
The AWESOME project gathers partners of excellence – Politecnico di Milano as Coordinator, Athens University of Economics and Business, Yezreel Valley College, University of Haifa, RWTH University of Aachen, FEEM Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei – and a highly innovative firm in the field of agriculture – Zon Gardens, involving five countries (Italy, Greece, Germany, Egypt and Israel).
The main objective of AWESOME is to develop a decision-analytic framework based on a multi-level, integrated WEFE model to address the WEFE Nexus and explore the interdependencies and feedbacks across a hierarchy of spatial scales, from the macroeconomic development (macro) to regional planning (meso) and down to the single farm (local). AWESOME is thus considering multiple future evolutions of climate, society, and economics, and how these will shape portfolios robustness, resilience, and sustainability.
At the local scale, a lab-scale and pilot-scale facility of soilless agriculture (e.g., hydroponics, aquaponics) are being built and tested in Egypt, providing indications on effectiveness and sustainability of these new technology to back up existing systems in drying future. At the meso scale, the decision-analytic framework under development is tackling the Nile River Basin, from the Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Ethiopia up to the Nile Delta, based on hydrological models while combining systems analysis methods with advanced optimization algorithms. The AWESOME plan is to simulate existing water availability, water distributions system and new agricultural technologies along the Nile and with Egypt in focus, upscaling the local scale assessments while downscaling the climate, energy, crop, and ecosystems projections at the macro scale, which covers the broader area of the South Mediterranean and African Northeast. This approach allows the design of a set of efficient solutions and associated performance with respect to the WEFE multidimensional assessment space, where the core stakeholders and policy makers identified will be able to explore multisectoral tradeoffs and negotiate potential compromise alternatives. The research within AWESOME has the potential to reinforce local food production by shortening the supply chain by bridging the gap between food sources and food demand, and reducing water wastes in a water-scarce area.
To conclude, these challenging achievements will be possible thanks to our AWESOME team, that will be briefly presented in this issue. On this note, I wish you an inspiring read!
AWESOME // Kickoff Meeting online
Elena Matta, Postdoctoral researcher at Politecnico di Milano and AWESOME project manager
Started in the middle of COVID-19 pandemics, AWESOME’s kick-off meeting took place online in May 2020. Project partners from Israel, Egypt and Europe gathered for the first time to set the stage for their joint research endeavours over the next four years.
After an introduction to the project by the coordinator Andrea Castelletti and by the project officer Ali Rhouma (PRIMA Foundation), the work package (WP) leaders outlined diverse aspects of the envisaged research, and the case study leader provided an overview of soilless agriculture techniques in Egypt. Project partners discussed opportunities and challenges to the planned interdisciplinary activities, which are intended to support the sustainable management of the WEFE nexus in fast growing developing countries.
During the AWESOME kick-off meeting, project participants highlighted the different modeling framework and potential for gaining a better understanding and management of the WEFE nexus. It was a very productive meeting even if we couldn’t meet in person, it laid the basis for a very fruitful collaboration of the consortium. Parallel meetings, such as modeling and data management workshops, across the different groups and disciplines successfully followed the kick-off, still in online form because of the still undefeated pandemics.
AWESOME // First Webinar and General Assembly
Sergio Vergalli, Professor at the University of Brescia, Program Director of the MET-Modeling Energy Transition at FEEM and AWESOME’s WP7 leader
On the morning of the 2nd of December 2020, the AWESOME FEEM and POLIMI teams opened the first international AWESOME online event entitled “An AWESOME talk on the Nile River Basin”. The AWESOME project was introduced by the Project Coordinator Prof. Andrea Castelletti, while the PRIMA Foundation by the Project Officer Dr. Ali Rhouma.
The core of the event focused on sustainable and cooperative water management along the Nile River, having Dr. Kevin Wheeler (Oxford University) and Dr. Mohie Omar (ICARDA) as invited speakers and renowned experts of the region.
After the webinar – which registered about 50 participants worldwide, the AWESOME team had its first online General Assembly, hosting the 7 project partners along with two of our Project Advisors: Prof. Jim Hall of Oxford University, and Dr. Mohie Omar of ICARDA. After an overview of the project by the Coordinator, Dr. Elena Matta and Prof. Matteo Giuliani presented the work package progresses of the first 6 months of the project. Interesting discussion with the Advisors and useful suggestions for the planned next steps have been raised during the meeting. If the pandemics allow it, we will organize the next General Assembly in presence in Milano (Italy) next November.
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.
Ricarda Lothmann is a researcher at the Academic and Research Department Engineering Hydrology, RWTH Aachen University.
With the RWTH team, they initiated a literature review on marine aquacultures, which serves to collect the necessary knowledge base to design tests for the marine aquaculture trial. Also, during the first months of the project, they have started carrying out a preliminary study for the creation of a virtual energy concept, which, similar to the virtual water concept, quantifies the amount of energy used in a crop (e.g. per head lettuce or per kg).
Ebun Akinsete is a Senior Researcher at ICRE8 and the Head of the Department of Stakeholder Analysis and Decision Support Systems at ICRE8 and UN SDSN Greece.
Ebun is working to embed the stakeholder’s perspective into the AWESOME research process, using structured case studies and dedicated stakeholder working groups. They have already mapped a long list of stakeholders, assessed each stakeholders’ usefulness and their relation with the WEFE’s sectors.
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.
Two graphical factsheets will tell you more about the most recent deliverables by Work Package 2 – Future Scenarios Generation.
You can check them out also on the AWESOME website!
Update from the field
Mostafa Hassanen, Chief Executive Officer at Zon Gardens
So far, RWTH Aachen University and Zon Gardens were busy planning the test scenarios for the lab-scale experiments. The construction of the lab-scale test facility consisting of a greenhouse, and the components for hydro- and aquaponic systems was carried out in Cairo. RWTH Aachen University and Zon Gardens have been very busy planning the test scenarios for the lab-scale experiments and analysing them. Currently, the hydroponics experiments are running. RWTH and Zon Gardens decided on testing Batavia variety of lettuce in four different hydroponic subsystems: Deep Water Culture (DWC), Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), a media-bed system with gravel, and Sandponics. Additionally, lettuces are cultivated in soil cultivation in the same greenhouse to compare the performance of hydroponics with conventional agriculture.
Apart from this, the team is also taking a closer look at plant spacing to estimate how close the lettuce plants can be planted next to each other without growth deficits, for maximizing lettuce yield. Furthermore, we are examining the effect of plant spacing on vegetative growth, yield components, and chlorophyll and leaf content of the hydroponically grown leaf lettuce cultivar. Another aspect of the research is integrated pest and disease management (IPM), an approach in which combat mechanisms are carefully adapted to current conditions to reduce the use of chemical pesticides and strengthen biological control mechanisms.
Since September, the team is investigating the hydroponic subsystems in aquaponical setups using Nile Tilapia as preferred species. The resulting data will be analysed and the best performing hydro- and aquaponic subsystems will be determined. The resulting subsystem will be used in the AWESOME pilot scale test facility, which will be constructed in December.
The AWESOME team participated to different international events and conferences during its first year and also organized special WEFE Nexus sessions at IAERE.
Details follow here:
- 15 September 2020. Conference on Food, Water and Energy Solutions for Resilience in a Vulnerable World. Organized by the Arava Institute.
- 15 September 2020. InnoWise Challenge Lab: Finding innovative solutions for water scarcity in Southern Europe. Organized by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.
- 21 September 2020. Multilateral Financing of the SDGs: African & Asian Experiences. ICSD 2020.
- 23 September 2020. European Research and Innovation Days. Organized by the European Commission.
- 23 September 2020. SDG Challenges Post COVID-19 Era. Organized by Nizami Ganjavi International Center.
- 23 September 2020. Importance of the interplay between energy and circular economy. Organized by EIT Climate-KIC.
- 28 September 2020. Exploring Private Sector Contributions to Sustainable Development Among EU and Aspiring EU Member Nations of South Eastern Europe. Organized by the Kozmetsky Center, St. Edward’s University.
- 1-2 October 2020. 4th Sustainability Summit for South-East Europe and the Mediterranean. Organized by The Economist, SDSN, EIT Climate-KIC, EPLO.
- 22 October 2020. Aligning the European Recovery Plan and the European Semester with the SDGs: The role of knowledge institutions. Organized by SDSN.
- 29 October 2020. Natural capital. Achievements, critical aspects & implementation of policies. Organized by the Turin School of Regulation.
- 2 November 2020. Innovation and Technology for a Green, Digital and Just Recovery: The Greek EIT Ecosystem. Organized by EIT Climate-KIC Hub Greece, SDSN Greece and ReSEES Laboratory, AUEB.
- 2 December 2020. An AWESOME talk about the Nile River Basin. AWESOME opening event.
- 16 December 2020. Water Scarcity in Southern Europe. Organized by Terra Madre Slow Food.
- 17 December 2020. Sustainable Life Conference. Organized by UN SDSN Greece.
- 15-18 February 2021. A planetary moment. Organized by the World Academy of Art & Science.
- 19-20 April 2021. 3rd ADAPTtoCLIMATE International Conference. Organized by LIFE Urban Proof project.
- 19-30 April 2021. The AWESOME Project presented at the vEGU21 General Assembly.
- 21-23 April 2021. WEF Session organization. Ninth IAERE Annual Conference.
- 4 May 2021. Looking beyond COVID-19: integrated pathways to address health, economy and climate together. Organized by G-STIC.
- 3-5 June 2021. Regional Growth Conference.
- 9 June 2021. Green transition and the economy. Organized by Turin School of Regulation.
- 23-25 June 2021. Food provision in the 21st century. 26th EAERE Annual Conference.
- 25 June 2021. 12th International Conference on Political Economy (ICOPEC).
- 21 July 2021. 16th Congress of the European Association of Agricultural Economists (EAAE).
- 1-4 September 2021. 17th International Conference on Environmental Science and Technology (CEST2021)
- 13-14 September 2021. Promoting a green and just recovery: Leveraging the potential of G20 and G7 cooperation. Organized by German Development Institute.
- 21 September 2021. The AWESOME Project presented at the International Conference on Sustainable Development.
- 27-29 September 2021. Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems (WEFE) Nexus Science Advances Conference.
- 30 September 2021. Perspectives for the energy transition: Investment needs for a low-carbon energy system. OMC Med Energy Conference 2021.
- 30 September – 1 October 2021. The Fifth Sustainability Summit For SE Europe And The editerranean. Organized by The Economist.
AWESOME // Outcomes
We close this first newsletter with our first AWESOME 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:
Looking forward to knowing about the next steps?
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The AWESOME newsletter is published annually by project partners.
Editor: Ilenia Gaia Romani
Associate editors: Chiara Castelli, 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