The Food, Energy and Water Local Nexus Network (LNN) for Re-Distributed Manufacturing (RDM)
There has been a recognition in recent years that there is an inter-connectedness between the three sectors and this has resulted in the use of the term “food-energy-water (FEW) nexus”. Local nexuses refers to the connection between more localised food systems and decentralised energy and water supply.
Re-distributed manufacturing (RDM) is another emerging trend: RDM has been defined as having two key attributes – that manufacturing is of smaller scale, and that it takes place closer to the consumer. This is in contrast to the typical current manufacturing systems of centralised, large scale plant.
The LNN focused on the development of local nexuses of food manufacturing with energy and water supply. These connections may provide opportunities for modifying resource utilisation, production, and consumption to meet the services required within a local context. They may also contribute to the shared prosperity between business and community and between human society and natural ecosystems. This represents a complex and significant transition, which requires “smart” engineering (smaller scale technologies, integrated processes), and driving forces from businesses, communities and policy makers, to turn the potential of local nexuses into an economic and social reality.
The Local Nexus Network had three aims:
1) Establish the state-of-the-art knowledge base of local production of food, energy and water;
2) Generate initial insights to guide researchers, businesses, policy makers and communities who are enthusiastic about exploring the potential of local nexuses,
3) Develop an evidence-based agenda for future research.
The LNN was a multidisciplinary academic team involving seven UK universities and interacting with representative stakeholders.
The network studied the local nexuses along four research themes:
- system integration (engineering),
- innovative food technologies,
- business and
- policy and society.
It was supported by two case study locations representing respectively situations of “new development”, (Northstowe, Cambridgeshire, where opportunities exist to introduce a new food, energy and water system), and “retrofitting” (Oxford, where the existing system needs to be changed in order to benefit from the concept of local nexuses).
These case study locations provided a common background for the different research themes to interact and integrate. They also served a range of purposes from collection of empirical data to stakeholder engagement. The total approach of 3 sectors, 4 research themes and 2 types of locales were explored by a set of carefully designed feasibility projects and events.
The work was organised through seven inter-related feasibility projects: