In their case study titled “Resilience by industrial symbiosis? A discussion on risk. opportunities and challenges for food production in the perspective of the food-energy-water nexus“, Thomas Parker and Maria Svantemark discuss how symbiotic food production can yield resilience in food supply systems threatened by increasing demand and climate change. The study was published on the scientific journal Sustainable Earth.


Executive Summary

Growing population and affluence coupled with climate change put pressure on the supply of food, water and energy. The three are interconnected, conceptualised in the food-energy-water nexus.

In this article, two innovative proposals for food production based on recirculating, multiloop systems are analysed in terms of risk and resilience to illuminate how such industrial symbiotic systems might contribute to food supply resilience, within nexus constraints.

The proposals encompass greenhouses using waste heat and carbon dioxide combined with recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) with water, nutrient and energy loops between the two. The two cases are discussed in comparison with the existing major alternatives for production of the respective foodstuffs, using an inventory of global risks as a structure for the discussion. The analysis is relevant to understanding current and emerging risks posed by the unsustainable and interlinked supply of food, energy and water, particularly in the perspective of continued climate change.

Based on the cases, the concept of distributed, symbiotic food production is discussed in comparison with centralization, i.e. the economies of symbiosis vs economies of scale, focusing especially on how these different economies affect risk and resilience. The discussion centers on a comparative risk analysis between food production in industrial symbiosis and conventional forms.

The results indicate that distributed symbiotic food production can contribute to resilience to the most threatening of the relevant risks identified and that, therefore, more in depth investigations of how symbiotic systems can contribute to resilience are merited. These, in turn, would warrant an informed discussion on food-production policy.

Parker, T., Svantemark, M. 2019. Resilience by industrial symbiosis? A discussion on risk, opportunities and challenges for food production in the perspective of the food-energy-water nexus. Sustainable Earth, Vol. 2 (1)

You can find the case study here