ECE 59500 - Food and Energy Farms: Challenges to Sustainable Production on a Crowded Planet

Course Details

Lecture Hours: 3 Credits: 3

Counts as:

  • EE Elective
  • CMPE Special Content Selective

Normally Offered:

Each Fall


On-campus and online


For ECE students: ECE 30500 and (ECE 31100 or ECE 30411); for ChE students: PHYS 24100 and CHM 37000; for ABE students ABE 30300 and ABE 31400; for AGRY students AGRY 33500 and AGRY 32000.

Requisites by Topic:

For ECE students: background in Semiconductor Device Fundamentals and electric and magnetic fields. An optics class can also be beneficial. For ChE students a background in electricity and optics and physical chemistry. For ABE students a background in the applications of physics and biology to chemical reactions and design of electronic systems. For Agronomy students: background in weather and climate and genetics.

Catalog Description:

This course will introduce both advanced undergraduate and early-stage graduate students to the key concepts and challenges associated with creating sustainable food, energy, and water systems. After providing a big picture overview of the connections, it will cover the topics of food, energy, and water systems independently from a scientific perspective. At the end of the course, students will present recent papers addressing the interactions between two or more of these systems in a meaningful way, followed by their own solutions to address some of these challenges.

Required Text(s):

  1. Notes Provided by instructor(s).

Recommended Text(s):

  1. "The nexus across water, energy, land and food (WELF): potential for improved resource use efficiency?." Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 5, no. 6 (2013): 617-624.
  2. Considering the energy, water and food nexus: Towards an integrated modelling approach , Bazilian, Morgan, Holger Rogner, Mark Howells, Sebastian Hermann, Douglas Arent, Dolf Gielen, Pasquale Steduto et al.
  3. Crop ecology: productivity and management in agricultural systems. , Connor, David J., Robert S. Loomis, and Kenneth G. Cassman. , Cambridge University Press , 2011
  4. Global Change and the Challenges of Sustainably Feeding a Growing Planet , Thomas W. Hertel and Uris Lantz C. Baldos , Springer , 2017
  5. The Physics of Solar Cells. , Nelson, Jenny , World Scientific Publishing Co, Inc. , 2003
  6. The energy-water-food nexus: Strategic analysis of technologies for transforming the urban metabolism. , Walker, R. Villarroel, M. Bruce Beck, Jim W. Hall, Richard J. Dawson, and Oliver Heidrich. , 2014
  7. Thirst for Power: Energy, Water, and Human Survival , Webber, Michael E. , Yale Press , 2016
  8. World Economic Forum Water Initiative. Water security: the water-food-energy-climate nexus. , Ringler, Claudia, Anik Bhaduri, and Richard Lawford , Island Press , 2012

Learning Outcomes:

A student who successfully fulfills the course requirements will have demonstrated an ability to:
  1. describe plant growth and development, analyze how this interacts with the environment, and link energy and water management practices to crop productivity. [1,6]
  2. fully describe sustainable energy resources such as sunlight, and analyze corresponding technologies for utilizing them. [1,6]
  3. describe the hydrosphere, and analyze technologies for developing water resource systems for sustainable use. [1,6]
  4. analyze major interactions between food, energy, and water systems, and to design solutions to address key human needs in a sustainable fashion. [1,2,3,4,5,6,7]

Lecture Outline:

Week Major Topics
1 Overview of food, energy and water systems
3 Food: Ecophysiology of plant growth
1 Food: Impact of energy and water inputs on crop production
3 Energy: Overview of sustainable energy sources, particularly solar power
1 Energy: Tradeoffs with food and water production
3 Water: Overview of water resources
1 Water: Key interactions with food and energy production
1 Student presentations: key papers in food, energy and water systems
1 Student presentations: concepts for solutions effectively integrating food, energy and water systems

Engineering Design Content:

  • Synthesis
  • Analysis

Engineering Design Consideration(s):

  • Economic
  • Environmental
  • Sustainability

Assessment Method:

presentations and in-class quizzes