The Sustainable Food Energy and Water System (SFEWS) NRT is a collaboration of agricultural scientists and practitioners, engineers, economists, several departments—at two US academic institutions (Purdue University (PU) and Florida A&M University (FAMU)), two US national labs, three companies and two international institutions—to form an interdisciplinary traineeship program that will provide human resources critically required to enable sustainable supply of food, energy and water (FEW) for a “full earth”.


Within the next two to three generations, the global population is expected to grow from seven to more than ten billion people for a “full earth”. This increase in population, coupled with rising per capita consumption habits, will put unprecedented stress on food, energy, and water (FEW) resources. A daunting question is before us: how can we sustainably meet our current and future FEW needs?

Solar radiation is the only locally available energy resource that can meet the entirety of humanity’s FEW demands, even under a full earth scenario. However, solar radiation is a dilute resource and harvesting it would require a substantial amount of land. In the full earth scenario, energy generation by solar would likely compete with agricultural land.

However, such competition could be avoided. In this work, agricultural land use intensification will be explored to develop the co-production of food, energy, and water. Currently, the negative impacts on vegetation from existing solar energy generation practices is at odds with the use of agricultural land for energy generation. This research will explore novel photovoltaic arrangements, structures, and materials such that food, energy, and water demands can be met simultaneously without any detriment to crop output.

Our Team

Interested in joining our team? Learn more here.


Name Project Role Institution Discipline
Rakesh Agrawal Director Purdue University Chemical Engineering
Mitch Tuinstra Co-Director Purdue University Agronomy
Peter Bermel Thrust Lead Purdue University Electrical Engineering
Sylvie Brouder Thrust Co-Lead Purdue University Agronomy
Nathalie Duval-Couetil Chair, Assessment & Dev. Committee Purdue University Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Margaret Gitau Thrust Lead Purdue University Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Michael Harris Chair, DERR Board
& Thrust Co-lead
Purdue University Chemical Engineering Undergraduate Education
Juan Sesmero Thrust Lead Purdue University Agricultural Economics
Aavudai Anandhi Swamy Site Leader &
Thrust Co-Lead
Florida A&M
Biological Systems Engineering
Gang Chen Florida A&M
Civil & Environmental Engineering


Name Project Role Institution
Melissa LaGuire Program Coordinator Purdue University
Chris Murray Project Manager Purdue University

Graduate Student Trainees

Name Institution Discipline
Elizabeth Grubbs Purdue University Electrical Engineering
Shelby Gruss Purdue University Agronomy
Val Z. Schull Purdue University Agricultural and Biological Engineering
David Rokke Purdue University Chemical Engineering
Kyle Weideman Purdue University Chemical Engineering
Jonathan Turnley Purdue University Chemical Engineering
Apurva Pradhan Purdue University Chemical Engineering
Anna Murray Purdue University Chemical Engineering
Chloe Henson Purdue University Agricultural Economics
Daniel Hayes Purdue University Chemical Engineering
Robert Spilker Purdue University Chemical Engineering
Ryan Swope Purdue University Chemical Engineering

Graduate Student Associates

Name Institution Discipline
Varsha Purdue University Chemical Engineering

NRT Team Alumni

Name Institution Discipline Current Activity
Ryan Ellis Purdue University Chemical Engineering Senior Scientist I at AbbVie
Yiru Li Purdue University Chemical Engineering Process Research Engineer at Sinopec
Allison Perna Purdue University Electrical Engineering Graduate Research Intern at National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Advisory Boards

External Advisory Board

Naoki Abe IBM
Klaus Koehler Corteva
Timothy Hebrink 3M
William Tumas National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Erick Fernandes The World Bank
Don Villwock Villwock Farms

Internal Advisory Board

Melba Crawford Purdue University
Tomas Diaz de la Rubia Purdue University
Bernie Engel Purdue University
Carol Handwerker Purdue University
Sangtae Kim Purdue University
Karen Plaut Purdue University
Ronald Turco Purdue University
Timothy Moore Florida A&M University
Robert Taylor Florida A&M University
David Jackson Florida A&M University
Carl Goodman Florida A&M University

Diversity, Engagement, Retention, and Recruitment Board

Michael Harris (Chair) Purdue University
Pamala Morris Purdue University
Virginia Womack Purdue University
Beth Holloway Purdue University
Audeen Fentiman Purdue University
Linda S. Lee Purdue University
Shonda Bernadin Florida A&M University
Charmane Caldwell Florida A&M University


If you would like to apply to the program, please visit the website for The Graduate School – apply here: https://www.purdue.edu/gradschool/

Please direct any inquiries to Melissa LaGuire:
FRNY 3053
Purdue University
School of Chemical Engineering
Forney Hall of Chemical Engineering
480 Stadium Mall Drive
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2100