Making the Case: How Agrifood Firms are Building New Business Cases in the Water-Energy-Food Nexus

Water, energy and food systems are inextricably interconnected. Water and energy are needed to produce food; water is needed for almost all forms of power generation; energy is required to treat and transport water. The relationships and trade-offs within this triangle of resources are known collectively as the water-energy-food nexus.

The agrifood sector is one of the most prominent single subsectors within the nexus, accounting for some 80% of total freshwater use, 30% of total energy demand, and 12-30% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. With global food production expected to increase 70% by 2050, the agrifood sector is facing unprecedented resource pressures, with more on the horizon.

Understanding water-energy-food inter-linkages and managing them holistically is critical to sustainability in the sector. But while some private enterprises in the agrifood sector understand the significance of the nexus – and some have already seen competitive advantages in nexus-driven solutions for sustainable crop management, processing, distribution and retailing – most do not.

A study of agrifood business cases incorporating nexus concepts reveals important lessons both for enterprise as well as for governments.


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Andreas Zahner