Navigating Agriculture through the Water-Energy-Food Symposium

The Navigating Agriculture through the Water-Energy-Food Symposium was held in Austin, TX on November 19, 2015. The symposium was organized by David Smith (

The videos listed below are in the same order as they appear in the embedded playlist to the right. The direct link to each video is provided if you wish to go directly to a presentation.

Opening Remarks

There is a lot that cannot be predicted, but we need to plan nonetheless. Government’s role is to be in the background and ensure that social justice needs are met.

Texas State Rep. Tracy O. King, District 80, Chairman—House Agriculture and Livestock Committee, Member—Natural Resources Committee

Water-energy-food nexus—applications for agriculture communities

The Nexus Platform Tool allows users to examine the water gap in Texas. Planners are looking at different scenarios in order to anticipate bottlenecks and needs and prepare to meet those challenges or take advantage of opportunities.

Dr. Rabi Mohtar, Texas Engineering Experiment Station Endowed Professor, Texas A&M University; Founding Director of Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute

Water supply & demand – trends and challenges for the Southwest

This presentation examined the Ogallala Aquifer (which is 40% of all water use in Texas) and the anticipated strategies to meet needs of different users such as agriculture and municipalities.

Dr. Robert Mace, Deputy Executive Director, Texas Water Development Board

Value of water to agricultural communities

In addition to the Ogallala Aquifer, there are two deeper ones including Edwards-Trinity and Dockum (Santa-Rosa). All are part of the High Plains Water District, an organization that has undergone extensive planning and outreach efforts. They have developed a tool to look at each permitted well in the district and its characteristics. The presenter also discussed the groundwater rights of land owners and the “water-neutral” business model adopted by some and the potential for this to attract new business in water-limited areas.

Jason Coleman, P.E. General Manager, High Plains Water District

The shale boom—Impacts for agriculture production and producers

The nature of the oil business is often that there are “booms” in local areas when reserves are discovered or when prices make a particular resource worth developing. This presentation discusses some of the activity in the U.S. and especially Texas and how the industry has evolved technologically. The need for long-term planning to leverage these resources into long-standing infrastructure and development for community is also highlighted.

Dr. Thomas Tunstall, Research Director, The University of Texas at San Antonio, Institute for Economic Development

The future of renewable energy and agriculture

This presentation discusses the overall energy needs of the U.S.and creative ways that energy needs can be evened out at grid-scale decision levels that involve very local (domestic water heater or electric car) ways to “store” excess energy and use it when needed. These types of decisions could reduce the needs for new power plant construction or need to bring a plant online for short periods of time for peak demand. As agriculture on on the “edges” of the grid, it could be part of the areas where change is likely to happen first.

Dr. Wendell Porter, P.E., Lecturer, Agricultural & Biological Engineering Department, University of Florida

Global market impacts and implications for local farms and ranches

What is the world view of agriculture and markets? Policy, exports, population growth (demand), currency values, and the potential impacts on U.S. agriculture and on Texas are presented.

Dr. James W. Richardson, Regents Professor & AgriLife Research Senior Faculty Fellow, Co-Director Agriculture & Food Policy Center, Department of Agricultural Economics, Texas A&M University

Innovation and technology applications for agriculture production

What is the role of technology in food production? This presentation looks at sensors, autonomous vehicles, data communication and analysis, and innovative practices that protect natural resources.

Dr. Reza Ehsani, Associate Professor of Agricultural & Biological Engineering, University of Florida, Citrus Research & Education Center

Turning climate change into opportunities for agricultural producers

Climate change and the accompanying changes in weather are fairly important to agricultural producers. This presentation discusses the improvements in predicting changes in weather and climate and how it can be used in planning for different scenarios in agricultural production.

Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, Regents Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University, Texas State Climatologist

The rapidly evolving legal and regulatory framework for agriculture producers

This presentation breaks down the land resources available and discusses water policy that can or will affect agriculture. Topics include “Waters of the U.S.” (surface water), ground water and surface water resources, and the tension between private land ownership and the need to regulate usage of water (especially ground water). There are also differences (and sometimes contradictions) between local and state or federal rules.

Jim Bradbury, Attorney, James D. Bradbury, PLLC, Austin & Fort Worth, Texas

Educating tomorrow’s nexus thinkers

How do we reach young people on their own terms (especially as digital ‘natives’) to pass on the important knowledge and context they will need to advance science, policy and education? This generation is increasingly urban, worldly, socially conscious, and disconnected from direct food production. How do we especially highlight the connections of food, water, and energy?

Dr. Christopher T. Boleman, Assistant Director and State Leader for 4-H Youth Development, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, College Station, Texas


The symposium was part of the Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate project that was funded by USDA NIFA under award # 2011-67003-30206 For more on the project and to discover resources for educators and professionals in addition to these videos, visit

Farms of the Future: Seeking Agricultural Energy Independence

Why Look to Agriculture and Bioenergy?

As the world population continues to grow at an exponential rate, the ability to nourish this planet’s inhabitants with clean water and safe, healthy food are of paramount importance. This paper describes some of the considerations for and impacts of the demand for the production of food in developed and developing countries on energy resources, and ways in which advancements in on-farm, bioenergy production systems may help farms achieve the incredible production requirements of the next thirty years. Our challenge is to expand agriculture’s output to accommodate the increasing population, without hindering its environmental footprint.

What did we do?  

Today only roughly two percent (2%) of the population produces the food for our plant. This includes all the fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products that the world’s population of over 7 billion people acquires and eats from markets, grocers, and restaurants. Our global population is projected to exceed nine billion people by the year 2050, all of who will need to be supplied with food derived from the farms of the future. Through technological advances, and improvements in motorized equipment, each farmer is now able to feed roughly 150 people, compared to only 19 people in the 1940’s (Prax, 2010). In the year 2050, a farmer will be required to feed at least 200 people, and based on the rate of reduction in both the number of farms and the amount of land under agricultural production, that number may reach 300 people. But what will these ‘Farms of the Future’ be like? The number of actively producing farms in the developed world has suffered a slow, steady decline over the past two decades, while the global demand for fresh foods, protein and feedstocks have steadily increased. How will we feed a population of more than nine billion with fewer and fewer farms, and how will we feed the livestock needed to feed the increased population?

Figure 1.

What have we learned?  

The growth in our global population also means a growth in the need for clean water, which is a somewhat fixed volume on planet Earth. More importantly, though, the growth in the demand for clean water for drinking purposes also places a greater constraint on the amount of fresh water available for irrigation of crops and to provide for the drinking water required of livestock. The increase in our population means much greater demands for energy – for everything from transportation, lighting, and communications devices to water treatment, agricultural production, and food processing. The culmination of these increasing demands on our planets finite resources has been dubbed by many as the “Food-Water-Energy Nexus.”

Future Plans  

The interdependency of agriculture, water, and energy has become commonly referred to as “the Nexus.” This term does not indicate a crossroads, where a pathway to agricultural production is independent of impacts on water supply and energy availability. Instead, it denotes a relationship of give and take: the decisions we make to utilize, exploit, or economize one of these critical elements of human existence are likely to have broad-reaching impacts on the other two.

Figure 2.The realization of these interdependencies, and more importantly, the fragility of the balance of satisfying these needs must lead us to proactively invest in agricultural innovations, as much as we have with water and energy. The needs for energy innovations have been wildly popularized in society, such as may be seen through promulgation of solar panels the world-over. Similarly, water sustainability innovations, such as reclaiming water from wastes, water conservation devices, and even desalinization. However, the drive for innovations in maximizing the productivity of healthy foods through sustainable agricultural practices seems, by many, silent in comparison.

There is no doubt that the ‘Farms of the Future’ must be able to be self-sustaining; but what does that mean? Will they be able to take the manures from livestock, swine and poultry, convert them to biogas to run the machinery serving their farms, and also provide the nutrient-rich fertilizers for their crops, and bedding for their animals? Will they be able to return nutrients, water, and carbon to the land in which the food is produced in such a manner that none is wasted (meaning the only export from the farms is the food products that are to be consumed, rather than in the form of air emissions, water waste, and exported solid wastes)? What alternate sources of revenue may be developed to sustain small, locally sourced farms?

Demand Placed on Lands

This presentation will discuss how farms of the future can prepare to deal with issues of climate change and greenhouse gas reduction and what is needed in agriculture, water conservation, and stewardship to prepare our world for the additional people inhabiting the Earth in 2050.

Figure 3.


Gus Simmons, P.E., Director of Bioenergy, Cavanaugh & Associates, P.A.

Additional information

Gus Simmons, P.E. 1-877-557-8924



1. Monfreda, C., N. Ramankutty, and J. A. Foley (In Press), Farming the Planet. 2: The Geographic Distribution of Crop Areas, Yields, Physiological Types, and NPP in the Year 2000, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, doi:10.1029/2007GB002947.

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2015. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Seattle, WA. March 31-April 3, 2015. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.