Dartmouth’s Team IFES

Integrated Food-Energy Systems: Closing the loop on energy, water, and nutrients

Dartmouth’s Team IFES (Integrated Food Energy Systems), founded by Anne Kapuscinski, pursues interdisciplinary research on the global emergence of integrated food-energy systems and their capacity to solve problems at the food-water-energy-climate nexus. We include faculty and research associates in environmental and social sciences and engineering from Dartmouth and the University of Maryland, research assistants and students from multiple departments and collaborations with entrepreneurs, bioenergy analysts, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

Team IFES investigates environmental, socio-economic and engineering aspects of closing resource loops by linking food production and renewable energy. We published the first taxonomy of diverse IFES, uncovering the logic behind a plethora of different systems and setting the research agenda on key questions about their socio-economic and environmental effects and challenges to their expansion (Gerst e.t al. 2014).

With a major USDA grant, we are studying mid-size dairy farms that adopt anaerobic digesters to generate renewable energy (Kapuscinski et al. 2014). To understand how IFES adoption affects financial resilience and environmental performance of farms under future policy and environmental changes, we are studying 50 dairy farms in Vermont and New York, including farms that have: adopted anaerobic digesters; “intensified” integration by adding new marketable products or closing more nutrient and energy loops; and have not adopted IFES. Using input-output and technology-specific data collected from interviews with farm owners, agricultural engineers, regulators and utility experts, we are creating biophysical and engineering cost models; performing life cycle inventories (LCIs) of energy and material inputs, product outputs, and environmental releases; and assessing financial performance of different anaerobic digester configurations. We will combine results with scenario analysis to assess how adopting and intensifying an IFES might affect farm financial viability and beneficial environmental outcomes under future technological, institutional and environmental changes.

Anne Kapuscinski:
Anne R. Kapuscinski is the inaugural Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Sustainability Science and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Union of Concerned Scientists, as well as Editor in Chief of Sustainability Transitions, a domain of the open-access journal, Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. Prior to Dartmouth, she was on the University of Minnesota faculty (1984-2009) in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology and a Minnesota Sea Grant Extension Specialist. At Dartmouth, she leads an interdisciplinary team researching how integrated food energy systems (IFES) address the food-water-energy nexus in the face of climate change, and assembled a scientist-practitioner team to study their dynamics, plausible trajectories, and policy context. Her laboratory experiments focus on linkages among tilapia aquaculture and microalgae components of the integrated food-energy system. One of her current projects studies 50 dairy farms to quantify effects of anaerobic digesters on closing nutrient, energy and water loops, and on the long-term financial resilience of dairy farming. Another project develops microalgae feeds for aquaculture, the world’s fastest growing food sector, and assesses their life-cycle environmental benefits. Anne’s work stresses a systems approach to sustainability challenges, integrating across ecological, social, and economic domains of the problem.

Michael Cox:
Michael Cox, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College, explores sources of resilience and vulnerability in human-environment interactions. He has conducted empirical fieldwork-based analyses of irrigation systems in the Southwest United States as well as in Kenya. He is currently conducting a synthetic analysis of large-scale environmental governance, and is involved in developing a diagnostic, inductive approach to natural resource and environmental policy analysis. Before coming to Dartmouth, Michael worked under Lin Ostrom at Indiana University’s Workshop in Political Theory and Governance.

Mark Laser:
Mark is a Research Scientist and Senior Lecturer at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. His research interests include Biomass conversion, sustainable energy and development, and process design and evaluation. He recently co-authored a report on biomass refining, entitled Strategic Biorefinery Analysis, funded by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. His experience also encompasses biomass pretreatment research, as well as bioethanol process design and economic analysis.

Michael Gerst:
Michael is a research faculty at the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center at the University of Maryland. His expertise is in decision and systems analysis of problems that involve the intersection of the environment, technology, and society. In addition to studying the resilience and environmental impact of integrated food-energy systems, his research portfolio has included elements of cost-benefit analysis of climate policy, the development of new scenario techniques for planning under uncertainty, guiding co-production efforts of global change indicators, and testing of visualization design efficacy.

Kim Locke:
Now a senior research associate at Dartmouth College, Kim has over 25 years of experience working on pollution prevention, industrial ecology and water quality protection policy issues. Her current research on integrated food-energy systems began while helping design greenhouse aquaponics IFES fueled by CHP using landfill gas, with excess aquaculture waste and engine CO2 used for microalgae culture. Kim also worked for waste recycling/reuse pioneer Living Technologies Inc., creator of the Living Machine, and on federal pollution prevention policy, including managing the development of EPA’s guidance on Pollution Prevention and Best Management Practices for Industrial Facilities and recommendations for pollution prevention at DOD facilities while at Science Applications International Corporation. As Environment and Energy Outreach Representative for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Kim served as point-of-contact on these issues in Vermont. In the not-for-profit sector, she conducted science-based advocacy for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Citizen Enforcement Project.

Mike Raker:
Mike, of Agricultural Energy Consultants, is actively engaged in state and federal farm and energy policy on issues including the Vermont Standard Offer Program, net-metering, project permitting, and USDA grant programs. For more than two decades he has assisted Vermont farms in improving their electrical energy efficiency and producing renewable energy via anaerobic digestion of farm wastes. For ten years Mike was the sole staff person for the Green Mountain Power Renewable Development Fund where he provided technical assistance to all of the Vermont digester projects. Subsequently, he has worked as a self employed consultant providing services to farmers via Vermont’s electric and efficiency utilities.

Curt Gooch:
Curt is part of the PRO-DAIRY Environmental Systems program at Cornell University where he works closely with New York State and U.S. dairy industry leaders to identify and develop innovative methods in dairy housing and waste management systems in order to enhance animal performance, animal well-being, system efficiency, environmental compliance and, overall farm profitability. These efforts are accomplished with the overall vision of furthering individual farm and industry-wide sustainability. Curt’s research focuses specifically on cow comfort, dairy housing systems, dairy manure management/treatment, anaerobic digestion systems, agricultural air emissions, and climate adaptation.

Pallab Sarker:
Pallab is the Senior Research Associate in Fish Nutrition and Environmental Sustainability at Dartmouth College. He is an expert in fish nutrition for sustainable aquaculture. His research interests involve developing and evaluating aquaculture nutrition strategies for improving the environmental sustainability of aquaculture. The main focus of his research is to evaluate microalgae as alternative ingredients for fishmeal and fish oil in aquaculture feed to reduce dependence on forage fisheries, and to formulate nutritionally balanced, environmentally sustainable, and cost-effective diets. He is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Aquaculture & Marine Biology and EC Nutrition.

Rosalie Lipfert:
Rosalie graduated from Dartmouth in 2013 where she majored in environmental studies, with a focus on food studies and climate change in Arctic regions. She has a passion for combining the fields of science with the arts and humanities, particularly via storytelling. Past research projects of hers include a winter in Rovaniemi, Finland examining policies affecting the reindeer meat industry, a senior thesis on the ethics of U.S. meat consumption, and a climate change storytelling project interviewing mountain guides in Switzerland. She currently works on Dartmouth’s USDA project investigating IFES on dairy farms  in Vermont and New York.