Integrating Agent-Based Simulation with Biophysical Models to Explore Urban Food, Energy, and Water Systems

Abstract: People in urban areas rely heavily on external sources of food, energy, and water, which has resulted in severe and cumulative negative environmental impacts. An integrated analysis of urban food-energy-water systems (FEWS) can enhance our understanding of the urban FEWS nexus and help us find ways to improve system function and management, increase resilience, and enhance sustainability. The project described in this presentation uses co-simulation with social and biophysical data to assess the potential of localized food production in improving environmental outcomes. Co-simulation enables the coupling of disparate food, energy, and water simulation models across a range of spatial and temporal scales, allowing energy use and water quality outcomes for current and localized FEWS to be quantified and compared.

This presentation focuses on the agent-based modeling component of the project, which simulates human behavior in food systems and facilitates experimentation with different policies aimed at increasing food production for local markets. In this model, farmers are represented as autonomous and socially situated agents that make crop production decisions according to heterogeneous objectives, knowledge, and capabilities, as well as the influence of their peers and perceived market opportunities. Specifically, the agents determine how much land to allocate to the production of crops for local consumption and the amounts and types of crops to produce. The collective impact of these decisions on energy use and water quality outcomes over time will be captured by integrating the agent-based model with biophysical simulation models.

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