On 16-20 October, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) held the 2023 World Food Day and World Food Forum (WFF) in Rome, Italy. The event focused on strengthening sustainable water resource management, promoting the transformation of agricultural food systems, accelerating climate action implementation, and building a 'Zero Hunger' world.
During the conference, the youth team guided by Xurong Mei and Enke Liu participated in the "Transformative Research Challenge(TRC)" at the WFF. Their project, " Evapotranspiration Water Reuse Integrated Technology " was honored with the Special Award for "The Role of Water in Agrifood Systems Transformation" and won the overall championship in the "TRC". This is the first time that a Chinese team has entered the finals and received an award in this event. The team consists of China-Belgium joint PhD applicant Menglu Wang, PhD applicant Peng Pan, and foreign post-doctoral fellow Saud uz Zafar. The FAO awarded this honor to recognize the team's outstanding research achievements and the enormous potential for positive impacts on global and local agricultural food systems. This project also received support from the FAO's "Hand-in-Hand" Initiative. And the FAO will closely monitor the progress of the project, providing research resources and financial support to promote the implementation and development of this technology. Additionally, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) will offer internship opportunities for the team members.
The project, titled " Evapotranspiration Water Reuse Integrated Technology" describes how evapotranspiration Water collection technology provides a self-sustaining agricultural water source in the context of climate change, water scarcity, and threats to food security. The team has developed nano-bio materials, metal-organic framework (MOF) water-absorbing materials, as well as a solar-powered system. This breakthrough will go beyond traditional agricultural water conservation concepts and establish a water-energy-food cycle system. The goal is to save more than 70% of irrigation water resources, offering a new approach to addressing water scarcity and ensuring irrigation water supply and food security in severely water-deficient regions worldwide.
The Transformative Research Challenge includes 5 special awards: “The Role of Water in Agrifood Systems Transformation” Special Prize, “Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR)” Special Prize, “Global One Health” Special Prize, “Food Loss and Waste” Special Prize and “Food Action Accelerates Climate Action” Special Prize; and “First Place winner--Overall Championship”. Over 500 teams from around the world submitted applications. The project started in June with the submission of research concepts and research output plans. After a preliminary round and semi-finals spanning 4 months, 10 teams (the top two teams in each category) advanced to the finals and received personalized guidance from globally renowned experts appointed by FAO.