REFRESCH is an international team of educators and researchers passionate about improving the livelihoods of resource-constrained communities. We believe that effective solutions for sustainable energy, water and food-security can be achieved by combining skills development, collaborative design, and rigorous assessment.
REFRESCH (Researching Fresh Solutions to the Energy/Water/Food Challenge in Resource Constrained Environments) is funded by the University of Michigan Third Century Initiative and led by Dr. Johannes Schwank of the Michigan Energy Institute. The project is focused on finding solutions to specific, solvable, scalable problems in the areas of food, energy, and water (FEW). Funded at $3 million for three years, REFRESCH is currently active in Gabon, Kazakhstan, and Michigan.
An interdisciplinary team of faculty and students work within REFRESCH. The project draws upon the rich resources and diverse expertise of the university to field a strong team of fifteen faculty investigators from seven schools across campus, including: the College of Engineering, Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, School of Natural Resources and Environment, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Stamps School of Art and Design, and the Ross School of Business. Education is also a major component of REFRESCH, so student involvement is a high priority. Currently, the project supports the research of ten graduate students from a range of disciplines. Students both pursue research on their own thesis work related to sustainability/ FEW issues and embrace the essence of REFRESCH by getting involved in multidisciplinary project areas.
In establishing project field sites, the REFRESCH team collaborated with national embassies from countries on several continents, reviewing cases of resource-constrained environments. The team focused in particular on areas where a variety of pressures - access to sufficient energy supply, nutritious food, and water - are at play. Through this process, Gabon and Kazakhstan were selected as international locations for REFRESCH’s efforts. Both sites have a REFRESCH team of faculty and students dedicated to building fruitful collaborations in technology development and education in those locations.
The REFRESCH Integration (REFRESCH-IT) team is focused on researching, designing and implementing a variety of innovations within the FEW domain that could be used in multiple socio-economic and geographic settings around the world. Technologies and methods of integration are being developed that can be adapted to various settings through iterative system designs in the form of prototypes and predictive models. The individuals comprising this team are currently focused on building a modular shrimp aquaculture system and creating a conceptual framework for a more advanced, integrated FEW system that can operate off-grid and recycle the majority of its water usage requirements.
Overall, REFRESCH seeks to promote the multidirectional application of ideas, technology solutions, and educational components to and from local and global settings. As REFRESCH strengthens its engagement, it looks to encourage exchange within and between all three project sites, fostering the collaboration of students and faculty, community partners, NGOs, the private sector, local universities, and government institutions. Through such collaborations, REFRESCH deepens context-specific insight, drives exchange across educational and applied platforms, and explores specific solutions at the nexus of food/water/energy challenges.