Asee peer logo

Cold-climate Greenhouse and Food Waste Digester

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Problem- and project-based learning in environmental engineering

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.293.1 - 23.293.13



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Susan E. Powers Clarkson University

visit author page

Susan E. Powers is the Spence Professor of Sustainable Environmental Systems and the Associate Director of Sustainability in the Institute for a Sustainable Environment at Clarkson University. Dr. Powers is using her current academic position to promote project-based learning experiences to promote sustainability for college students. She is working with several student groups to analyze and improve existing campus operations and design and innovate new facilities to reduce our campus’ impact on the environment and society. The goal in all of these projects is to provide real-world, messy and open ended projects to students to enhance their education both in technical aspects as well as team work, communication and integrating sustainability as a critical project criterion.

visit author page

author page

Stefan J. Grimberg P.E. Clarkson University

Download Paper |


Cold-climate Greenhouse and Food Waste Digester Provide Education and Research Opportunities While Greening the CampusFood. Most engineering students don’t consider the application of their high-tech creativity forfood production, but an interdisciplinary team of students have proven that they can growproduce year round in an energy, water and space efficient manner, even in a cold and darknorthern latitude climate. A new pilot-scale greenhouse and its ancillary systems on our campusare enabling students to research and explore new technologies for integrating food productionand energy recovery from food waste. The 650 sq. ft. greenhouse utilizes innovativetechnologies and control systems for the year-round production of leafy green vegetables, herbsand tomatoes. The state-of-art aeroponic growing system uses only a small fraction of the waterand nutrient inputs required by other greenhouse growing operations.Additional system components already on campus – a 22 kW biomass-solar thermal heatingsystem and an anaerobic digester for food waste management – have been integrated with thegreenhouse system to provide closed-loop cycling of many energy and material flows. Theanaerobic digester uses a biological process to convert up to 300 kg (650 lb) of our campus’ foodwaste each day into biogas, which can then be used to produce electric power (20 kW) that isused in the system. The digester also provides nutrient-rich fertilizer that will be considered foruse in the greenhouse to support plant growth.The system has been integrated into a wide variety of student-led research, class and volunteerprojects. These systems are part of our University’s efforts to provide experiential learning siteson campus for project-based and student-centered professional experiences that are integral totheir preparation for further studies or employment. The nature of the student involvement versusthe quality of their deliverables and output has been assessed. Research projects (graduate orundergraduate) that include direct on-on-one interaction with a faculty advisor have generatedthe highest quality work – though this approach is also time intensive and not sustainable.Integrating this system into senior capstone design classes involves more students and is a morerealistic model for the real world. Final deliverables from these classes are, however, morevaried in their quality.

Powers, S. E., & Grimberg, S. J. (2013, June), Cold-climate Greenhouse and Food Waste Digester Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19307

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015