June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
23.293.1 - 23.293.13
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. https://peer.asee.org/19307
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