Projects and Initiatives
These projects are still being designed, coded, and built, so please swing on by an Roger's Urban Farmlab, Computer Science for Agriculture, or a specific team meeting to get your hands dirty!
In a response to needing to utilize as little of space, resources, and water as possible, the student organization Engineers Without Borders is hosting an Aeroponics project at RUF.
Aeroponics a growing system where the roots hang in the air rather instead of receiving nutrients from the soil. Researched by NASA, aeroponics features a nutrient rich solution kept immense under pressure and passed through special chemical emitters. These emitters spray micro-doses of the nutrient solution onto the roots of plants in very small particles. These small particles of nutrient rich solution easily pass through the plant roots maximizing uptake efficiency. As a result the plant does not need the same amount of root space, has zero water/nutrient waste/runoff, and requires much smaller reservoir sizes than hydroponics.
Providing a technical solution to the trilema of overflowing landfills, greenhouse gas emissions, and pitfalls of renewable energy sources, anaerobic digestion allows for the processing of food waste into biogas and organic fertilizer. Biogas can be burned for electricity, producing less harmful CO2 emissions than if the food was allowed to break down in a landfill and produce methane gas.
In collaboration with Engineers for a Sustainable World, RUF takes food waste from Price Center to have it be broken down by bacteria that thrive in oxygen-less environments and produce methane gas, which can be used to generate renewable electricity. The sludge waste is processed via EBW's Bioenergy Project, whose water treatment system takes the sludge and passes it through a series of filters, and aerators. This process converts the ammonia found withing the sludge into plant-available nitrates. Similarly, the system also recaptures phosphates, potassium and other micronutrients, allowing them to be recycled and turned into liquid hydroponic fertilizer.
Hydroponic Test Bed
Attached to the digester is a our plug-and-play system of custom hydroponic research, design and implementation. Any interested students or groups are allowed to connect to a series of hookups to play with their own urban and vertical hydroponic systems.
In addition to design, there is much data to collect in order to better understand how to turn food waste back into food in a 21st century way. This model demonstrates how we can produce food with as little carbon waste as possible.
Price Center Food Waste to Food and Fuel Composting Program
Roger's Urban Farmlab, in partnership with University Centers, has a process of taking pre-consumer food waste from Price Center restaurants, transporting it to Roger’s Urban Farmlab, and subsequently processing the waste into soil and energy at the garden.
Our aforementioned on-site digester produces bio-gas energy and nutrient-rich sludge, the later of which is treated into hydroponic-grade fertilizer. As of August 2018, student interns and volunteers currently redirect and compost 1,500 pounds of food waste a week that would otherwise go to a landfill.
Alongside the Anaerobic Digester, Roger's also runs a traditional compost setup to develop new methods that increase yield of beneficial compounds while reducing odors and chemical imbalances.
Our current compost setup creates nitrogen-rich soil and contains preconsumer waste from 12 of 22 businesses in University Centers in addition to a number of offices and satellite coffee carts around campus.
While these projects are completed, we still need to maintain them and upgrade components as their fail. If you're interested in any of the below, swing on by an Roger's Urban Farmlab, Computer Science for Agriculture, or a specific team meeting to get your hands dirty!
One of our first student projects, this small, 500 gallon aquaponic system was finished in 2015 by Lucas (a former UCSD student), who wanted to prove the viability of an aquaponics system on campus. Due to the nature of where Roger's Urban Farmlab is, surrounded by large Eucalyptus trees and close to the ocean, the previous team decided to build this as a test bed to make sure that the fish wouldn't die.
Unfortunately, this project lead graduated and the system has been in maintenance mode ever since, with very limited produce grown compared to what it could potentially grow. As RUF is short on manpower, all of our efforts have gone towards developing mechanized solutions for large-scale projects.
So if you're interested in aquaponics, know a thing-or-two about gardening, or just miss having plants, come to one of RUF's Sunday-morning garden cleanups to get in touch with Zack and see how you can take this system over!
Currently under repairs. Check back soon for a write-up.