Limiting Water Loss Through Water Coolant Circulation

The key benefit of aquaponic systems, as contrasted to conventional agriculture, is reduced water usage. Water is only lost from absorption and transpiration by plants, evaporation from fish ponds, and biomass removal. Plant absorption and biomass removal are usually desired; evaporation and plant transpiration however, are water losses which are unproductive – and potentially avoidable. The capstone project for my internship with Nourish The Planet concerns the design of a greenhouse which captures the water lost from evaporation and plant transpiration, and reuses it in the system’s water cycle. In 2003, the European Union commissioned a greenhouse design from Watergy that would do just that. Over the course of three years, two prototypes were tested; the system built in Spain consisted of an airtight greenhouse combined with a secondary solar collector and cooling tower (concept shown in figure below). It was able to recycle evaporation and plant transpiration, desalinate seawater, and passively cool the air during the day and heat the air at night – all by virtue of its design and water coolant circulation. During the daytime, sunlight heats the greenhouse’s moist air, causing it to rise up the outside of the cooling tower. The tower is colored black to absorb as much heat as possible, thus encouraging warm, moist air to gather from the entire lower section of the greenhouse. Cool water is circulated from a reserve tank outside the greenhouse and into a water-to-air exchanger built into the inner tube of the tower. This encourages the moist air near the top of the tower to condense droplets onto the exchanger. These droplets stream down the inside...

Intern Profile: Alex Gan

I’ve recently finished studying in Saudi Arabia, where I completed my M.S. degree in Environmental Science and Engineering. I moved back to Northern Colorado because I consider it my home, and its natural beauty was what motivated me to pursue the environmental sciences – making it the perfect location for me to pause and consider where next to go. I’m grateful to intern with Nourish the Planet because of its relation to engineering sustainable and appropriate technologies; the application of such solutions to needful communities in the Majority World has motivated my scholarly interests, and continues to help guide where next I may live, work, and explore.  When did you first become interested in sustainability? Sustainability has always been defined in my mind as the proper stewarding of our natural environment. The first time I really appreciated nature in its pristine state was my first hike into Rocky Mountain National Park. Western Colorado’s mountainous region contains vistas worthy enough to convince anyone that environmental stewarding is a significant endeavor. What are the most interesting/important things that you’ve learned since being an intern at Nourish the Planet? I have always assumed that agriculture, be it natural or hydroponically-grown, consumes a large amount of water. Maintaining the modular aquaponic systems here at NTP has taught me that crops can be grown with astonishingly efficient water usage. How do you incorporate sustainability into your life? I utilize my purchasing power carefully. The United States, as with much of the world, is a society dominated by consumerism. All products, regardless of production location and efficiency, stress the planet’s resources. Some, like home-grown herb...

Headlines 10.31.12

Happy Halloween!  Here are this week’s headlines.  In honor of the holiday, we have an article about horror films that convey a message of sustainability and environmentalism, methane seeps accelerating global warming, vertical farms, hurricane Sandy and global warming, how America’s corn market is operating upside down, and finally, axolotls. Barry Levinson Makes Eco-Horror –  “The idea behind “The Bay” began after Mr. Levinson was asked to direct a documentary about environmental crises facing Chesapeake Bay. After watching a 2009 “Frontline” broadcast on the topic he opted instead for a graphic fictional treatment. “I don’t know that we pay attention to facts anymore,” he said over lunch in New York recently…  “We have to breathe the air and drink water,” he continued. “If you take one of those common elements, or put something into those elements, and make it the enemy, it becomes terrifying.” Climate Changing Methane Rapidly Destabilizing off East Coast – A changing Gulf Stream off the East Coast has destabilized frozen methane deposits trapped under nearly 4,000 square miles of seafloor, scientists reported Wednesday. And since methane is even more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas, the researchers said, any large-scale release could have significant climate impacts. Sandy Storm Surge, is This What Climate Change Looks Like – Excellent graphics. Vertical Farm in Singapore Produces a Ton of Food a Day – “The vertical farm, which has been developed by Sky Green Farms, consists of 120 aluminum towers, each extending up almost 30 feet in height. It can produce over 1,000 pounds of three kinds of vegetables per day, all of which are...

Headlines 10/24/12

Here are this week’s headlines!  We have news on food prices, expensive farmland, an excellent OpEd by Mark Bittman, the color blue and why you shouldn’t eat Chinese food.  Enjoy! A Simple Fix for Farming – Excellent piece by Mark Bittman about a study proving that more food can be grown without industrial outputs.  A must read. Another Food Crisis is Likely to Spur Revolution in the Developing World – “Some serious research has been done on the correlation between food prices and social unrest. The New England Complex Systems Institute has published several reports (NECSI). Their data show clear correlations during periods of food shortage in 2008 and during the Arab Spring period in 2011. Alarmingly, today the current food crisis is at the same type of levels that led to widespread unrest in 2008 and 2011.” Why China Has the Worst Farms in the World – Pictures and discussion of Chinese farms. Maggots in the Pasta: Why Europe Screens Tainted Chinese Food – “Cypriot inspectors found arsenic in the frozen calamari. The Italians discovered maggots in the pasta. There were glass chips in the pumpkin seeds bound for Denmark, and Spanish regulators blocked a shipment of frozen duck meat because of forged papers. It has been a rough year for Chinese food exports to Europe.” Eating Our Weight in GMOs – “Americans are unknowingly consuming vast amounts of genetically-modified (GMO) foods, reports the nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Environmental Working Group (EWG). According to their analysis released last week, the average adult in America consumes 193 pounds of GMO foods every year…” How Record Food Prices Disrupt World...

Intern Profile: Stephanie Lynn

This week we have Aquaponics Intern Stephanie Lynn. She has been an amazing and dedicated addition to our team! Here is bit about her in her own words: I grew up in Indiana and moved to Colorado in 2007.  My educational background is in agronomy and pharmaceutics from Purdue, and environmental engineering from Colorado State.  I have always enjoyed science and math and I love to apply those principles to the real world.  I also enjoy spending time outdoors observing the world around me. When did you first become interested in sustainability? I became interested in sustainability during one of my plant breeding classes at Purdue.  The professor was from Africa and he often gave real examples of how many people around the world struggle just to be able to eat and drink.  These struggles were the result of environmental, educational, economical, and/or cultural factors. What are the most interesting/important things that you’ve learned since being an intern at Nourish the Planet? I have only been working a couple weeks now, but I have already learned about the dynamic interactions between the plants, aquatic life, and water.  In school I was taught about these interactions, but to be able to actually witness this first-hand is extremely valuable from an educational standpoint. How do you incorporate sustainability into your life? I have always incorporated the three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle), but recently, I have been getting into growing my own garden.  I really enjoy learning new things and developing new skills. What do you want to see change in the world in the next 10 years? I would like to...

Intern Profile: Lauren Staley

We just selected our Fall 2012 cohort of interns! We are so excited to have them on board. As with past cohorts we will be introducing a new member each week. This week we have one of our Fisheries Interns, Lauren Staley. Her exuberance and excitement is truly contagious! Here is a bit about her in her own words: My name is Lauren Olivia Staley and I recently moved to Colorado from Maryland, my home state, where I went to the University of Maryland for Environmental Science and Technology. I grew up in a small town right at the base of the Appalachia Mountains so most of my background consists of running wild through field and forest; it wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I really settled and started focusing on any kind of academic career. Eventually I would like to go back to school to pursue a teaching degree, preferably early childhood development. I don’t really have a single hobby I pursue as the last one-whittling – ended in bandages. I do, however, enjoy the occasional camping trip, rock climbing and biking/hiking. When did you first become interested in sustainability? I first became interested in sustainability when I was very young, maybe about 11. Back then it wasn’t necessarily called “sustainability” but rather a discussion on how we should be treating our resources. I grew up in a very rural area and preserving our land was always readily talked about around town and in school- especially during outdoor school.   What are the most interesting/important things that you’ve learned since being an intern at Nourish the...