Reducing Over-Fertilization

Jon Harper – jbh2175

Sustainability Issue: Fertilizer Eutrophication

            Fertilizer runoff from agriculture is a major contributor to the eutrophication (essentially creating too many nutrients) of waterways and the oceans.  This creates algal blooms which choke out other plant life and then die, and when they are decomposing the decomposers use up all of the available oxygen in the water creating hypoxic or even anoxic conditions, killing any aquatic life nearby.  Huge “dead zones” have been created just beyond the mouth of the Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico, and many other areas worldwide.

Technology: Non-toxic stabilizer “N-Protect”

When fertilizer is applied, bacteria will often use up part of it in a process called “Volitalization” which creates ammonia gas and causes the available nitrogen in the fertilizer to not reach the roots of the intended plants.  Because of this, excess fertilizer is used to get enough to the plants, and/or toxic stabilizers are used to make the nitrogen accessible to the plants but not the bacteria.

Solvay has come up with an alternative to this with their “N-Protect” product.  This is a stabilizer which is non-toxic, and does not have the foul odor that conventional stabilizers have.  It also has a higher efficacy than conventional stabilizers, at 50% instead of 30%.  This means that less fertilizer has to be applied, and that more is taken up by the intended plants.  Both mean less runoff into waterways and less volitalization into ammonia which then gets captured in the water cycle in clouds and rain, also ending up in rivers and oceans.

Stakeholders:

-Agriculture industry

-Fertilizer supply industry

-Fisheries

-Coastal and River-adjacent communities near ‘dead zones’

Implementation:

  1. Implement wider usage of the product
  2. Test rivers and ocean areas near applications to determine level of effectiveness at reducing eutrophication
  3. Consider legislation requiring a higher level of volitization reduction in fertilizers

https://www.solvay.com/en/innovation/news-and-events/how-make-fertilizer-use-more-sustainable

Creating More Marine Energy

Jon Harper – jbh2175

Orbital Marine Power’s 2MW turbine, the Orbital O2

Sustainability Issue: Energy

            The world is running out of fossil fuel resources, and the mining, transportation, and burning of them results in the release of many harmful GHGs which contribute to global warming.  The energy needs of the world only continue to increase, however, as our population continues to grow exponentially and the developing world increases its demand for energy.  We must develop sources for sustainable, clean, nonpolluting energy.

Technology: Marine Energy (Tidal and Wave)

Concentrating on these coastal areas, we find that producing energy here would be beneficial for many reasons.  About 40% of the world population lives within 100km of the coast.  This means that power generated from marine energy would be created close to the demand, further increasing efficiency.  Also, land which is often at a premium for other uses would not need to be set aside for power generation by wind or solar.

Stakeholders:

-Energy Companies

-Nations, both developing and developed, who are working on their power generation

-Energy consumers

Implementation:

  1. More research and development is needed to develop larger and more efficient generators.
  2. More investment is needed to produce this technology, and implement it.
  3. Installation of these technologies can be clustered and linked to reduce the need for additional transmission infrastructure.

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/25/tidal-power-wave-machines-scotland-becoming-a-hub-for-marine-energy.html

S. Café fabrics incorporate used coffee grounds into clothing

Jon Harper- jbh2175

Problem

Coffee Grounds are an enormous source of organic waste, estimated around 500,000 tonnes per year.  Composting them is one option, but most of them still end up in the trash.  What to do?  One innovative solution has been implemented by S. Café, turning them into apparel! 

Proposed Solution

            S. Café takes the coffee grounds, combines them with a polymer, and creates yarn.  This is used to make fabrics and apparel.  The fabric created dries 200% faster than cotton, blocks UV rays, is odor controlling, and cooling as well.  The odor control function does wear off over time, but the company claims that it lasts longer than you would expect.  The other functions do not wash or wear out.  The fabric itself can be produced with little energy.  Some of their fabrics also incorporate used plastic bottles as the source for the polymer.

Stakeholders

Potential stakeholders are used coffee ground producers, the garment industry, and of course consumers. 

Coffee ground producers usually have to pay to have their refuse taken away, and coffee grounds are a heavy, wet kind of waste.  If another company saw them as a resource and picked them up for free, this would save them money and would be worth their effort to separate the used grounds for pickup. 

The garment industry is always looking for new fabrics, and the sustainability aspect of this clothing will likely mean that they can sell it at a higher cost than other fabrics, which will support the additional costs of creating it in the first place.

Consumers benefit because this is a very useful fabric!  Also, any diverted and recycled waste helps all of us and the global environment.

Deployment/Implementation

  1. S. Café currently produces seven different kinds of fabric using these techniques.  They have been winning awards with them, but more needs to be done to encourage their adoption into apparel.
  2. Marketing campaigns for consumers need to be more professional, and show both the sustainability and other advantages of the fabrics.
  3. A coffee-ground-collection network could also be combined with this advertising, so the coffee shops involved could advertise their efforts towards sustainability as well.

Sources

Sustainably Treating Hog Waste

1. Sustainability Problem: Toxic Animal Farm waste

Raising animals from farm to fork takes an incredible amount of resources, including an enormous amount of water.  Agriculture worldwide accounts for 70% of water withdrawals.  In the case of animals, water must be used first to grow feed crops, and then to water the animals themselves as they grow.  Also, as climate change accelerates, access to clean fresh water is becoming more and more difficult.

The water used in the farms is contaminated with feces and other animal byproducts and collected in waste ponds, then released into waterways, often with insufficient treatment.  This contaminates water supplies used downriver for humans, crops, and other livestock.  It also means that water treatment must be more and more aggressive, requiring more energy and resources the further downriver you get. 

In North Carolina, where I am from, the primary source of this waste is from Hog Farms.  These farms also regularly have incidents of overflow during heavy rains, especially during the hurricanes that come through the state every couple of years.  Most of these hog farms are located in eastern North Carolina, the very place where the hurricanes make landfall and are their strongest, and also a very flat place that floods easily.  During these events often entire enormous waste ponds will be compromised and all of the contents flood downriver, contaminating entire towns with toxic floodwaters, causing illness and death.

2. Sustainable Technology: Advanced Oxidation Technologies (AOTs)

This technology separates wastes from water, and treats them to create a solid odor and pathogen free fertilizer.  So not only is it cleaning the water, it is creating a useful product!  First, an additive is added to the waste.  Then it is sent through “The AOT reactor and ozone diffusion”.  Then it goes through a process called flocculation, which accumulates all the waste into larger and larger pieces which are much easier to remove from the water stream.  These solids are separated by centrifuge, and then dried.  Then hey presto!  Fertilizer! 

This can be done constantly as it is created so that waste is not left for long periods in holding ponds, eliminating the hazard of storing toxic waste in unsafe spaces. 

3. Stakeholders:

  • Hog Farmers
  • Chicken Farmers
  • Cattle Ranchers
  • Other animal farmers
  • Fishing industry
  • Any life in the rivers (fish, shellfish, etc.)
  • All humans that use rivers as their source of water
  • Cities that pull water from rivers and have expenses in wastewater treatment
  • Recreational water users (boaters, beach swimmers near river outlets, etc.)
  • Coastal ecosystems and estuaries (hog waste also causes algal blooms)

4. Technology Implementation:

1. Hog Farmers are already paying for wastewater treatment technologies which are not as effective, and are being fined for their environmental discharge.  These farmers are relatively wealthy, and would likely be able to invest in this technology if the amount above and beyond current efforts will pay for itself in reduced fines.  There would also be a marketing bonus for products produced at the farm to be marketed to the “green” consumer market.

2. Cities which draw water from rivers have an economic interest in those rivers being cleaner.  So local and state governments may be convinced to put money into a fund to help subsidize the implementation of these systems.

3. Ideally this would be implemented at the farms most upriver, to be able to analyze most effectively the change in water quality of the farms’ effluent and its effects on the river, instead of trying to accurately measure the amounts of contaminants further downriver where many farms have contributed to the problem.

Sources:

https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/1/170/htm

https://www.npr.org/2018/09/22/650698240/hurricane-s-aftermath-floods-hog-lagoons-in-north-carolina

https://www.technicianonline.com/news/article_334b5bdc-b4f3-11e5-b31f-af277c4f3939.html

AppHarvest – Improving Farming and Improving Appalachia

Jon Harper-jbh2175

Summary of Problem

            There are two problems that are being solved here. 

  1. For many years, Appalachia has struggled economically with hits to the tobacco and coal industries, and especially in the Virginia/West Virginia/Kentucky area has been exploited by the coal industry.  In order to end this area’s support for the coal industry as its biggest employer and move towards greener energy production, ethically we must also develop alternate sources of employment for the residents there.
  • Growing vegetables typically needs a warm, sunny, wet climate to maximize yields.  These places are often far from where this food is needed, in more northern latitudes.  “Across the U.S., only 19% of land is considered “best” for growing food and crops.” (CBS News, 2021)  As such, in the United States much of this produce is shipped from Central and South America.  Transporting the food has an enormous carbon footprint.

Tech Solution

            AppHarvest is a new company building enormous hydroponic greenhouses in Appalachia, with plans to expand further (AppHarvest, 2021).  Their first warehouse is the size of 58 football fields.  They have plenty of sun, and plenty of water, and avoid the toxicity of the soil by growing hydroponically.  By growing in greenhouses, they are able to grow all year round, instead of only in the summers.  By locating in Appalachia, they are within a 1 day drive of 70% of the US.  “They can grow year-round and all night thanks to special grow lights that keep the 720,000 plants inside developing. The company says farming this way uses 90% less water, no soil and results in 30 times more yield per acre than a regular outdoor farm.” (CBS News, 2021)

            AppHarvest also reduces its footprint by using recycled rainwater, so it is not drawing large amounts of water from surface or underground sources where it is located.  As such, they use 90% less water than a traditional farm would, per acre.

            They use a hybrid lighting system with sunlight as the primary source and supplementing with LEDs and sodium vapor grow lights.  They use more red light to encourage flowering in the plants, and more blue light to encourage growth.  Heat production has been considered, with more sodium vapor usage in months where heating is also necessary.

            Robotic Harvesting is possible because of the very controlled environment, and allows picking of only the ripest vegetables, with built-in feedback to continually improve the system.

            There is also a high-tech pest control system which eliminates the need for chemical pesticides.  They have pollinators in the warehouse to pollinate the flowers, and “beneficial insects” to control pest populations as well as analyzing photos of plants to detect when any pest issues arise.

            Shipping has also been optimized to reduce time from picking to shelf, reducing fuel usage for transport as well as the amount of food waste.

            In their 2020 Sustainability Report, the company details even more technological applications that are being implemented, such as “nanobubble technology”, in which they oxygenate the water being supplied to plants to increase nutrient uptake. 

Organizational Stakeholders

            AppHarvest itself, States which have portions in Appalachia such as TN, NC, KY, VA, WV, PA.  West Virginia should be a particular focus due to its extreme economic struggles and perhaps surprisingly very good access to rain, water, and interstates.

Works Cited

AppHarvest. (2021, May 12). Retrieved from https://www.appharvest.com/

CBS News. (2021, March 23). How one indoor farm is changing how food is grown — and building a new future for Appalachia. p. 2021.