Theme/Year: Food Systems 2015
Category: Student Challenge
Status: 3rd Place winner
Our design of an agricultural system proposes an ecologically friendly solution for food production, which is less harmful for aquatic ecosystems, improves nutrient cycling and is thus more sustainable.
It is based on 2 elements: a riparian-like vegetation all around the field to limit nutrient runoff and to stabilize the soil and, and a filtration system inspired by the functioning of the kidney, that reabsorbs the leached nutrients and re-applies them on the field. Both riparian ecosystems and kidneys represent two very efficient recycling systems created by nature. The first one catches nutrients running off the lands and re-incorporates them into the vegetation, which can then be used for various purposes, from mulching on the field, to direct consumption. The second one filtrates and rejects unwanted compounds, pollutants in our case, from the organism and re-absorbs into the system what can be re-used, here the leached nutrients. The filtration mechanism is based on differences in molecular mass between the pollutant molecules and the nutrients and other non-harmful component. The pollutants within the water leaching from the field can thereby be separated from the rest using membranes of various pore sizes. Consequently, cleaned water loaded with nutrients can be re-applied on the field.
The improved filtration and reabsorption of the nutrients guarantees a more efficient cycling. It reduces both the nutrient losses from the system, which causes pollution of aquatic ecosystems, and the fertilizer input by the farmers.