(587l) Investigation of Closed Loop Bioponic Irrigation Systems for Urban Agriculture

Authors: 
Shonnard, D. R., Michigan Technological University
Bioponics is a novel take on traditional hydroponics farming in which petrochemicals are replaced by naturally derived nutrients in the form of “teas”. The irrigation system is virtually the same as in hydroponics farming minus the inclusion of petrochemical fertilizers. What is used instead is a biologically active, nutrient “tea” that is brewed by aeration of fresh compost and water and is then pumped through the irrigation system to crops. The main factor in the effectiveness of these fertilizer teas is the large population of active bacteria. These bacteria are the same species of bacteria found in healthy topsoil and there is thought to be many links between these bacteria and markedly improved crop yields within a bioponics system (Vessey, 2003).

Traditionally, a hydroponics system are a single pass system. Meaning that large amounts of water are passed through the system into the plant containers and then passed out of the system to not be used again. This causes a large amount of waste water to be produced which is difficult to process especially in urban settings where such systems may be used. This also poses numerous environmental problems since this waste stream contains unused fertilizers that pose a threat to vulnerable ecosystems if not properly treated. The model-based study of lab and pilot-scale systems could prove beneficial in the search for more sustainable options for low-impact urban farming or even large scale, soilless agriculture.

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