Sep 18, 2019 | Atlanta, GA
Civil and Environmental Engineering Professors Yonhsheng Chen and John Crittenden have received a $100K National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center (ERC) Planning Grant, along with their co-principal investigators Kaye Husbands Fealing and Perry Yang, also from Georgia Tech, and Zhaohui Tong from the University of Florida. The ERC is a highly competitive, large, multi-year award centered on translating a research topic from the laboratory to commercialization. The ERC Planning Grant is intended to build capacity amongst a research community around a topic with the ultimate aim of elevating the quality of proposals submitted to the ERC program.
The title of this group’s proposed ERC is “Engineering Research Center for Urban Agricultural Infrastructure Systems.” The Center will investigate novel ways to integrate the functions of the cluster of urban infrastructure systems known as NEWT (nutrient, energy, water, and transportation). Integrating and optimizing these infrastructure systems will diversify, decentralize, localize, and democratize food production, processing, and distribution in urban areas where most people will live and where NEWT, and labor, resources are readily available and often wasted.
The team hypothesizes that some commodity food products can be locally grown using readily available NEWT resources in urban areas using high-tech and high productivity Controlled Environmental Agriculture (CEA) systems. Further, they think that the resulting food products will have higher nutritional value, greater freshness, longer shelf life, greater availability, and greatly reduced environmental footprint. For this vision to be realized at commodity scale, however, a host of converging challenges must be overcome in the fields of civil and environmental engineering, CEA technology, urban planning, food safety, health and nutritional science, supply chain management, and consumer science. An Engineering Research Center will enable researchers to study how to resolve the social, political, technological, and logistical challenges involved with bringing CEA systems to market viability. This will be especially important in impoverished urban communities where food and nutritional security are compromised.
Professor Chen received a $5 million grant (link) in 2018 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the largest USDA award to Georgia Tech ever. Chen and his team are to develop and operate a hydroponic growing system using domestic wastewater extracted from the Georgia Tech campus sewer system. This wastewater will be treated with an anaerobic membrane biological treatment process that will transform organic contaminants and pathogens into biogas while preserving the nutrients that plants use such as, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The proposed Engineering Research Center that will come from this planning process will build from this work towards commercial viability.
Prof. Yongsheng Chen is a Professor in the Georgia Tech School of Civil and Environmental Engineering where he studies urban sustainability, water/energy use efficiency, sustainable biofuels with a focus on algae, and nanotechnology. Prof. John Crittenden is the Director of the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, Hightower Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar in Sustainable Systems, and a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering where he studies sustainable engineering, water treatment processes, and advanced Oxidation Processes (AOP’s).