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NMSU campus farm research project, ?nutriponics,? attempts to convert waste

This spring, five New Mexico State University students in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences along with Tracey Carrillo, assistant director of campus farm operations at NMSU, have started a research project searching for a way to add value to waste products created in agricultural settings.


A tower structure is on display in a workshop.
Five New Mexico State University students along with Tracey Carrillo, assistant director of campus farm operations, are working on a new aquaponics and hydroponics project, which they are calling ?nutriponics.? The vertical-growing towers will produce a number of different crops using waste generated from a nearby aquaculture facility. (Courtesy photo)

?The students have coined the name for this creation, ?nutriponics,? which is different than aquaponics and hydroponics. The students hope the coined name will become a household term as they continue to develop the research,? Carrillo said.

The students, Tim Clelland, Ethan Johnson, Kiah Lowe, Rey Lopez and Curt Pierce, would like to have a working model to demonstrate how to add value to various waste streams soon.

?Nutriponics takes waste and adds it to a tank of fresh water. The waste is then digested in the tank so that nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other nutrients become fertilizer for plants,? Carrillo said. ?The water is then gravity fed down a grow out bed of media planted with various crops. The plants thrive on the nutrient-rich waste and also filter the water. The plant-filtered water is then returned to the waste tank and ready for more waste to be added.?

Carrillo said water quality is closely monitored throughout the process. The students are utilizing waste from a nearby shrimp farm and will be exploring other waste streams. The students are planning to grow a variety of crops such as wheatgrass, sprouts, onions, tomatoes, microgreens and sea asparagus.

?The model is designed so that the system can be setup next to any agricultural, commercial or residential industry that creates a waste product that is suitable for the system. This may include dairies, aquaculture farms, algae production farms, and so forth. This could add significant value to a waste product and also help with disposal of the waste,? Carrillo noted.

By May, the students? goal is to have a working model in production with sales of produce.

?The system also benefits from bio security and quality control advantages for growing produce, which is becoming more important,? he said.

To follow the project?s development visit https://www.facebook.com/nmsuaquaculture/.