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01/16/2018

UHart Engineering Students Awarded for Plan to Lower the Cost of Food in Urban Areas.

The Future of Farming

A lack of fresh, affordable food is a problem in America’s largest cities. There isn’t enough empty space to grow crops, so fresh fruit and vegetables have to be transported in at considerable expense. Five students from the University’s College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA) are proposing a solution: vertical farming.

Their plan to grow food “up instead of out” recently earned them first place at the Connecticut’s annual College Tech Challenge. Electrical engineering majors David Norris ’19 and Eric Sims ’20, computer engineering major Salman Hussain ’20, and mechanical engineering majors Stefan Keilich ’18 and Mark Markiewicz ’18 will share a $5,000 prize. They beat nine teams from colleges and universities across Connecticut during the Nov. 16 competition.

"Essentially, our idea was to create large scale vertical farms in major cities like New York,” says Salman. 

“The farms would function exactly how traditional farms would, except that plants would be grown indoors and the roots would sit in nutrient-rich water.” That means you wouldn’t need acres of land and the perfect climate to grow food.

The CETA team also devised ways to reduce food waste in cities, including biodegradable plastic bags that keep food fresher longer and a ‘Smart Food Algorithm and App’ to warn users when the produce in their fridge is close to expiration.

This is the second straight year CETA students have won the College Tech Challenge, which is hosted by the Connecticut Technology Council and judged by industry professionals.

“Our students have not only demonstrated their ability to work as a team, but showcased how proficient they are at applying practical and innovative solutions to the problems they are investigating,” says Lou Manzione, dean of CETA and UHart’s director of research, collaboration, and economic development.

Read about last year’s winning teams, which came up with a water filtration system and a low-cost, low-maintenance water distiller to improve global access to clean water.