A University of Arizona student-led team of researchers has been named among the winners in the annual People, Prosperity and the Planet competition held in Washington, D.C.
The UA project, Development of Sustainable Integrated Aquaculture Systems with Assessment of Environmental, Social, and Economic Implications" was competing with about 40 other teams during the competition, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hosted.
"Scientific innovation has long been a driving force behind the U.S. economy," Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Research and Development, said in a statement released Tuesday.
The UA team will receive $75,000 in funding to take its hydroponic hybrid system design to market. Other student teams to receive the award came from Columbia University, the University of South Florida, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
"The ingenuity displayed by this year's People, Prosperity and the Planet award winners shows that we can look forward to a bright future where economic growth and environmental sustainability go hand in hand," Kadeli added.
Kyle VanderLugt, University of Arizona doctoral degree candidate in environmental science, has spent two years working on the project with his colleagues. VanderLugt, who is also pursuing a master's business management degree in the Eller College of Management, said the team named the technology "re-circulating integrated agriculture aquaculture," or RIAA.
Others on the UA team are Rafael Martinez, a graduate student in the Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science, and Eller College graduate student Mauricio Torres-Benavides on the project.
Kevin Fitzsimmons, associate director of international programs, a UA professor and extension specialist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is supporting the team of UA graduate students.
The UA team's motivation was to create a technology to help agriculturalists to maximize their use of plant nutrients, whether they are rural cultivators or farmers managing vast tracts of crops.
The system combines field production with hydroponics to create a technology where farmers can grow fish in large basins, and then use the water and nutrients from those basins to feed surrounding plants.
The competition, also known as the P3 Award, was held during the National Sustainable Design Expo over the weekend in Washington, D.C.
"Each year, the expo showcases innovative, cutting-edge technologies designed by the P3 teams along with sustainable policies and technologies developed and implemented by government and state agencies and nonprofit organizations," the EPA release noted.