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"Research and development leads to innovations and technology. I always knew that I wanted to go into that direction, so that I can contribute to solving some important problems facing our planet," says Joel Cuello, UA professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering. (Photo: Bob Demers/UA News)

The Future of Farming Takes Root

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The Future of Farming Takes Root

March 22, 2018
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Sustainable agriculture is quickly becoming the wave of the future as global leaders grapple with the question of how to feed a world population approaching 10 billion. At the UA, researchers are looking up for answers, in the form of vertical farming.

Joel Cuello has fond memories of the small patch of dirt behind the elementary school he attended in the Philippines. Textbook lessons on germination and photosynthesis came to life as the students sowed seeds that sprouted into plants. He and his classmates learned the importance of light, carbon dioxide, water and nutrients on the plants' growth, and they saw the connection between plants and food as they harvested their crops.

No one could have guessed those early lessons in the garden would cultivate a lifelong passion. As a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at the University of Arizona, Cuello still grows plants in a tiny space on campus, but with a larger purpose in mind. He wants to feed the world.

We can keep designing things so that vertical farming can become more resource efficient. More water efficient, nutrient efficient, energy efficient. When we do that, it's not only becoming environmentally sustainable, but also economically feasible."