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Delivering Fresh Vegetables to Food Deserts

Biosystems Engineering 2016: Mobile Hydroponic Farm

Transporting most finished products to Design Day is easy. Just put it in a car and drive it to campus.

Not so for the trio of teams working on the shipping container greenhouse. They had to request a UA-owned tractor-trailer and driver, plan a route and get permits from the city of Tucson.

The initial plan hit a roadblock — the Sun Link Streetcar. Its power lines above Park Avenue hung too low. Time for Plan B: getting to campus via Campbell Avenue.

Everything went flawlessly until the final corner outside Old Main. The truck jumped the curb, came down hard, and “Our seedlings fell through the holes in the hydroponic rack,” said team leader Brooke Conrardy. The hard landing proved fatal to 50 percent of the greenhouse plants.

The shipping container greenhouse is the centerpiece of a multiyear UA project that will help eliminate food deserts, areas without access to affordable, nutritious food.

The greenhouse includes a student-designed and -constructed hydroponic rack and tray system for growing lettuce and a sealed mushroom-growing chamber kept at 90 percent humidity. The greenhouse project will continue during the 2016-2017 academic year and will eventually be donated to a nonprofit organization — like a food bank — to grow fresh vegetables for people in need.

Learn more about how UA Engineering seniors show they mean business at Design Day 2016.