Sac State Magazine is a publication produced by the Office of Advancement Communications and Stewardship at Cal State University, Sacramento highlighting alumni, students, faculty and staff.
Issue link: http://sacstatemagazine.uberflip.com/i/386257
c sus .e du /s a c s t ate ma ga z in e | Fa l l 2 014 7 IT IS EASY BEING GREEN— Sustainable Technology Outdoor Research Center advocates Dudley Burton, professor of environmental studies, and students Amber Dewey, Paul Oviatt and Cheyene Keniston check on a hydroponically grown vegetable crop. T he Buzz T here is a small sliver of land on the south side of campus devoted to raising worms, harvesting fish excrement and processing gallons of used kitchen oil. The Sustainable Technology Outdoor Research Center may not sound appealing at first, but once people see the thriving organic produce and fuel bills slashed thanks to clean-burning bio- diesel, they're believers. "The interest in it is huge," says Mike Christensen, Sac State's associate vice president for risk management. "We've only been up and running since January and the facility already can't hold all its potential." Under the greenhouse a few feet from State University Drive lies the epitome of the circle of life. Huge leaves of lettuce, chard and kale, fragrant herbs and bright red tomatoes are flourishing thanks to a wildly efficient aquaponics system. Bluegill fish swim in an up-cycled storage tank, feeding on worms raised on food waste by senior environmental studies major Paul Oviatt. The fish provide nutrient-rich water for the vegetables, which purify it before it is pumped back into the fish tank. Aquaponics farming uses 90 percent less water than traditional farming methods and with more research and testing, it's becoming more viable for widespread use. "When you explain to people how the relationship between the fish and the water and the vegetables works, people say, 'This is amazing.'" Oviatt says. "We're discovering that it's creating a lot of buzz, especially now that we're in a critical drought." Senior Amber Dewey has grown attached to the bluegill after feeding them for the past semester. She is attempting to breed the fish as part of her senior thesis. "I was around when they first started the aquaponics and I fed the fish," Dewey says. "You find that the fish have a good bit of character and then seeing how everything works together and the impact it can have is just awesome. A lot of us (students) are trying to get our own aquaponics systems going at home now. It's been really fun." Christensen is hoping the Sustainable Technology Outdoor Research Center can produce fresh produce for campus eateries within the next six months. It's already making bio-diesel that can provide as much as 20 percent of the fuel for campus vehicles. Christensen, a former environmental studies professor, is responsible for figuring out how Sac State can best use its space on campus. He hatched the idea for the research center and students, faculty and staff collaborated to transform a small, unsightly patch of land into a center for innovation. Professors Dudley Burton and Brook Murphy have used the Center and the aquaponics component as major parts of their courses in agro- ecology and urban agriculture, respectively. The Office of Water Quality Programs' Storm Water Research Project is also contained within the facility. The research center has already drawn many prominent visitors, including officials from the California Department of Fish and Game, local water agencies and SMUD. Christensen says in order for methods to be truly sustainable, they must be financially viable. At the Center, the campus and the community can collaborate to come up with efficient approaches to fuel, water management, farming and energy production. "We'd like to incorporate solar and wind and find the most practical technologies that we can," Christensen says. New center turns 'eew!' into 'aha!' Trash to treasure c sus .e du /s a c s t ate ma ga z in e | Fa l l 2 014 7 "We're discovering that it's creating a lot of buzz, especially now that we're in a critical drought. It can help save our resources." –Paul Oviatt, environmental studies major Online Extra: To see a video on the Center, visit csus.edu/ sacstatemagazine.