Living on the edge of the D.C. suburbs. Most people don’t think about agriculture too much. But when you look a little closer at your surroundings you begin to notice quite a phenomenon. Suburban sprawl has eaten up much of the agricultural land in order to support a growing population, yet that land can no longer be used to support a growing population’s demand for food.
This problem was brought up by Professor Evans, the Director of the Virginia Tech School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, during a lecture he gave to us Gov School students. The solution to this problem, which I had also stumbled upon during my global seminar research, was controlled environment agriculture (CEA). Vertical Farms,Greenhouses, and other enclosed environments that utilize hydroponics, aeroponics, aquaponics, and aquaculture for the purpose of reducing and optimizing the use of water, energy, and space qualify as CEA. I did not realize until Professor Evans had mentioned Greenhouse CEA, that I actually had experience in CEA. Through my sophomore engineering class, I led a group of fellow students in researching our school’s greenhouses’ drip irrigation system. After weeks of collecting data and collecting tests on water pressure, drip speeds, and the zoning software that controlled watering, we gave a presentation to the plant science department.
Through my experience with the project, I was able to see the drastic difference in water usage between traditional watering systems and drip irrigation systems. It felt great having successfully managed and completed an agricultural engineering project that would actually help better our school’s teachers and students’ understanding of our greenhouses. Now, as the 2021 Virginia Governor’s School for Agriculture comes to a close, it is great to see how the content we learned this summer can better equip our ability to combat the problems of the future.