Source: ILLINOIS STATE UNIV submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Sep 1, 2023
Project End Date
Aug 31, 2025
Grant Year
Project Director
Yang, L.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Agriculture & Environmental Health and Sustainability
Non Technical Summary
Food waste and loss at the farm level is significant, representing a waste of 15.3% of food produced globally with a total value of $370 billion in 2021. The team conducted a survey in 2017, which revealed that growers look for better management of vegetable wastes and crop residues. The Illinois State University Agriculture Department undergraduate program currently consists of one B.S. degree in Agriculture with ten sequences and is expanding the curriculum to include three new sequences in Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Production, Regenerative Agriculture, and Precision Agriculture. However, currently, the Agriculture Department is lacking analytical instruments for student education and training. Capacity building of analytical instrumentation is urgent and much needed.This project aims to address the aforementioned issues. We will develop a new anaerobic digestion technology for the treatment of vegetable wastes to produce energy and capture nutrients in the vegetable wastes, and then reuse the nutrients in a hydroponic production system. We will purchase a piece of analytical equipment, Gas Chromatography, for research and education activities. This equipment acquisition will be co-sponsored by an industry partner. Teaching and learning materials will be developed and used to educate STEM major students in multiple courses with a total annual enrollment of 200. Tours and workshops will be provided to community college and K-12 students. We will also disseminate the project results to farmers and agriculture professionals through field day and conference presentations. Successful project completion will promote sustainable agriculture, increase the quality of the future agricultural workforce, and advance the anaerobic digestion technology.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
The long-term goals of this research and education integrated project are to: 1) promote sustainable agriculture and foster a circular economy by recovering energy and nutrients from vegetable farm wastes; 2) improve teaching and learning capacity at Illinois State University (ISU) and provide a quality workforce to the U.S. agricultural industries, and 3) further develop and get closer to commercialization of a novel anaerobic digestion (AD) technology.This project aims to enhance the research and teaching capacity in Environmental Sciences/Management and Agricultural/Biological Engineering at ISU to strengthen the institution's ability to sustainably provide quality and innovative research and teaching in this field. Our research focus will be on further developing the novel cartridge AD system and a better understanding of the enhanced management practices needed for sustainable vegetable farm waste management, including the use of AD for energy recovery and biochar for nutrient recovery. This focus is aligned with the USDA Strategic Plan FY 2022-2026 goal of "Expand Opportunities for Economic Development and Improve Quality of Life in Rural and Tribal Communities." Our educational focus will be developing new teaching materials and providing learning and training opportunities to ISU undergraduate students, community college, and K12 students, and regional crops growers. Research objectives are to: 1) optimize and demonstrate a pilot-scale cartridge anaerobic digester for energy recovery from vegetable farm wastes; 2) examine the effects of biochar addition on cartridge digester performance, and 3) evaluate the benefits of digested biochar for providing essential nutrients to vegetable crops. Teaching objectives are to: 1) develop four new labs and two new teaching modules that will contribute to newly established undergraduate academic sequences; 2) increase undergraduate participation and training in sustainable agriculture research; and 3) enhance the teaching of laboratory-based hands-on skills and analytical techniques.
Project Methods
The research tasks will be conducted via benchtop experiments and small pilot-scale tests. All experiments will be carried out in Dr. Yang's research lab and the ROPP greenhouse facility. Activities include system setup, system operation, sample collection and analysis, data analysis and verification, and troubleshooting. Biosafety rules will be followed. Statistical methods will be used to analyze data. Data gathered from the experiments will be discussed, including limitations, strengths, weaknesses, and potential applications.The educational tasks will be conducted following the procedure of learning module development- formal lab and classroom instruction- evaluation for ISU students. We will provide tours and informal classroom instruction to community college and K12 students. We will also present at the field days and conferences. Feedback from students, farmers, and other audiences will be discussed with the evaluation team.The evaluation team is composed of one internal evaluator and one external evaluator. The two evaluators will meet with the PIs quarterly. The evaluation will include: 1) Record the number of students participating in research activities and the students taking the courses in which the developed labs and learning modules are used. 2) Evaluate the teaching effectiveness of the courses and research training. This may be done by proctoring surveys and adding survey questions to the regular course evaluation forms. 3) Monitor the progress of the research and education tasks and assess the quality of outcomes. 4) Evaluate the broad impacts of this project, including how it may affect K12 and community college students and growers. 5) Advise project PIs in disseminating project outcomes to agricultural industries, local organizations, and other stakeholders. 6) Provide comments and suggestions to improve the value of this project and future research plans. 7) Propose ideas about how to make this project more cost-effective. The evaluation team will provide annual and final evaluation reports.