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Student team wins grant in EPA competition

May 14, 2012  by SUNY

Members of the SUNY ESF team are (from left to right): Lee Martin, Fred Agyeman and Doug Mayer. Photo courtesy of SUNY-EFS

May 9, 2012 – A team of students from the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) has been awarded $90,000 in funding to assess the marketability of a fertilizer that could be recovered from animal manure.

The ESF team was chosen to receive the grant through its participation in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Student Design Competition for Sustainability.

The team members, all students in ESF’s Department of Environmental Resources Engineering, are graduate students Doug Mayer and Fred Agyeman and Lee Martin, who earned his M.P.S. degree from ESF in December. They were among 15 teams from universities and colleges across the country that were chosen to receive a total of more than $1 million in funding.

The teams were chosen for the awards after their participation in the 8th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The P3 award competition was held at the expo, providing an opportunity for the students to showcase their sustainable projects designed to protect the environment, encourage economic growth and use natural resources more efficiently.

“The competition and expo are not only about EPA’s prestigious P3 award, but also about supporting the next generation of this country’s innovators and entrepreneurs who are entering the environmental and public health field with passion to make a difference and many brilliant ideas,” said Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “The P3 program gives these students the opportunity to bring those ideas to realization and many have the potential to make significant impacts on our nation’s sustainable future and development of environmental technologies.”

Each P3 award-winning team will receive a grant of up to $90,000 to further develop their design, apply it to real world applications or move it to the marketplace. Previous P3 award winners have started successful businesses and are marketing the technologies in the U.S. and around the world.

The ESF students focused their attention on dairy manure, which is often used as a liquid fertilizer that can contaminate surface water and groundwater.

The students’ advisor, Dr. Wendong Tao of the ESF Department of Environmental Resources Engineering, said he and the students are developing a low-cost technology to recover the rich phosphorus and nitrogen in dairy manure and produce a solid fertilizer called struvite. The process uses a waste product, electric arc furnace slag, in the production. The resulting struvite pellets constitute a slow-release fertilizer that can be marketed for crop production, aquaculture, and horticulture.

“Production of struvite with digested dairy manure prevents loss of nutrients from land to waters, while generating revenues for farmers,” Tao said. “Phosphate fertilizers have boosted agriculture productivity in the last decades. However, phosphate rock will be depleted within this century. Struvite production with dairy manure will open a huge market of phosphorus fertilizer in the near future.”


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