UA Team Tops National Sustainable Systems Design Competition
Eller MBAs win $75,000 towards implementation of aquaculature-agriculture project.
TUCSON, Ariz. – May 5, 2009 – On April 19, three UA students — Eller College MBAs Kyle VanderLugt and Mauricio Torres-Benavides, and environmental science graduate student Rafael Martinez — topped the P3 Student Design Competition for Sustainability in Washington, D.C. The competition, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, encourages college students to apply technology in innovative ways to tackle global environmental challenges.
The trio was awarded $75,000 in prize money, which will be used to fund implementation of their project in collaboration with the Universidad Juárez Autónoma de Tabasco in Mexico, beginning this summer.
VanderLugt, also a doctoral student in environmental science, has spent the past two years developing the project. “It’s a combination of agriculture and aquaculture [fish farming],” he explains. The process uses fish waste to nourish plants; the water is purified by the soil, which in turn cycles back to the fish. “It’s a closed system,” VanderLugt adds. “There’s no fertilizer, no pesticides, and a 90 percent recapture of the water. It’s a highly water-conservative process.”
The system, called re-circulating integrated agriculture aquaculture or RIAA, is designed for use in small communities in underdeveloped nations. “The technology is simple and scalable, and can be implemented for basic subsistence farming as well economic growth,” VanderLugt says.
Start-up costs for the system run about $500. “Even this modest initial cost can be daunting to communities in underdeveloped nations,” points out Torres-Benavides. “But this type of project is ideal for microfinancing, and once the system is up and running, the community will realize a return very quickly.” VanderLugt adds that the team hopes to partner with NGOs and academic cooperatives to expand the concept to communities in Africa, east Asia, and South America.
The Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona is internationally recognized for pioneering research, innovative curriculum, distinguished faculty, excellence in management information systems, entrepreneurship, and social responsibility. U.S. News & World Report ranks the Eller undergraduate program #14 among public business schools and three of its programs are among the top 20 — Entrepreneurship, MIS, and Management. U.S. News & World Report ranks the Eller MBA Full-Time program #44 in the U.S. and #21 among public business schools. The College leads the nation’s business schools in generating grant funds for research. In addition to a Full-Time MBA program, the Eller College offers an Evening MBA program and the Eller Executive MBA. The Eller College of Management supports approximately 5,700 undergraduate and 700 graduate students on the UA campus in beautiful Tucson, Arizona.
Liz Warren-Pederson, Eller College of Management
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