Folks, it's very happy to be here today I'm with an ID Patrika. She's a master's student currently, but at the time of her invention, and we're going to talk more about that in a minute, the bio energy project, she was working on a bachelor's degree. So in it, thank you for joining us today.
Welcome, and thank you glad to be here.
So let's start right at the beginning, what is the bio energy project and and why did you create it?
So the Bioenergy project is basically an anaerobic digestion system. And what that is, is that it's basically like composting, you take organic waste, and you convert it into fertilizer that can be used to grow food and hydroponics, mainly, but also in fruit orchards or farms. And it also produces biogas, which you can use to for cooking, heating or electricity generation. So it's really this multifunctional tool that can also be used to sequester carbon, as well as regain nutrients from food waste.
So what's the primary idea behind the invention? Is it I know it does help with with food waste? But is was that what prompted it?
Yeah, I'd say that was the main driver for us wanting to develop this technology. And we also saw it as a great way for people to become self sufficient, not only in food production, but also in energy production. And so really, our main motivation for creating this product. At least starting out at the university, we saw that there was a lot of food waste in all of the dining halls. And we wanted to really make an impact on that, especially since UC San Diego and the other UC schools are looking to achieve carbon neutrality and be zero waste by 2020, and 2025. So really, those are tight deadlines, and we want it to make a difference on our school. But we also realize that we can make a difference, you know, beyond the school in the communities around us.
So they say necessity is the mother of invention. And I think for a lot of inventors, it's their environment and the stuff they see day in and day out. In your case, it's specifically, you've seen a lot of food waste in dining halls, like around the university. Correct. And that's why that would trigger the idea from there. I have a statistic in one of your papers that you talk about that 40% of US food waste, is thrown into landfills.
Yeah, it's a huge amount. And it's a really big problem. And another statistic to it, food waste was a country. Basically, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization, that it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, if it was considered, you know, at the scale of country. So, you know, we're emitting huge amounts of greenhouse gases globally from food waste. So really any little bit of ways that we can divert food waste from the landfills, like with our anaerobic digester, in Digester, ponics project with the Bioenergy project is, you know, making a difference within the community to really be more environmentally friendly, and to be more carbon neutral. And I think it also, you know, allows people to see that even a little bit of difference can go a long way, right? You can turn your own waste into something that you can use, like, you know, greens, kale, basil, and, you know, energy that you can cook with.
And you even though you say a little bit, but I understand for the Bioenergy project, it's not a small amount. It's quite a bit that you guys have been able to recycle.
Yeah, I was referring to our family model that we've been working on, where we're basically working on creating a tiny digestor system that can go into like a family unit and or a single family home. The one at UC San Diego is university scale, or community scale like we, we call it and we've been able to collect over all over 25,000 pounds of food waste with the digester system. That and the composting. We collected over 70,000 pounds of food waste in just a single year and converted that into food for the Triton food pantry on campus as well as into biogas.
Yeah, well, is there what Tell Tell me about Some of the hardships or difficulties in getting this project to actually work out cuz I mean looking at it now, of course, it's a phenomenal success, but is every inventor story that it's not always smooth sailing?
Oh, yeah, no, it definitely wasn't always smooth sailing. I would say the largest challenge for the university system was really getting, getting institutional support for just the logistics of collecting food waste, making sure that the site is within compliance with the h&s environmental health and safety on the campus. And I'd say that took a lot of work in terms of lots of meetings, lots of networking, really trying to convince the university that what we were doing was in line with their goals, and that we were could actually make an appreciable impact on the way that the university was handling their food waste.
And was there were there also any grants that you received? Or where did the funding come from, to actually build the prototypes and, and get this in place?
There was a lot of really generous funding from the Green Initiative Fund. It's a student, turned by student organization, the student sustainability collective at UC San Diego. And so basically, a part of student fees is able to go towards funding projects, such as our own,
and now you're currently working on a master's degree and that's in chemistry. Yes, are you so but you're still pursuing additional improvements, and that is going from a community based system? That's more for large scale like universities, to something that could really be broken down, maybe for individual family units?
Yeah, yeah. And I, I'm, I'm basically working on my master's degree studying bio plastics and how they degrade in anaerobic digestion systems, as well as in marine environments, with a Dehaene lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. And so basically having this family digestive system sort of ties into that, because, you know, with this experimentation, you know, say if we do come up with something, then that may be been able to be used in such a product to allow, like PLA plastics or compostable bags to be something that you could also put into a digester. That's still an unknown. But yeah, we're still working towards some research and development regarding our family size Digester. So we're hoping that Well, so far, our tests have been going fairly well. We'll see how the biogas portion goes. But for the hydroponics, we have been able to grow several pounds of kale and basil already. Yeah, it's looking promising.
Okay, what what advice would you have for other student inventors, because you're a student inventors, you're in a little bit of an unusual position in that you don't necessarily have funding to pursue ideas. Plus, you're trying to carry this on alongside your regular classroom load that you have. So are there is there any advice you'd have for others that are hoping to make changes the way you have?
I'd say just follow what you're passionate about. If you're, you know, if you're pursuing a degree, that interests you, that's awesome. But also, you know, make sure to try to find time to, you know, follow your desires, and what you want to see happen in the world. And, you know, it takes hard work, definitely, I'd say, persistence and hard work are definitely important qualities, if you're trying to, you know, become an inventor and an entrepreneur, you know, while you're in university, but you know, there's plenty of funding out there. You just have to be able to have the drive to find what you're looking for, and find the people who are excited about your idea and want to support you.
Okay, and did you have to submit several proposals to get this funding?
Yes. So generally, every grant application has a funding application and you more or less have to describe a budget, why you want to do what you're doing. You know, how it how it positively impacts the university. And basically describe what you're doing and there's there's a list of other things, too, like how many students you're getting involved with how many are, you know, are you? What's the educational advantage of having your system on the university? Those are just a few examples of, of questions, at least at the university level funding, if you're looking for federal funding or other funding from, say organizations like lumpsum prize, all of these come with their own different applications, but really having a thorough understanding of your invention, but also your customers, who are you trying to? Who are you? whose lives are you trying to improve? Or make better or easier, etc, with the product that you're trying to create?
Okay, just as we close out here, is there anything else you want to share with our viewers me, for a lot of the viewers here, it's your, you know, someone like you is an inspiration to have to pursue something while still fully enrolled in school, and then the entire learning process actually learn to get the grants to obtain the funding so that you can do the, the experiments and the prototype and put that together. And it's got to be extremely fulfilling to see it all fall into place, and in have processed 41,000 pounds of food waste. Already, since you said since March. And so that's not a lot a lot of time.
Yeah, I'd say looking back on it, you know, it's it's really amazing what me and my teammates have accomplished, I think that really having a an excellent group of people to be able to work with and to achieve these things is really crucial. I definitely, you know, thanks to the bio Regional Center for Sustainability science, planning and design. And Zach Osborne, basically, these staff members and students who have worked with me really, you know, I wouldn't have been able to achieve this much if it wasn't for working with them, you know, getting their feedback and ideas as well. And, you know, being able to actually go from idea to working products.
Hey, well, congratulations. And thank you for joining us today and continue becoming an inspiration to all those that follow you and this could be a stepping stone to your next invention.
Yep. Thank you so much, John. I appreciate it.
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