Mentor: Dr. Ann C. Wilkie
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
"I applied to the Scholars program to gain research experience, develop an in-depth research project, and build a relationship with my faculty mentor. My goal is to complete a successful field trial use of an organic fertilizer developed from the remnants of the anaerobic digestion project this year."
Alpha Epsilon (agricultural and biological engineering honor society)
American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ASABE)
CALS Leadership Institute
First Year Florida Peer Leader and Mentor
Hobbies and Interests
Using the Effluent of Anaerobically Digested Tomatoes to Fertilize Plants
The tomatoes produced in Florida annually account for 1/3 of the total amount of industrially produced tomatoes in the United States. Behind the mass production of tomatoes is the waste produced by this industry. Culled tomatoes are those that do not meet physical standards set by the FDA and cannot be sold at supermarkets. At one plant alone, 40,000 tons of culled tomatoes are produced annually. These tomatoes are disposed of either by dumping on unused land or used as cattle feed. Finding a way to utilize these culls would reduce a waste product and save the tomato industry money. Anaerobically digesting tomato culls would reduce a waste product and provide energy in the form of biogas. Biogas contains methane, and can be used within current natural gas systems. It provides an alternative to fossil fuels, and since a tomato processing plant could generate fuel from waste, it would save on the plant’s energy costs. In the process, an effluent is produced, which is seen as a waste. However, tomato culls contain nutrients and organic matter, such as nitrogen, which could be used to fertilize tomato plants, creating a closed-loop system in the tomato industry. If effective, this would reduce the need and cost of chemical NPK fertilizers, while also improving the sustainability of operations. The effluent from anaerobically digested tomatoes will be tested as a fertilizer for tomato plants using a hydroponic growing system. The plant growth will be compared to plants grown using traditional hydroponic nutrient solutions.