Princeton Environmental Institute Urban Challenges Awards $509,000 To New Urban Sustainability Projects

Princeton Environmental Institute Urban Challenges Awards $509,000 To New Urban Sustainability Projects

Morgan Kelly, Princeton Environmental Institute

January 18, 2019

Vertical farms in post-industrial America, origami-based noise-pollution barriers and cement made from burned waste make up the latest round of projects funded by the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) Urban Grand Challenges program. Totaling $509,000, the new awards are active through September 2020 and are described below.

The Urban Grand Challenges program combines the study of the natural and built environments to address the interrelated environmental and social issues facing the world’s rapidly expanding urban areas in a world of increasing environmental volatility. Urban Grand Challenges supports and encourages interdisciplinary faculty and student research at Princeton in the environmental sciences, engineering, architecture, the humanities, policy, the creative arts and the social sciences.

Results from these projects are not only published, but also form the basis of community outreach efforts. In addition, each project includes an educational component — particularly in the form of Princeton courses and PEI internships — that perpetuate the knowledge needed for a sustainable future.

The Princeton Vertical Farming Project was established by Paul Gauthier, associate research scholar in geosciences and the Princeton Environmental Institute, to study how vertical farms can be implemented in communities, particularly in cities.

Photo by Nick Donnoli, Office of Communications

The sustainability of vertical farming in the cities of tomorrow

Paul Gauthier, associate research scholar in geosciences and PEI, is building on the Princeton Vertical Farming Project (PVFP) he established in 2017 to study how vertical farms can be implemented in local communities, particularly in cities. He is working with the nonprofit Isles Inc. based in Trenton, New Jersey, and the 1,200-square-foot Kêr Farms based in Hamilton, New Jersey, to develop a 1,200-square-foot vertical farm and a “food hub” in Mill One, a former industrial building in Trenton. The goals of the project are to prove the feasibility of establishing vertical farms in former industrial buildings, study the social impacts of vertical farming on underserved communities, and better identify the energy and environmental costs of vertical farms. Most importantly, the farm will serve as a source of fresh food for local residents and be used to teach Trenton and Princeton communities about the benefits of vertical farming and the nutritional benefits of “hyper-local” organic food. Gauthier will build on the PVFP’s current partnerships with Hopewell Elementary School and Princeton Public Schools to develop an educational program at Isles Youth Institute designed to help students learn the necessary skills to become a successful farmer.

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