Appalachian State University’s Dr. Ok-Youn Yu uses on-farm biomass resources to produce energy for greenhouses, increasing farmers’ yields and profits.
Yu is associate professor and interim chair in the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment. One of the most notable projects he has led is the Nexus project. As principal investigator of Nexus, Yu has received a total of $270,000 in grants since 2014, including the EPA P3 Award and a NC Bioenergy Research Initiative Grant.
“Nexus is a multidisciplinary team of faculty and students housed in the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, whose research lies at the intersection of agriculture, energy and natural resources,” Yu explained.
The project has been developing inexpensive and efficient biomass greenhouse heating technologies that provide affordable and sustainable means to improve food-growing capacities and the standard of living for farming communities in rural Appalachia while reducing the use of fossil fuels.
This is completed by using on-farm biomass resources, like agricultural waste and wood chips, to produce energy. Extending the growing season with heated greenhouses increases the availability of local food throughout the year. In turn, this expands available markets and increases farmers’ profits.
According to Yu, “The Nexus research greenhouse heating serves the community by enhancing access to fresh local produce.” Both the local environment and economy are helped by the conservation of fossil-fuel energy while reducing greenhouse gas and smog emissions as a result of traditional farming practices.
The greenhouse is located at the Watauga County landfill and includes an above-ground 1,500-gallon water storage tank and an aquaculture pond. The site has been set up to serve as a gathering place for faculty, students and local community members who are interested in learning about sustainable practices. This facility will be a valuable addition to the resources available to Appalachian, both for research and education.
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About the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment
One of seven departments housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment at Appalachian State University features an integrated array of programs spanning the fields of sustainable design and technology. Its mission is to foster a strong and vibrant culture of inquiry, discovery and innovation that integrates theory with application, problem seeking with problem-solving, local issues with global perspectives and technological progress with environmental stewardship. It offers bachelor’s degrees in sustainable technology and building science, and a master’s degree in technology. Learn more at https://stbe.appstate.edu.
About the College of Fine and Applied Arts
Appalachian State University’s College of Fine and Applied Arts is a dynamic and innovative group of seven academic departments, bringing together a variety of perspectives, experiences and real-world education to provide unique opportunities for student success. The college has more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate majors. Its departments are Applied Design, Art, Communication, Military Science and Leadership, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, and Theatre and Dance. Learn more at https://faa.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.