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STORC is a showcase for water conservation


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Photos from STORC tour

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Sacramento State’s innovative Sustainable Technology Outdoor Research Center (STORC) has generated a great deal of student and community interest since its creation several months ago. (For Sacramento Bee coverage:

Now it’s going international.

STORC tour

A delegation of elected officials from Honduras and Belize tours STORC at Sac State. (Sacramento State/Melissa Uroff) | More photos

A delegation of elected officials from Honduras and Belize came to campus June 16 and toured the center. They were particularly fascinated by the center’s aquaponic system, which produces lush vegetation via a seven-step vermicultural process that uses recycled water and little or no soil. The environmentally friendly process uses a fraction of the water employed in conventional farming and is free of harmful pesticides.

The delegates toured the greenhouse for 40 minutes, taking pictures, listening to briefings by Environmental Studies Professors Dudley Burton and Brook Murphy, and peppering them with questions about the feasibility of transporting this relatively low-tech process to their homelands.

The genesis of the visit came when James Brady, who heads a fledgling local aquaponics training program for veterans, contacted Sacramento City Councilman Allen Warren about Sac State’s project. Warren, in turn, contacted Dr. Luther Castillo Harry, a Honduras-based physician, and arranged for the visit. Harry, who recently received an advanced degree at Harvard and spoke at the university’s commencement, translated for the delegation.

Because aquaponics can be customized to almost any situation or environment, the process intrigued the delegates. Soil erosion has reached crisis proportions in Honduras, even on the low percentage of arable land, and peasant farmers are compelled to plant and harvest their meager crops on hillsides.

STORC’s system begins with a greenhouse-enclosed fish tank, the inhabitants of which are fed earthworms that have marinated in compost piles from campus food waste. The fish waste is then converted into nutrients, which are then conveyed by a circulating water pump into the grow beds. The recycled water then flows back to the tank for the process to begin anew.

Brady and Warren see a symbiotic relationship with Sac State’s STORC. They are looking to secure foundation grants for putting aquaponic projects in several area high schools to generate even greater interest. Brady and Joseph Mount, who directs the international division of a company that produces atmospheric water generators and who has donated a couple of them to Sac State, agree that aquaponic farming can make a difference in drought-prone and otherwise difficult farming locales at home and abroad.

Burton, who fielded most of the delegates’ questions, is pleased to see the growing international interest in sustainable strategies to reduce waste and produce food while saving energy and water.

For media assistance, contact Sacramento State's Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156. – Alan Miller