A Minnetonka High School student has been recognized for his work examining how vitamin C levels can be raised in plants that are grown using sustainable farming methods.
Hughes said the topic for his project is a continuation of previous research, during which he ran tests to see if plants produced by vertical farming were as nutritious as conventionally farmed produce. One drawback, Hughes explained, is that the produce from vertical farming has been shown to have less vitamin C than conventionally farmed plants.
“This could impose a major problem if vertical farming becomes a main source of produce as iron deficiency anemia caused by a lack of vitamin C is the most prevalent form of malnutrition worldwide,” he said. To address this issue, the student got to work trying to find ways to raise the level of vitamin C produced by plants in a vertical-farmed environment.
“I researched and found that the top 20 vitamin C producing crops have one thing in common: harsh growing conditions. And so I hypothesized that if you introduce the plants into an environment with a lot of stress, it can increase the amount of vitamin C produced,” Hughes said. To test this idea, he used a fan to introduce wind stress and a heater for heat stress while restricting the amount of water to act as drought stress.
After testing, he found that vitamin C production is increased when heat and wind stress were applied to spinach grown using aeroponics to simulate a vertical-farmed environment.
Finalists will compete in one of two categories - high tech or low cost - with the goal of finding ways to address need for a sustainable future powered by clean technology. Teams will virtually present to judges their solutions relating to climate change or protecting resources using clean technology.
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