FLINT, Mich. - For the second year in a row, Kettering University has won a $50,000 Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3) grant to help Flint’s Harvesting Earth Educational Farm.
The new $50,000 grant from Ford Motor Company Fund will continue the work being done at the farm by Dr. Matthew Sanders of Kettering University and his senior Industrial Engineering students. The urban farm, located in one of the poorest communities in Flint, teaches local residents horticulture and commercial food production skills.
The new project will develop an irrigation system for the farm using solar energy, rain collection and ground/well water. Students researched irrigation alternatives at the urban farm’s greenhouses by determining ground water levels, rainfall measurements, necessary horsepower, water needs and well installation costs.
“The students designed an automated system to monitor soil moisture levels for more efficient water usage,” said Sanders, a professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at Kettering. “Through the newly designed automated system, they will collect data for tracking temperature, sunlight intensity, ventilation fan usage, irrigation usage and geothermal pump usage.”
Ford C3 is a national challenge grant competition that recognizes colleges and universities that utilize a school's resources to address a community need.
“Winning proposals have a distinctive student perspective on what it means to have a sustainable community,” said Mike Schmidt, director of Education and Community Development at Ford Motor Company Fund. “Each year, we select five winning proposals to receive this award and it is unusual that a university would receive this grant two years in a row.”
Harvesting Earth relies solely on water from the City of Flint for irrigation. Next to heating the greenhouse and labor costs, watering crops is its largest expense. By using rain collection cisterns and supplementing this with a well, the Farm could remove its dependence on the City’s water resources.
The water project is expected to be completed by May 2012.