Project IF Phase I

Executive Summary:

Project IF (Indoor Farm) is a feasibility study to run indoor farm facility on UW campus by student to provide fruits and vegetables to the cafeterias on campus. With the high potential for food crisis during the impending rise in population, we feel the urge to produce food in the most sustainable way possible at where we spend most of our time, UW.

With the funding and the assistance from UW CSF and Bioengineering department, we will have two modern farming techniques (hydroponics and aeroponics) included in the Project IF feasibility study. Hydroponics is a rather established farming technique for many years of practice. Aeroponics has proven to be the most advanced and efficient crop growing platform because of its water efficiency and root growing capability. It is even used by NASA to grow crops in the space stations. We are not only excited about to put the modern farming techniques into practice first time ever on the UW campus, but we also want to raise public awareness about the importance of preventing the forthcoming global food crisis.

This feasibility study is only a glimpse of a larger vision. It is important that we gain practical hands-on experience through this study, so we understand operational costs like utilities, labor, maintenance, and consumable cost. If successful, we plan to partner with UW campus cafeterias to build a high-efficiency indoor farming system which could be run by students and campus staff. This on-campus farm would enable the UW community to enjoy fresh organic greens that are affordable, hyper-local, and pesticide-free, help strengthen UW’s role as a leader of environmental sustainability, and act as a natural platform for the advocacy of food sustainability. By bringing food production right on to campus, we can inspire the next generation of minds to consider a sustainable, local future of food.

Student Involvement:

Our team is well equipped to complete this project successfully. Kurt Kung, our team leader, has 10+ years of experience on advanced research and rapid prototyping development throughout his doctoral education at the UW. Our project currently has a staff mentor, Dr. Gerald Pollack, who has been an integral part of this project and will continue to support our group throughout the duration of the project timeline.

To date, we have recruited more than 10 UW undergrad student from various of departments and majors who are actively contributing to the project. The information regarding the roles and responsibilities of each student team member will be posted on the forthcoming Project IF official website.

Education & Outreach:

The problem that Project IF is trying to solve is by no means trivial. Anything that we can do to raise public awareness on the future global food crisis and engage more students and staffs on campus to take part in our project will help the food sustainability movement. Besides the support from CSF, we have participated in the Science Technology Showcase (STS 2018), the Health Innovation Challenge (HIC 2018), and the Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC 2018). In fact, Project IF won the third place at the STS and the Judges’ Favorite Award at the EIC. From experience, we know competitions are one of the best ways to recruit students for meaningful projects, and expose the project quickly and effectively to local media outlets. Moreover, Kurt Kung recently received $10,000 postdoc fellowship from the Mistletoe Research Foundation, and he intends to use most of the fellowship grant on the Project IF.

Environmental Impact:
  • Food
  • Water
Project Longevity:

Project IF is a 12 months long project started July 1st 2018.

During the first phase [first 6 months], we will focus on designing, developing, and testing the hydroponic and aeroponic systems. In parallel, we will recruit and train engineering students to help accelerate progress and involve the student community.

During the second phase [last 6 months], we will test the system and collect viable data: utility costs, crop growth efficiency, labor maintenance, etc. to help us prepare ourselves for the next move – starting the sizable UW IF indoor farm on campus. In parallel, we will recruit students with marketing communications and public relations skills to develop a public relations media strategy for the project.

Environmental Problem:

It is estimated that global crop production will need to double by 2050 to feed the population, and it is clear that we need to find a solution to feed a growing population. Indoor farming is believed to be the future of agriculture. Growing crops hydroponically and aeroponically has proven to save 95% of water compared with traditional farming and with higher yield. Improving indoor farming efficiency and reducing its cost is a large-scale problem that many engineers and scientists are working towards. Efforts are focused on reducing labor costs by increasing the degree of automation, reducing utility costs by using more efficient lighting, and using smart control system with advanced AI to improve agricultural yields. But this won’t be enough. The rate of growth in global crop yields is not growing fast enough, and doubling the world’s food production will require much larger indoor farm footprint that operates locally and has the potential to feed billions of people in cities. And Project IF is going to take the first step at home of UW campus.

Explain how the impacts will be measured:

The impact of the Project IF will be measured in 3 categories: the evaluation of proposed feasibility study, student involvement level, and public awareness.

In the feasibility study, we will gain hands-on experience and measurable data on the operational cost in detail and the actual crop growth efficacy. These experience will help us reach our next goal – growing food on campus with state of the art technology to provide healthy, affordable vegetables to our UW community members.

We estimate at least 10 students will be involved in the core team for the proposed CSF project and UW competitions mentioned above. The number of student volunteers and the level of involvement of each individual will be reported in the quarterly CSF report.

To measure the impact on public awareness, we will collect opinion and attitudinal data from indoor farming and agricultural sustainability from the campus community. As part of this effort we will promote this project through digital media channels to develop public relations with the local community and media.

Total amount requested from the CSF: $30,000
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
Half of Kurt's stipend as a post-doc in Bioe$25,0001$25,000
Compensation for committed students$2,5002$5,000
Material cost of the aeroponics system$10,0001$10,000

Non-CSF Sources:

potential funding sourcepotential funding amountdate of potential fund receivable
NSF SBIR$225,000July 2018
UW HIC$15,000March 2018
UW EIC$15,000April 2018
UW BPC$25,000May 2018
Project Completion Total: $80,000


TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Hydroponic and aeroponic platform design and development, including testing sub-componentsJuly 2018 – December2018
Recruiting and training UW student volunteers (Environment and Engineering majors) to participate the Project IF.July 2018 – December2018
Beta test (basil and lettuce are the target test plant)January 2019 – June 2019
Recruiting and training student volunteers (Communications, Marketing, Business, MPA, and MBA majors) to help raise public awareness.January 2019 – June 2019