Official Team Profile


When a little kid explains how to grow plants, he usually includes soil in his list of materials. But thanks to hydroponics, this is no longer necessary. Hydroponics is a system to grow terrestrial plants with their roots inside a mineral nutrient solution in an inert medium, such as gravel, mineral wood, or perlite, instead of soil. There are many advantages to using hydroponics as opposed to growing plants in soil:

  • Water either stays in the system, or is reused
  • Easier to control nutrient levels, especially for aeroponics, and continuous flow hydroponics
  • Controlled, closed system leads to less pollution and no pesticides required
  • Healthy environment to grow provides steady growth of plants, good yield, healthy plant products for consumption
  • Pests and diseases are easier to get rid of than in soil because of the container's mobility (no need for pesticides)

Types of Hydroponics:

  • Solution Culture: uses a solution to supply nutrients to plants.
  • Static: The plant root sits in a jar containing the nutrient-rich solution
  • Algae may form if the water is not covered properly, so we must use an opaque cover
  • Continuous Flow: the solution containing the nutrients flows through a circuit
  • Contained in a large storage tank that is separate from the plants
  • Easy to maintain temperature and nutrient concentration
  • Aeroponics: roots are sprayed with the nutrient solution
  • Suspended in the air
  • Plants live longer because they get more CO2 and O2 in the air
  • Saves water and nutrients, and therefore lowers costs
  • Medium Culture: Roots are placed in a solid medium, and it is named depending on the specific type of medium used (i.e. sand or gravel culture)

sub-irrigation top irrigation Reservoirs can be built with plastic, glass, metal, wood, concrete Disadvantages:

Easy to watered (less of a problem for aeroponics, big problem for static system) Hard to keep different types of plants together ( each requires different pH and nutrient levels); need different containment systems Requires a lot of machinery to make sure the system is working in perfect order --> very expensive!!!!!. If not: If something goes wrong in the system, all the plants die very quickly Without soil, it is easy for the pH and nutrient levels to get messed up

With our bacteria the need for these machines will be eliminated our bacteria will be able to tell us the conditions of the nutrient water and indicate it, allowing us to respond to the condition.

Our Superbacteria

Our Superbacteria will act as the sensing device in a hydroponic system. It will, when a certain level of a certain nutrient is reached, release a signal that will allow something or someone else to respond to the condition.

Our main focus during this year was creating a bacteria that will indicate a certain pH, emit a signal indicating said pH, and respond to that pH. By using a pH sensor linked to a green florescent protein, we hope to achieve this goal, for the bacteria should emit a green glow when the key pH is reached. As of yet, we have not been able to test our bacterial machine, and more work would need to be done to create a bacteria that glows at a useful pH, rather than an unknown one. The pH useful for the hydroponic system would first need to be determined (for example, tomatoes and other highly acidic plants require a more acidic pH), and the pH sensing gene would then have to correspond to said pH, beginning transcription only when the pH was reached. Once the pH sensing gene is transcribed, the GFP gene, which will be downstream of the pH sensing gene, will also be transcribed and the solution with the bacteria will glow green when the pH is reached.

Our bacteria offers is a new method for farmers with crops that cover small to large acreage to test the pH of a large area without the improbability of a local, or “representative” test that may not apply to the entire area. By spraying the bacteria from a plane over a large field, the farmers will get a visual representation of which areas are at a proper pH and which are not. The colors of the reporter protein can vary depending on the color of the soil in each area (i.e. bacteria with a RFP reporter wouldn’t be a good indicator for an area with red soil and GFP wouldn't be a good indicator for an area that already has vegetation), and the pH range of the indicator can be engineered with different parts depending on the desired pH for each individual crop. These engineered E. Coli will almost certainly not aversely affect the environment for they are simple E. Coli with only the sensor and reporter gene, and the color protein produced can be washed off with water.

Further research beyond this would allow the transcription of another gene downstream of the GFP, a gene that would regulate the pH of the system by responding to the activation of the system. This gene could be a proton pump that would pump protons into or out of the bacterial cells, thereby regulating the pH of the entire hydroponic system.

Our bacteria is better than the current technology because it costs less than the current machinery required for hydroponics, and is self-sustaining.


pH Sensor

This part will sense the pH of the solution in which the bacteria is immersed. The pH sensor is only functional between pH 5.5 and 8.0

Green Florescent Protein

This part, when linked to the pH sensor, will act as a reporter for the pH sensor. When a certain pH is reached, the reporter will glow green, indicating that the pH has changed to this level and action must be taken in order to maintain the system at the pH that it was before the GFP was transcribed with the pH sensing gene. The reporter can be engineered to express different colors depending on the topography, the hue of the soil (brown, tan, red, yellow, and others), so red (RFP), cyan (CFP), and yellow (YFP) reporters can be used depending on the colors of the environment.