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Hydroponic cultivation is a soilless agricultural practice that can produce disease-free plants with a 30- 40% faster growth rate and shows the potential of being a promising agricultural alternative in unfertile/metal contaminated soil. However, most nutrients in hydroponics medium remain unused and are drained off, creating environmental pollution. To reduce nutrient loss and increase nutrient utilization efficiency, co-cultivation of plants with microalgae in a hydroponic system can be a step towards sustainable agricultural practice. In the BEE lab, we explore the feasibility of establishing a food-water nexus approach using microalgae cultivation in a hydroponic food production system using the native microalgal consortium collected from the wastewater ponds in NIT Rourkela and acclimatized in plant growth media. We have worked on reducing the amount of unused nutrients in the hydroponic effluent by using a co-cultivation system and enhancing the plant and microalgal biomass growth rate by establishing a synergic interaction between the plant and microalgae. Techno-economical studies have been carried out to investigate the economic feasibility of this process. Currently, the team is working on the application of the produced microalgal biomass from the co-cultivation system as biofertilizers and biostimulators.

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