Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type



Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2020.


Civil Engineering; Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Laura Doyle

Second Advisor

Hohyun Lee


To combat issues of local water insecurity, a hydroponics system was designed in partnership with LEAP 5 High School in Jane Furse, South Africa. Climate change, increasing human population, and continued environmental degradation all threaten access to clean drinking water. Approximately seventy percent of all freshwater is used for agriculture globally, thus threatening food security especially in developing countries where access to water is potentially volatile. The hydroponics garden system utilizes sustainable materials, a self-monitoring temperature controls system, and greywater input, to act as an educational tool for students and significantly reduce freshwater use compared to traditional, in-ground agriculture. An education plan accompanies the implementation of the system to provide an avenue for community engagement and encourage the adoption of alternative, water-saving farming methods. The hydroponics system was developed by observing the strengths of existing hydroponics applications in commercial and educational institutions. The successes of established systems guided rapid prototyping of grow beds, shading structure, and greywater filter. The fully built system reflected all major subsystems and was used to test the effectiveness of a hydroponics garden compared to a traditional soil garden, and the growth of lettuce plants confirmed the benefits of hydroponics. The hydroponics method of farming was found to produce triple the lettuce per the same volume of water when compared with soil faring. Additionally, 30% less energy was required to operate the hydroponics system and the cost of materials was decreased 50% compared to past student projects and existing systems commercially available systems. The greywater-fed hydroponics system proves that an inexpensive, durable design displays significant advantages over standard, soil farming. Educational assembly manuals and tailored education modules designed for the LEAP 5 High School will aid in the adoption of a potentially disruptive farming method to an agriculturally dependent region.