Directory   |   Workday   |   Access+   |   CyBox   |   Privacy Policy

Department of


OPN Masterclass – 2017


By Alex Archer, Rahul Attraya, Joseph Biegger, Austin Smock, Rebecca Stephenson, Xiaoyuan Zhang

Nitrogen exists as 78.1% of the earth’s atmosphere. It is vital to all aspects of human existence. Nitrogen is especially essential in the production of the foods we eat. As our agricultural system has grown and adapted over centuries, our reliance on nitrogen as a growing agent has exhausted our soils. Today’s agricultural system requires the use of artificial, nitrogen rich fertilizers to produce suitable crops and livestock. On an annual basis, fertilizer made with ammonia or NH3 is dumped across our fields at unregulated rates. Excess fertilizer fails to establish itself within soil but instead washes away moving towards waterways. The Mississippi River serves as an NH3 funnel. Nitrogen gathers and flows towards the gulf. When existing In excessive quantities, nitrogen wreaks havoc on natural ecosystems. It caused Algae in the gulf to bloom at exponential rates. As the algae cycles it sucks oxygen out of the water effectively killing any surrounding aquatic life. The fertilizer being spread in Iowa has created a massive ecological dead zone over 1,000 miles away.

The agricultural systems of the heartland have long relied on the Mississippi river for irrigation, transportation, and energy. A study in the infrastructure present along and within the Mississippi revealed a change in human relationship over time. Today our relationship with the Mississippi is often distant and relatively undetected. The small energy generating mill has been discarded in favor of a land based system. Irrigation is pumped discreetly to agricultural fields miles away. Agriculture’s increase in scale has effectively shrunken the mighty Mississippi. Unfortunately, our affect on the Mississippi and its tributaries has never been higher.

Currently, the practiced system of fertilization lacks a cycle. Fertilizer is spread, it washes away, and eventually arrives in the Gulf. The Gulf of Mexico has become the final resting place for our synthetic creation. The damage it has caused is unparalleled. In order for the destruction to cease, a cycle must be established.
The graphics above illustrate a proposal which involves the introduction of algae farms along the Mississippi. Algae thrives off of excess nitrogen in water. If harvested at the correct time, vast amounts of nitrogen can be removed from our waters. This algae, now rich in nitrogen, can be re-used as fertilizer for crops. If established at a suitable scale, this system can create a sustainable cycle that will allow the continued use of synthetic fertilizers without disastrous environmental consequence.


Propositional Dish: The Gulf Roll

Gulf Roll


1 Cup Quinoa
3 Sheets of Nori (Sushi Paper)
1 1/3 Cups Water
1/2 Cup Vinegar
2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tsp Salt
3-4 Gulf Shrimp
1/2 Cucumber
Top with Soy Sauce

Cooking Directions

1. Wash the quinoa in cool water to remove any residue. Place quinoa and water in a small sauce pan. Set to high heat, stirring occasionally until it reaches a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 12-15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile in a small saucepan combine the vinegar, sugar and salt over low heat. Stir constantly until the sugar and salt are dissolved, then remove from heat and cool. Once the quinoa is cooked use a wooden spoon to scoop it into a plastic or wooden bowl (do not use a metal bowl, it does not react well to the vinegar). Pour the vinegar mixture over the quinoa and gently fold it in. Let the quinoa cool to room temperature.
3. Place a bamboo rolling mat on a flat surface, lay a sheet of plastic wrap on top, then a sheet of nori on top of that.
Use the back of the wooden spoon to carefully spread the cooled quinoa evenly over the nori (about a 1/4-inch thick). Leave about 1/4-inch of the nori uncovered at the end furthest from you.
4. Place shrimp and cucumber on top of the quinoa (the side closest to you).
5. Lift the end of the mat, and gently roll it over the ingredients, pressing gently. Roll it forward to make a complete roll. Carefully remove the roll from the plastic wrap and bamboo rolling mat.
6. Use a sharp knife to inch 1-inch rounds.
7. Drizzle with Soy Sauce and serve immediately.