Beyond Collaboration: RIT Visits UC Davis Campus

By Diana Rodriguez Alberto

Earlier this year when planning for our trip to Sacramento for the 2024 North American Biochar conference, Tom and I saw the perfect opportunity to visit our RECIPES collaborators, Sarah and Ned, at UC Davis. By then we had been working together for about a year in the Valorization Cluster on a project studying the characteristics of the effluent from different digesters that process wasted food, which includes the UC Davis campus digester, the Renewable Energy Anaerobic Digester (READ).

Our visit started with a tour of the READ facilities lead by Joe Yonkoski, Bio-digester Engineer Supervisor, where we learned about their multi-stage digestion process, their typical inputs and current operational challenges. We also took this occasion to collect some plastic samples requested by the RIT Plastics Research Group, also members of the Valorization Cluster, who have been studying the amount and types of plastic debris found in digestate samples and potential pathways in which they could enter the environment.

Afterwards we headed to the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science where we had lunch and toured the of state-of-the-art food science facilities, which includes a winery, a brewery and a milk processing laboratory. We also had the opportunity to do a tasting of some of the olive oil produced by the UC Davis Olive Center using olives from the trees surrounding the campus. To this date, probably the highest-quality oil I have ever tasted. I still dream of its peppery taste and sweet aroma and regret not taking some with me home.

This visit not only provided us with valuable insights about the READ digester which will inform our cluster research, but also gave us the opportunity to bond with our cluster partners with whom we had been working exclusively remotely until then.