Nature-based treatment technologies like denitrifying woodchip bioreactors are employed to manage nitrogen pollution from agricultural nonpoint sources.  Due to variability in environmental conditions (e.g., temperature and stormwater discharge) it can be a challenge to achieve consistent treatment effectiveness with these systems. Innovations in real-time sensing and control of decentralized water infrastructure provide an opportunity to improve treatment efficiencies in nature-based systems by making them adaptive to changing conditions.  In this research, we retrofit a woodchip bioreactor treating agricultural tile drainage with controllable dosing pumps and sensors for nitrate (NO3) and discharge to enable feedback control of flow-dependent acetate dosing for biostimulation of the denitrifying bioreactor community.

This project combines research activities in water quality analysis with laboratory methods, the use of sensors to monitor water quality in real time, and the development of control algorithms that use water quality data to make decisions on how environmental conditions within reactors should be controlled.  This research is funded by the Cornell Institute for Digital Agriculture.

Researchers: Zihao Zhang, Sofia Echavarria


Israel, Jenna K., et al. “Climate Change Effects on Denitrification Performance of Woodchip Bioreactors Treating Agricultural Tile Drainage.” Water Research (2023): 120202.