Irrigationless Urban Food Production

Posted: July 28th, 2010 | Author: liam.rattray | Filed under: Food Production | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Image credit to Mike Low - click the image to see his aquaponics site

Aquaponics, or the integration of water-based or hydroponic vegetable production and fish production, began its Occidental revival with the New Alchemy Institute in the 1970s. Their closed-system bioshelters were proto-aquaponic systems. These systems are especially valuable in the Anthropocene because they conserve water by recirculating it continuously between fish tanks and hydroponic growing pools. The fish provide the nutrients and the plants provide the filtration to reduce nitrogenous toxins to the fish. Climate change has increased the frequency and length of droughts throughout the world and this is one solution that can improve the resilience of food production in local communities. Click here to download a .pdf manual of how to build an aquaponics system at your house from a couple 55 gallon drums, a water pump, some hose and gravel.

The integration of aquaponics systems to urban waste streams, such as municipal compost, provides the opportunity for low-cost and high-efficiency urban food production. Aquaponics up-cycles organic waste through the introduction of an intermediary organism. This intermediary organism is most commonly a saprophage of some kind such as black soldier fly larvae, earthworms, or oyster mushrooms. The saprophage is then fed to the fish as a replacement for costly protein meals and provides the primary nutrient input for the aquaponics system.

Image credit to Black Soldierfly Blog - click the image to see their site!

Black soldier fly larvae are especially suited to this purpose because they can consume very large quantities of organic material and process it at a high efficiency without the need for sterilization that other saprophages, such as fungi, may require. Jerry from the Black Soldier Fly (BSF) Blog has provided an open source biocomposter for BSF and has this to say about them,

Since I started keeping a colony of BSFL there is no such thing as wasted food in my life. If something ceases to be food for me it just becomes food for my colony. With the exception of bones and eggshells, all food scraps go into the BSFL colony, and even a fairly small colony can process a lot of food. A 60cm/2 foot diameter bio-converter can hold enough larvae to process 2kg/5 pounds of table scraps every day. It’s consumed so quickly that it doesn’t have time to decompose to the point where it smells bad. I tested this by adding a whole fish to my colony on a hot day and the odor was not even noticeable a few feet from the composting unit. Keeping a BSF larvae colony is not a brave or a hard thing to do, it’s simple, fascinating and enjoyable.

A podcast from Agroinnovations on black soldier fly can be found here!


ArkFab Innovation Foundation

Posted: February 28th, 2010 | Author: liam.rattray | Filed under: atlanta, Open Development | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

We now live in a complex world. Over the past 200 years globalization has
increased our interconnectedness while industrialization has increased our interdependencies. The global division of labor between and within nations has created
a diversity of economic and social roles for humanity never before seen and by
compelling us to leave our natural habitats the city now claims the majority of
Homo sapiens. Humans and the environments we fundamentally rely on for our
survival are now struggling to keep up and adapt to the difficult implications of
these changes.

Sustainable technologies offer an opportunity to aid the transition towards
more resilient communities but physical hardware alone is not sufficient. Successful
adoption, operation and maintenance of sustainable technologies in at-risk
communities requires both the physical hardware and the local competences of
individual and social capacity, knowledge and know-how.1 Providing these
communities economic and social access to the technologies they need to improve
their resilience is arguably the most critical problem in the field of sustainable
development. We must renovate or establish organizations that better coordinate
and leverage the innovative, entrepreneurial and adaptive power of all individuals
especially those individuals who are most at risk.

The ArkFab Innovation Foundation harnesses an emerging global network of collaborative expertise and open source sustainable technologies development to provide local entrepreneurs access to the tools and resources they need to rapidly adapt their communities to continuously shifting landscapes of risk in our complex society. The Foundation’s community innovation system stimulates commons-based peer production in at-risk communities with cost effective local ArkFab Innovation Centers. These community innovation centers are comprised of

  • ArkFab Power, a locally sourced carbon-negative power generation system
  • ArkFab Lab, a digital flexible fabrication prototyping, manufacturing and cloud supercomputing facility and the
  • ArkFab Endowment, a revolving loan fund that provides mesofinance start-up capital for new for-profit environmental enterprise while funneling incoming returns on investment towards research and development grants, educational and vocational programming, and local not-for profit social enterprise

By building a global network of distributed ArkFab Innovation Centers that provide access to the resources potential entrepreneurs and innovators need we create a system of community innovation that will generate locally relevant and culturally and economically appropriate technological and business. The ArkFab Innovation Centers focus primarily on developing local knowledge and financial independence with programming with our local partners that encourages entrepreneurship, small business development, cutting-edge vocational training, and high-tech infrastructure development for the community. For example, we work with local technical colleges to provide vocational training in small-scale flexible digital fabrication and design and small ecological manufacturing business management.

See the full executive summary at Scribd: ArkFab Innnovation Foundation Executive Summary