Atlanta GA (SPX) Nov 18, 2010
Algosolar has launched Bioponica, a 10'x4' table with 120 gallon fish tank is designed to convert waste into produce. The design and method was conceived by partners David Epstein, D.O. a holistic osteopathic physician and Kenneth Lovell, P.E. a professional engineer.
Epstein is the owner of a distribution company, Earth Solutions, credited for designing of the popular "Farm in a Box" aquaponic system for schools and homeowners. Lovell is a veteran engineer with expertise in waste management, soil remediation and hydroponic tomato farming.
The scientist and engineer developed Bioponica with the intention of creating a food production system that eliminates operating costs related to fish food and fertilizer, as all nutrients are generated on-site from grass clippings, table scraps and other sources carbon and nitrogen rich waste.
"It is unfortunate that we have relied on our municipalities to dispose of waste, whether that be urine, food or yard trimmings, " says Dr. Epstein.
"It is not practical or sustainable. When nutrients that come from the environment or from the food we eat are buried in landfills or else incinerated then we lose that valuable resource and it becomes a greenhouse gas that negatively impacts our climate and environment. The alternative is to recycle nutrients with the least amount of effort and cost." This gardening innovation works by converting waste into worm castings and worm teas that are used to fertilize the soil-less hydroponic plant beds.
The system also hosts the growth of algae and duckweed, along with the microbes and aquatic animals that feed on the algae. All this, plus earthworms become food for the fish. Yes, the system grows fish, much like the smaller scale Farm in a Box aquaponic system, only this model is built for serious food production.
The table is optimized to grow micro-greens and wheatgrass and your garden variety of edible and medicinal plants. "When growing high value crops such as these, the return on investment is less than one year. And without having to purchase fish food or fertilizer the cost is limited to a small electric bill for water pumps and labor," says Epstein.
Labor is reduced because unlike conventional, in-ground gardening there are no weeds, soil-borne disease nor need to turn compost into the soil. The waist height tables that re-circulate water and nutrients are ergonomic, making gardening accessible to the elderly and disabled who otherwise have trouble working on the ground.
"By converting carbon and nitrogen rich waste into fish and plant food we are effectively sequestering carbon turning it into a food before it escapes as a CO2 gas", says engineer Lovell. The system purifies as it conserves water. They are engineered to optimize growing area and store up to 40 gallons of water per linear foot, meaning they double as rainwater containment. He continues by saying, "The tables capture heat and warm the water within the fish tanks. On cool nights, the heated thermal mass of water returns to the beds, warming the plant area to extend the growing season into colder months."
The Bioponica garden systems are made to support indoor or outdoor growing and even come with a UV filtered polycarbonate roofing option to keep warmth in and rain off the tables. Therefore the temperature, CO2 and nutrient load remains stable, plus makes for a comfortable working area in hot sun or rainy afternoons.
When asked are you now going to sit back and retire with your patent-pending invention? Ken Lovell's response is "Not a chance! We're just getting to the fun part, researching and analyzing nutrient sources. This will help us optimize the outputs as they cycle from waste to fish to plants and to the table."
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