Biofilta along with a range of industry partners delivered an innovative stormwater harvesting system and community asset on top of Melbourne’s heritage listed Open Sewer.
The Melbourne Open Sewer (MOS) was decommissioned in 1993 and a section in Williams Landing has been brought back to life in 2017!
This project was delivered as part of the Greening The Pipeline initiative which has the vision to convert 27km of the heritage listed pipeline into a linear parkland.
How to Design and Integrate Sustainable Greenery into Facilities.
Biofilta worked with the design team of Geelong’s new Simonds Stadium to integrate our Advanced Wicking Bed technology into several indoor feature gardens.
What’s unique here is that our Foodwall tubs and wicking garden components were cleverly included in the interior design of the cabinetry. This enables the facility manager to have a highly aesthetic and functional interior plantscape with minimal maintenance.
Each row consists of multiple Foodwall tubs which are connected together by an internal hose. This provides up to 20 litres of water storage in each tub and ability to water all tubs from a single reservoir concealed at one end of the cabinet. With natural wicking, the plants are watered from the bottom up without the need for pumps or irrigation. Simple. Stylish. Sustainable.
What does Biofilta’s CEO Marc Noyce believe the future of food looks like? Tune into 1:24 min to find out.
Biofilta is serious about changing the way cities feed themselves while putting storm water and food waste to good use. To help this happen, we have designed a household scale super productive 40m2 urban farm that captures and stores rooftop rainwater, and diverts that water into an advanced wicking garden system for food production. This approach demonstrates how cities can close loops, and re-purpose abundant storm water and food “waste” streams into valuable resources to help cities feed themselves in the process.
The system is ergonomic, reduces weeding, and the water efficient design requires watering once a week in summer and less in winter. It also takes composted food waste from households and uses that input to grow food, which will reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. The household farm is designed to reduce the time taken to grow food in a closed loop system and to allow the busy modern city dweller to reconnect with food and become an urban farmer.
Underlying this initiative are some deeper insights into the role an urban garden can have on our broader ecosystem.
A 200 m2 roof area in Melbourne was modelled using a typical year’s worth of real rainfall in Melbourne and is expected to produce 109,000 litres of runoff per year taking into account some evaporation and losses. If this same area was a green revegetated pasture, nearly all of this flow would have been soaked into the ground and some of it would slowly find its way into the streams as a base flow. Hence, due to development of typical house, there is now 100,000 litres of storm water rushing into our waterways per annum. Multiply this across thousands of houses and you quickly see that the rivers and creeks receive a lot more volume from urban areas than would naturally occur.
While it may sound good to provide more water, ecosystems have developed over long periods of time with intermittent peaks of flow, not constantly every time it rains as happens when small rain events hit urban catchments. These flows also mobilise sediments that carry suspended solids and nutrients to the creeks and Bays that are detrimental to sensitive environments and cause algal blooms.
Where do these solids and nutrients come from? Well, rainfall carries airborne pollutants from dust to our roof and that runs off to the waterway. Annually, this load comprises 3.02kg of suspended solids (the gunk you find in your gutters), 16.7g of phosphorus and 242g of total nitrogen from our 200m2 roof.
So, for urban areas, reducing the volume of outflow is a really good thing from an environmental perspective and removing these nutrient loads is also good so they don’t accumulate quickly in our marine environments where nature tries to restore balance by creating algal blooms.
Our 40m2 garden will, based on our own urban water consumption figures, consume an average of 4.8litres per square metre of garden (higher rate in hot periods). This equates to a base consumption of 192 litres per day for a mix of lettuce, onions, silver beet, mint and other seasonal vegetables and herbs.
If we connect a 10,000 litre water tank to capture the rainfall and add the water demand pattern from the garden, we see something pretty cool:
The cool part is that in growing food during the year, we can meet the annual demand of the garden with a 97% reliability from rainfall and only use potable water for 3% of the water demand.
Further, from a volumetric perspective, our tank and garden reduces the flow to the Council drains by 70% which could mean that if everyone did it, issues like nuisance flooding in streets would be significantly reduced and current pipe assets would provide a greater level of service.
Best Practice Environmental targets in Victoria are met if you can provide treatment for stormwater that results in an 80% reduction in Total Suspended Solids, 45% reduction in Total Phosphorus and 45% reduction in Total Nitrogen. From capturing and reusing the rainfall from the roof, Best Practice targets are exceeded for nutrient removal and instead of feeding algae in the waterway, these nutrients can become food for veggies and feed us instead.
Based on our trial gardens over the past year, only 40m2 of growing area is required to produce 640kg of food per annum, or enough for the yearly dietary consumption of 5 adults. Value of produce per annum could be over $5,000 per annum through the production of a diverse range of herbs and vegetables.
Given that only 5% of Australians eat the recommended 130kg of vegetables per annum, our 40m2 garden would likely feed more than the average household and provide opportunity for food sharing within the neighbourhood or extended family. Invite the relatives for a BBQ and everyone leaves with a bunch of silver beet and some onions. The power of this food sharing is something that really excites us.
Growing local also helps to develop more resilient communities that are connected with their food and less reliant on imported goods.
Soil based gardening can be used to close the nutrient loop by turning green waste into compost and this in turn input into the garden to recycle the nutrients into more food. How many kg’s of lettuce or vegetable scraps do you typically throw into the bin per week? By composting this green waste, you can create a closed loop system and become an essential part of our society achieving greater environmental sustainability.
Excluding seedlings, soil and water tanks we expect this particular household farm system to cost under $10,000. Before you run away screaming, consider that depending on the varieties and volumes of produce grown, the system can achieve payback times of between 1.5 – 3 years or a return on investment in the range of 30 – 60%. Lets say the return is in the lower range of 30% pa. Where can you find a better return on investment?
Not every garden needs to cost $10,000 to get this type of return. The same percentage return applies to 1m2 or 100m2 if farmed correctly.
If saving water means being water sensitive, then the model garden is power sensitive too as our bottom watered, advanced wicking garden beds can be irrigated under gravity from the tank.
This low energy system reduces the ongoing cost of maintaining an urban garden and harnesses the free energy stored in the tank.
More power that can be better stored in batteries from the solar panels and used for other purposes than pumping water.
Growing food at home using captured rainwater from the roof can have substantial beneficial environmental impacts on the downstream environment by reducing the volume of storm water runoff and nutrient loads.
Our model 40m2 garden could produce the recommended amount of vegetables for 5 adults each year ( and in reality, more like 10 ).
The benefits of urban farming can be significant if the accumulated effect of lot scale water sensitive urban design is taken into account.
Growing food at home with the right technology is very cost effective and can represent an excellent return on investment from reduced supermarket spend.
Biofilta is currently building household, community and school urban farms and is currently taking orders for the large format systems shown in the model garden. We can also offer a full design and delivery service for full landscape setup.
If you are interested or have queries, please contact Marc Noyce at Biofilta- firstname.lastname@example.org
LAUNCH Food is a global open innovation program for innovators, entrepreneurs, or intrapreneurs with big ideas for improving health outcomes by enabling people to make healthy food choices.
After receiving 280 applications from 74 countries, the LAUNCH team was thrilled to announce that they have selected 12 LAUNCH Food Innovators including Biofilta!
In partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the U.S. Agency for International Development (US AID), and a broad cross-sector network of key opinion leaders and industry players, LAUNCH is taking a people-centred approach to action across the whole of the food system. The ‘Food Challenge’ was developed through consultation with industry, government, and civil society from the Pacific Islands, Australia, the United States, Europe, and beyond.
Biofilta will be heading over to San Francisco, USA, later this month to meet with industry partners from around the world who are looking to expand innovative solutions with the potential to transform food systems and the behaviours that promote health and prosperity for all people while respecting the planet’s resources
We look forward to telling you all about what happens at the LAUNCH event in the USA!
Biofilta has been responsible for the design and implementation of some of Australia’s most innovative urban stormwater harvesting systems, currently capturing hundreds of millions of litres of stormwater per annum across Australia to help drought proof cities. More recently Biofilta has been working on one of the greatest opportunities for cities around the world – to transform rainwater runoff, food waste, underutilised city spaces and rooftops into productive food growing areas. Biofilta has done this by designing and manufacturing water and space efficient, modular urban gardens, which can be used to grow large volumes of food within city limits.
Read more here: http://www.launch.org/challenges/food
Check out this fantastic story on Channel 10’s The Home Team featuring Foodwall as explained by Nick Rose, Executive Director of Sustain.
Sustain works together with governments, the community-health sector, research institutions and other key food-system stakeholders across the public, private and community sectors to support the development of food systems that are fair, connected, healthy and sustainable.
Biofilta is pleased to announce that we have been appointed to deliver the civil, landscape and water sensitive urban design elements of an iconic and ambitious project that will give new life to an old asset – Melbourne’s Main Outfall Sewer. Landscape will be delivered with our partner, Australian Ecosystems.
A short video on the overall project has been prepared by Melbourne Water which gives some perspective on the size of the overall project. We will be undertaking work on 100 metres out of 27 km.
Preliminary works are underway and will begin in earnest early January 2017.
Getting kids involved with growing food is a key step to changing future attitudes and habits. We recently featured on Ch 10’s Scope program which breaks science down for school aged kids in a fun way. The segment is also a great summary of how our system works and why its so water efficient.
Apartments are springing up everywhere it seems and developers are keen to lure potential buyers with all sorts of sustainability claims. Few developments though have meaningful ways of sustaining residents with food due to the space and effort typically required.
A new townhouse development in Ascot Vale, Melbourne, call St Leonards Road (http://stleonardsrd.com.au/) has combined great eco building technology with the latest in vertical wicking gardens for food production to sustain the residents with fresh herbs and vegetables all year round.
At the St Leonards Road development, residents will be able to come home, park their bike and pick their own herbs and greens for eating on their way into their Townhouse saving time and reducing food miles to mere metres.
Biofilta has worked with the team at Neil Architecture (http://neilarchitecture.com.au/) to design a garden using the water and space efficient vertical Foodwall system that will produce over 120kg of vegetables and herbs every year. Organic herbs can cost as much as $35/kg in the shops which gives the residents a financial return of up to $4,200 p.a. and a capital payback within 3 years.
Water collected from the roof is captured in tanks and this water is then used to grow food. This combination has the dual benefit of helping to sustain the residents and harness the soluble Phosphorus and Nitrogen that falls from the roof, made available as fertiliser for the plants that would otherwise been seen as a pollutant to our waterways.
Because the Foodwall system is vertical, it effectively doubles the growing area of small spaces such as the side of a development. Freshly grown food tastes better than imported food and dramatically reduces the organic waste when you only take what you need for a meal and leave the rest growing in the garden.
Our team will also offer a quarterly “Urban Farmer” service to check on the health of the plants, teach residents how to grow the best veggies and provide seedlings for replanting each season.
The display suite already has a sample Foodwall system growing food and is proudly featured as a key entry statement. It took less than 1 hour to install and will sustain the plants for over 2 weeks between watering.
The first harvest from The Cape (http://liveatthecape.com.au/) community garden has just been picked on the weekend, only 7 weeks after the garden was planted! A large volume of spinach, silver beet, kale, lettuces and bok-choy was collected and donated to The Community Meal initiative in Wonthaggi, a free meal provided every Monday night for between 100 and 150 people by the Anglican Church and cooked by volunteers.
The garden contains Biofilta’s range of Horizontal Advanced Wicking Garden Beds. Completed in July and is already generating large amounts of produce. On the weekend we installed vertical trellises for a big expected harvest of tomatoes, beans and snow peas this Summer, to accompany the current crop of pumpkin, zucchinis, chillies, coriander, beetroot, sunflowers, oregano, parsley, kale, broccoli, spring onions, rocket, guavas, and around 8 varieties of citrus including mandarins, oranges, lemons and limes.
Surplus produce from our garden will support The Community Meal for the next 6 to 9 months as our residents start to move in to The Cape.
The garden is innovative, water efficient and ergonomic. The Horizontal Advanced Wicking Beds designed by Biofilta in partnership with Tankworks/Kingspan Water (https://gardenbeds.tankworks.com.au/), is provided by rainwater runoff harvested from the house roofs of the Stage 1 homes in the sustainable estate. The garden is open between 12 noon and 4 pm Saturday’s and Sunday’s, feel free to visit and experience The Cape community garden at Victoria’s most sustainable greenfield housing estate. For more information visit www.liveatthecape.com.au
We just harvested 4.72kg of Kale from 3 Foodwall tubs today worth an amazing $101.15 as compared to chopped kale prices from a leading supermarket. The kale was grown in 8 weeks in our Foodwall Step below from 3 tubs. That’s 0.780kg of Kale per tub per month. At supermarket prices of $21.42/kg, our wicking tubs are growing $16.85 worth of great food each per month.
Lets put that another way:
Each Foodwall tub is creating $202 worth of fresh, nutritional food per year and there are 2 tubs in a Foodwall Step costing $499 and $399 for the additional two tubs. We use our own growing wicking mix which is an additional $20/tub.
On this basis, the Foodwall Step system below of 4 tubs + frames + water level boxes costs $900 and is producing at a rate of $809 worth of fresh food per year that you can grow at home and share with your family.
How does an 89.9% return on your investment in the first year sound?
Please let us know if you can get a better investment return.
Order yours from www.biofilta.com.au/shop
We harvested a total of 16.5kg from our show garden in Bay Street, Port Melbourne and as usual, donated all produce to the local Uniting Church Parish Mission today.
Next week, we will be replanting to repeat the cycle.
How have you all bean?
Our beans are going well actually!
Check out the amazing broad beans growing in the Foodwall at the CEO’s home garden. Can’t wait to get into these.
Because the Foodwall tubs provide constant optimal moisture from the bottom, the beans never get stressed and can reach their potential.
We have some great updates coming soon with new projects and some great new partnerships to talk about.
Foodwall Step orders are coming through our online store which is great to see home gardeners wanting to see how easy gardening can be. Check out our new range at: http://www.foodwall.com.au/shop
We will also soon be offering the tubs as single purchase so you can put them in your own frame or just sit them on the ground and connect to form a ground level garden.
Stay tuned for more updates and happy gardening!
Doncaster Secondary school located in Melbourne’s east engaged Biofilta to develop a concept that turned a concrete 4 square area into a garden oasis that fitted with the overall master plan of a modern school garden.
Initially, the master plan sketch called for our vertical Foodwall system to maximise the productive space available by stacking the wicking garden beds and having horizontal beds around the outside.
We went back today to complete the installation of the garden section using our vertical and new horizontal wicking garden beds. The change was to incorporate the walkway into the middle of the garden so that classes walk through a healthy vegetable garden throughout the day.
We also installed our latest advanced wicking horizontal garden bed today that takes everything we have learnt from the Foodwall system and applied to large 3m long x 1m wide garden beds with our new tank insert and airflow cones.
Key features of this garden:
- Easy ergonomics for students to access food and tend to plants quickly;
- Fully adjustable water levels across each Foodwall row;
- Estimated food growing potential 300kg pa valued at $3,000 based on an average of $10/kg of produce;
- Total growing area 18.5m²;
- Installation in a single day complete with soil and plants;
- Minimal water use from bottom watering method – only needs to be watered once every 2 weeks;
- Ultra low maintenance due to dry crust formed on the surface to suppress weeds and minimise evaporation loss;
- All products are designed in Australia and Australian Made;
- Growing media supplied by Biofilta and developed specially for wicking garden beds;
- Aeration loop designed into horizontal beds to oxygenate roots passively;
- No need for rock or geotextile across the bottom of a wicking bed;
- One-point watering for each garden system;
- Delivery and installation of the large format garden beds now available across Australia via the Kingspan-Tankworks network and modular Foodwall through our direct shipping method.
Biofilta is a privately owned stormwater and environmental company based in Port Melbourne, Australia. Our mission is to help turn our cities into Catchments and Food bowls.
Enquiries to email@example.com
Happy gardening 🙂
Biofilta completed our latest install at Poets Garden, Elwood which saw the installation of a massive 14 metre, 3 tier Foodwall system.
The existing garden is a wonderful community lead garden with raised beds. The raised beds take up a lot of area and only a certain amount are available for allocation to residents. The Foodwall allows space to be optimised by adding vertical wicking garden beds along a fence line.
This system will produce an additional 168kg of great organic produce per annum and has boosted the availability of gardening to lots more residents in the area.
Funding assistance was provided by the Port Phillip Council who really supports projects aimed at providing access to healthy food for their community.
The Poets Garden group were fantastic helpers and everyone pitched in to assist with the installation and provided a great lunch with fresh salad from the garden. It doesn’t get any better than that I can tell you.
Happy gardening at Poets Garden, Elwood.
Biofilta is a privately owned, stormwater and urban food specialist company based in Port Melbourne. We undertake stormwater harvesting and reuse projects, undertake consulting and design, project management and provide urban food systems for community gardens, schools, commercial and public applications.
Biofilta recently completed a rain garden rejuvenation project for the City of Greater Geelong in Drysdale.
The existing basin was completely overgrown with weeds, clogged and had design issues with short circuiting of flow, overflow causing erosion and no sediment collection.
The team of Biofilta and Australian Ecosystems removed the existing material, replaced the media with our proven media and replanted with pre-grown advanced plants. New rockwork, a sediment basin and pipework was also undertaken to hand back a fully rejuvenated rain garden – all completed in two days.
This little biobasin will continue it important role of removing pollution from storm water and protecting the downstream environment for many years to come.
Biofilta is proudly a registered preferred supplier for water sensitive urban design for the City of Greater Geelong.
Helping to turn our cities into catchments.
We are excited today to read the Cranbourne Leader article about the Casey Grammar School garden designed and installed by Biofilta.
With our urban food bowls shrinking, we need to find ways to feed ourselves in less space or we become more reliant on importing from further and further afield. Melbourne’s fresh food bowl for example has been reported to shrink from 41% grown locally to 18% by 2050.
The average urban backyard is also shrinking due to land prices increasing which means that fewer people enjoy the traditional home veggie patch many of us grew up with. Walking out to pick salads, herbs and other vegetables for dinner is simply not an option for many urban dwellers in apartment buildings.
Despite the bleak picture, there are areas of common land that are often overlooked and sometimes never looked at – the roof.
In the City of Melbourne alone, there is 880ha of roof space on buildings. From this area, approximately 235ha was identified as being suitable for “intensive green roof space”. While this area may not be earmarked for food production, we think that urban food production using simple, well designed technology should be incorporated into designs to improve the long term sustainability of our cities.
The Foodwall range started as a vertical system with the growing tubs stacked in a frame where space is an absolute premium.
Pictured above is the installation in Bay Street, Port Melbourne where a 10m2 garden sits on a 3m2 footprint. Installed in July 2015, this garden has now delivered 102kg of mixed vegetables which has been donated to the local community kitchens. Water use is also measured to confirm that the advanced wicking tubs use only 4.8litres of water per m2 per day on average to produce the food.
Biofilta has expanded it’s wicking garden range to include a modular, advanced wicking garden system that is light weight, easy to install and highly water efficient… and it grows great food too.
The new Foodwall Lite is aimed at apartment living and roof top gardens where communities want to live more sustainably but don’t have a lot of time to tend to gardens. The Foodwall system holds enough water for a week of hot weather and optimally provides the vegetables with the water they needs through its wicking design. So, after filling on the weekend, you can rely on the Foodwall to be watering itself during the week, saving hours of time with the hose.
Designed and made in Melbourne, the Foodwall Lite system can be connected in rows to cover a roof top space with an easy to access garden system that doesn’t need the roof to be water proofed as most green roof systems need.
Since each tub is connected, the system is sealed and no special water proofing of the roof is required.
The Foodwall Lite can be arranged in a single row or back to back configuration to cover large areas of otherwise unproductive roof area or courtyard.
Shown above is a simple setup with a few color variations of the tub and the vertical system in the background for comparison.
The system can be “dressed” to hide the tubs and framing at additional cost.
Biofilta thinks that a well designed green roof can now incorporate real food growing capability to help mitigate the urban heat island, reuse roof water for integrated storm water management and assist with turning our cities into catchments and food bowls.
Biofilta is proud to have designed and delivered the advanced vertical and horizontal wicking garden systems for the Casey Grammar School garden in Cranbourne, Victoria. The system is now going great and the kids are starting to learn about the cycle of food that they have previously taken for granted.
The vertical Foodwall™ system stores water, allows the plants to access water day and night. Having the water available around the clock, means the plants don’t get stressed in the heat and teachers and staff at Casey Grammar never have to worry about over or under watering the vegetables.
The modular growing system designed by Australian stormwater treatment and urban food specialists, Biofilta, also incorporates an innovative air loop in every tub to enable the soil and roots to breath, exchange oxygen, vent heat and keep stored water healthy for long periods. The result is healthy and organic plants and produce all year round, and very fast growth.
Biofilta CEO Marc Noyce said today “We are very excited in having Casey Grammar as the first school in Australia to install the Foodwall™ which not only helps produce healthy organic produce, but also teaches students where food comes from and how to live more sustainably.”
“Early high school years are critical in changing future attitudes towards the environment and life choices. The robust Biofilta vertical and horizontal wicking garden products are a perfect match for schools who are time poor but who want to reap the rewards of fresh produce.”
“The technology behind the Biofilta Foodwall™ means that plants flourish with little input from the teacher, and now it is a sea of produce, including beetroot, peas, onions and even corn.”
According to Mal Dunkley, Primary Gardening Teacher, Casey Grammar, the all-new school food garden has been welcomed by the students, teachers and parents. “Our older style garden took a lot of effort to weed for smaller yield. The new gardens are virtually weed free, so students become “smart gardeners” who grow the maximum produce for minimum water, space and effort.”
At this stage, much of the learning is aimed at getting the students familiar with the garden – collecting school food and green waste, composting, worm farms, growing seedlings in the hothouse, the watering system as well as getting to know the diverse range of plants that we are able to grow in our temperate climate. Added to this how to control pests organically, enrich the soil, when and how to harvest and some basic ideas how you can use the foods from the garden in the kitchen,” he said.
The staff at Casey have undertaken specialist up-skill training through the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program to make the most of the innovative garden system.
Biofilta also undertook the concept layout for the garden and is now working with other schools to plan their future food learning facility and included work shed, worm farms, compost bays and potting sheds.
For some, the learning of how worms turn food into nutrient rich soil is an eye opening experience they will never forget.
The Foodwall system saves space through its vertically stacked arrangement. Hence, small spaces can effectively be doubled or tripled in their growing capacity using our systems.
If you know a school who would like something as cool as the Casey garden, please contact us to find out more.
Biofilta’s mission is to help turn our cities into catchments and food bowls. We undertake small and large scale storm water harvesting and water sensitive urban design projects and recognise that urban food is also a linked issue relating to how we best manage water resources. The recognition of the need to be more self reliant in small spaces has provided the impetus for developing a range of innovative urban food growing systems.
Happy gardening from the team at Biofilta.
When space and environmental outcomes are of critical importance, Biofilta’s integrated water management approach makes sense.
The Gateway Plaza shopping centre expansion in Leopold, Victoria is a 6.5ha commercial development project which is located in flood prone area, has limited outfall capacity and is close to a RAMSAR wetland. To complicate the project further, the management of storm water solution must also cater for future upstream development needs and outflow is limited due to hydraulic restriction in the adjacent wetland system.
Integrating flood management, water quality treatment and solving hydraulic capacity issues is easy with a Biofilta system approach.
Our approach enables pollutants to be removed from storm water over time by collecting the debris in chambers for easy removal and capturing a a large volume of water for filtration through our above ground bioretention planter. This approach ensures that flood flows are retarded while our system gets to work cleansing the pollutants to best practice environmental targets using a natural treatment approach after the rain event occurs. The soluble pollution treatment process occurs with our specially blended sands and nitrogen and phosphorus loving plants.
If the system floods, no problem, the planter is protected due to its elevation above the flood zone and only ever receives water at a controlled rate.
During times of no rainfall, our planters reuse some of the filtered water again for self irrigation. Thus, no potable water is needed to keep the vegetation alive and the biofilms are kept moist and active for the next feed of nutrient rich stormwater runoff.
Filtered stormwater, cleansed of pollutants are then sent to the downstream receiving water way to protect sensitive environments.
The benefit for the development is that the full site is unencumbered which maximises developable land and distributed rain gardens, which often clog from debris and fail due to lack of water are avoided.
Work on the Leopold project is well advanced with the pipe boring complete, basin constructed and bioplanter under way as shown below.
Maintenance and ongoing costs of a Biofilta system are low as the vegetation area is minimised compared with a wetland or distributed rain gardens. This smaller footprint offsets the cost of running a pumped system.
As a Design and Construct Contractor, Biofilta Pty Ltd ( www.biofilta.com.au ) is experienced in finding ways to integrate flood management with water quality objectives.
If you have a problem site or need to achieve a wide range of integrated storm water management objectives in a small area, we would be pleased to discuss.
Biofilta Pty Ltd is a privately owned company based in Port Melbourne. Our mission is to help turn our cities into catchments and food bowls.
Stormwater treatment and urban food specialist, Biofilta Pty Ltd designed and installed a pop-up community garden in Davis Street, Kensington in 8 hours this week.
The City of Melbourne has recognised that greening laneways with productive gardens is a great way to build communities and tackle the fact that Melbourne’s food bowl is shrinking at a rapid rate due to urban sprawl.
While it is notionally a good idea to grow food close to where most people live, urban farming has some challenges:
- Much of the inner city land is contaminated which imposes high costs of developing in-ground gardens
- Space is a premium
- Water use can be substantial for vegetable growing in outdoor environments, especially in dry climates
- Many vegetable growing systems lack real soil volume and are prone to drying out quickly during hot weather
- Management of the community garden requires input
Biofilta’s solution to these challenges are to offer a range of vertical and horizontal advanced wicking garden systems that are ultra-water, spatially efficient and easy to install quickly.
The vertical and modular Foodwall system enables a robust community garden to be installed in a day and doubles or triples the available growing space through its stacked arrangement.
The Foodwall is innovative in its ability to provide air to the roots through breathing tubes attached to the soil tray. When the water level is set below the tray, an air loop is created which allows built up gas to escape, temperature to regulate better and enables the soil media to be free draining. The tray also provides columns of soil in contact with the reservoir of water to “wick” the water up to the plants.
With 50 litres of potting mix in each tub, there is a meaningful amount of volume to grow vegetables and add compost to close the nutrient cycle.
Also demonstrated at the Davis Street site are horizontal wicking beds that don’t need the traditional rock and geotextile layers. These planter beds employ the same technology as the Foodwall, only on a larger format. Benefits are ease of installation and ability to wick the entire reserve of water to the plants, no smelly nutrient rich water in the base and no double handling of materials to build the wicking bed.
Each Foodwall contains 22 litres of water for the vegetables to access. Field trials show that a fully planted tub can use up to 3 litres of water per day when temperature is above 30 °C. The Foodwall contains enough water in each tub to last a week between refills. Perfect for the busy gardener or a community garden roster.
Local residents were contacted by the City of Melbourne and invited to participate in the ongoing operation of the community garden. Specialist non-profit organisation Cultivating Community (http://www.cultivatingcommunity.org.au/) based in Melbourne will provide a high level management role and monitor the engagement and output of this garden through weighing produce and tabulating results. The resident driven ownership with an experienced monitor organisation is a great model for sustainable management.
Biofilta have been operating an open air 10m² garden in Bay Street, Port Melbourne for the past 9 months. The actual footprint of the garden is 3.3m² due to the triple stack arrangement. Results of the garden to date is 90kg harvested in 9 months with a range of seasonal vegetables and herbs planted. Average water use is approximately 100 litres of water per kg of produce.
All produce is donated to local charity.
The Bigger Picture
Vertical productive gardens which are soil based and water efficient through wicking, enable solutions to engage the community with meaningful food production while providing a range of social, economic and environmental benefits. Low tech solutions that don’t rely on pumps or fossil fuel derived chemicals are available and can give high quality output to the average gardener. Our goal is to enable cities to become catchments and food bowls. These systems can significantly reduce the cost of vegetable supply and be cost positive within 2 to 3 years depending on the crop grown according to Biofilta’s data gathered from real world gardens.
Roof top gardens and small pocket parks are a key way for cities to become food bowls and the Foodwall provides a means to double or triple the available productive space.
Often sustainability is featured around energy use and lower fuel consumption. We should also talk about food sustainability.
Having the right tools to achieve these goals are now a reality.
This is one of the most inventive uses of Foodwall we have seen yet! Here is a 7 metre Foodwall sitting underneath two large sliding windows which means you can harvest from the top-tier while you are making breakfast, lunch or dinner! Whether you are making a healthy salad, a side of vegetables or herb garnish – you literally have fresh vegetables and herbs at your fingertips while in the kitchen. We love this type of creativity for transforming our cities into catchments and foodbowls.
We are honoured to have received an unexpected letter of gratitude from Diane Embry, CEO of Uniting Care South Port.
In the letter Diane says “We are writing to extend our heartfelt thanks to you for your recent donation of fresh produce from your Urban Garden Foodwall on Bay Street. Your generosity enables us to provide fresh produce to those people in our community who are socially isolated, financially disadvantaged and perhaps experiencing homelessness as well.”
The Biofilta team are so pleased to know that the food that we regularly harvest and weigh from the Bay Street Urban Garden Espresso Bar Foodwall is being utilised in the best possible way.
We look forward to further supporting Uniting Care with future harvests.
We really enjoyed helping a couple have a sustainable garden that means they could go away in the caravan for the weekend and come home to alive tomatoes. The combined 84 litres of stored water in this 2-Tier x 2-Bay Foodwall connected to a raintank is the perfect solution to keep your vegetables alive without daily watering. The stored water and natural wicking means that the plants are able to access the water they need, when they need it.
We have measured changes in water consumption of our Foodwall plants throughout heat waves where temperatures exceed 30 degrees Celsius for several days in a row. We found that plants will consume up to x3 as much water on the hot days compared to regular days where maximum temperatures range between 18 – 25 degrees Celsius. At least plants in a Foodwall have a reservoir of water to access to keep up with the increased water demand caused by more evapotranspiration.
Least we know that the Foodwall tomatoes of Taylors Lakes will survive the hot weekends when the urban farmers are away with their caravan.
On Christmas Eve the Foodwall team installed this 3-Tier x 3-Bay Foodwall for an inner Melbourne customer with limited backyard. Up and running for the Christmas, this Foodwall was a gift from a Dad to his family who love to grow vegetables at home but only enough have outdoor area for the kids and family dog. Previously this area could only grow exotic trees – now they have water efficient urban food production on a serious scale!
After reviewing multiple garden products to turn their balcony into an urban food oasis, the Port Philip Housing Association (www.ppha.org.au/) decided that a 3-Tier x 2-Bay Foodwall was the best solution. This is because of the space saving and reduced weight attributes compared to conventional wicking garden beds.
The Foodwall weighs significantly less than rock filled and large soil based raised gardens beds. This is achieved even with having 20 litres of water, 50 litres of potting mix storage and an advanced wicking tray per tub in the Foodwall.
The net weight (excluding water and potting mix) of this Foodwall is only 134 kg. Interestingly, that is the same amount of fresh food this Foodwall can produce the next 5 – 6 years!
Foodwall is ideal for balcony or rooftop installations.
How do you get maximum food yield per square metre at home? Line a corner of your backyard with a Foodwall! This happy urban farmer has a 3-Tier x 4-Bay and 2-Tier x 2-Bay Foodwall capable of producing 3.5 kg of produce per tub a year. With 12 tubs in the first Foodwall and 4 in the second, that is a total of 16 growing tubs able to produce 56kg of mixed vegetables and herbs p.a.
Water which flows from the apartment site (i.e. runoff from the terraces and overflow from the roof water tanks) is stored within a primary detention tank. The function of this tank is to provide short term storage in order to capture the runoff from the site during the storm event. The water in this tank is then pumped by the “primary pump” in batches to the bioretention planter bed at street level.
The primary transfer pump is controlled via Biofilta specialised pump logic from the central Biofilta panel. Water is pumped from the primary tank to our bioretention planter bed.
The planter provides a secondary physical filtration to remove fine sediments and associated bound heavy metals. The planter also biologically removes soluble nutrients from the stormwater via the plant root biofilms and microbes. Water is pumped from the primary tank to the planter bed at a controller rate to ensure that there is a “dose” and “rest” regime. This regime is crucial to ensure the health of plants & biofilms as well as ensure treatment efficiency.
Water which flows from the Biofilta bioretention planter is stored within the recirculation [retention] tank. Water within the recirculation tank is used to recirculate water back to the planter during dry periods. Water which exceeds the capacity of the recirculation tank flows to the street stormwater drainage as secondary treated stormwater.
By embracing innovative design, Melbourne is pioneering sustainable city living with an expanding population. One of these innovations is being showcased on the world stage on the touring BlackBOX design exhibition.
The system developed by Melbourne company Biofilta Pty Ltd, is helping to transform cities into water catchments. Mr Marc Noyce, co-inventor and Biofilta CEO said “We are very excited and honoured to be part of the BlackBOX exhibition”. By harvesting urban stormwater run-off in built up urban centres, Biofilta is producing fit for purpose water to irrigate important landscapes like Fitzroy Gardens adjacent to the Melbourne CBD. “Stormwater is typically a wasted resource in urban environments. Our spatially efficient system captures this resource and allows cities to become mini catchments. Combined with our natural plant based filters, we can create healthier environments, produce irrigation water for less than the cost of potable water and help to keep our parks and gardens alive during drought” said Mr Noyce.
Biofilta’s innovation has been selected by the City of Melbourne for the BlackBOX design exhibition because of it’s high performance and spatially efficient design, which does not interrupt the busy hustle and bustle on the streets of Melbourne or relaxing recreational space in nearby parklands. Biofilta’s award winning stormwater harvesting projects “provide a way to use stored stormwater to protect urban landscapes, in turn cooling the micro climate associated with cities” says co-inventor and sustainable designer Brendan Condon. “This helps cities to combat the urban heat island effect created by our roads and buildings, which is important for liveability and resilience for cities in the face of rising temperatures in a changing climate” he says.
The BlackBOX exhibition is named after the Melbourne invention that revolutionised the global aviation industry. The exhibition shines a spotlight on 64 Melbourne inventions and innovations from the past 150 years that have profoundly impacted who we are as a community and the way we live our lives. From enabling hearing for the hearing impaired with the bionic ear, through to polymer bank notes, the Sherrin football and refrigeration, this exhibition shares the stories of these products and their connection to Melbourne.
Mr Noyce said the company has a goal to capture and filter 1 billion litres of stormwater per annum through its systems by 2020, adding to completed projects which are already capturing and filtering over 200 million litres per annum for Australian cities.
Read the full article “Stormwater harvesting system one of 64 Melbourne designs celebrated at Milan BlackBOX exhibition” here.
City of Melbourne and Biofilta featured in US Metropolis Mag Guide to the World’s Most Liveable Cities.
“Some of Melbourne’s oldest open spaces are working hard beneath the surface, housing major water-harvesting infrastructure thanks to the City of Melbourne and Biofilta. Last February, one of the largest system—two underground tanks that hold a total of 1.3 million gallons (5 million litres) of storm water—was installed under the 167-year-old Fitzroy Gardens. It produces up to 18 million gallons (69 million litres) to irrigate the surrounding natural landscape.”
We were very pleased to assist this home owner with his inner Melbourne renovation. He had allocated an area for a vertical garden and was very pleased to discover Foodwall as the perfect fit for his area. The result was a Foodwall integrated into his renovation design to enable food production in a space constrained urban house lot.
Feed a family with fun, sun, soil, water and a Foodwall. This family has a Foodwall exploding with flavour, vitamins and essential minerals in the form of a vegetable and herb bonanza!
We caught up with our Cranbourne residential installation to see how a typical family of 4 (primary school boy and younger girl) were getting on with their Foodwall.
What we found surprised even us!
We asked Karen to describe her experience thus far:
How often do you water?
“We turn the tap on and off once a week”
How much maintenance has it taken over the past 4 weeks?
“We haven’t seen a weed and literally done nothing, we aren’t gardeners.”
Is the whole family involved?
“Both kids have a Foodwall tub each and they get excited to come home and see how much their tub has grown”
“All our family and friends come around to see how it’s going and they are amazed at the growth. We are eating the spinach, rosemary and lettuce and the tomatoes, carrots and strawberries are nearly ready.”
What have you learnt so far?
“We probably planted too much at first and will learn to space the seedlings differently next time. We have also learnt that gardening can be easy and fun!”
Thanks for the feedback and happy gardening from the Biofilta team!
The brand new, cool looking Foodwall is has been used as a ‘Coolwall’ for Warrnambool Council. The Foodwall provides an attractive living green façade to the council building and also acts as a cooling screen for the glass brick wall of the Art Gallery.
Foodwall can help reduce urban heat island effect by increasing green spaces in the urban environment, shading hard surfaces with plants and cooling the micro-climate through plant evapotranspiration.
Just another added benefit of the vertical and water efficient Foodwall garden.
Biofilta has completed a stormwater harvesting, treatment and recirculation system for Townsville City Council at the Townsville Recreational Boating Park (TRBP).
The Biofilta System was selected by the Townsville City Council due to its spatial efficiently reducing the required WSUD footprint from 3,200 sq. metres to an above ground footprint of only 360 sq. metres whilst meeting or exceeding the best practice stormwater treatment guidelines.
The Biofilta System intercepts all stormwater runoff up to and including the 3 month stormwater event from the 3.6 ha TRBP development site. After detaining the runoff from the site, the Biofilta System provides primary (i.e. gross pollutant trap, sediment and oil interceptor unit) and secondary (i.e. vegetated planter) treatment of the stormwater. The treated stormwater is used to recirculate through the planter for sustainability then discharged to Goondi Creek at a controlled rate.
Key Project Facts:
- Catchment size 3.6 ha
- Planter size 350 sq. metre (less than 0.1% of catchment)
- 10,000 litre Gross Pollutant Trap
- 20,000 litre Sediment and Oil Inceptor Unit
- 100,000 litre detention tank
- 50,000 litre retention and recirculation tank
- Average annual rainfall 1,143 mm
- Filtration and bioretention with selected media and native plants including Ficinia nodosa, Juncus usitatus and Lomandra hystrix
Biofilta has completed its first project in north Queensland at The Sands Estate, Tannum Sands.
The Sands Estate is located approximately 5km south of the town of Tannum Sands. The development site is generally located between Wild Cattle Creek to the northeast, and Tannum Sands Road to the west. The overall site area proposed for development is approximately 340ha including about 77ha designated as conservation area. The site is located within 7km of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and therefore potential impacts of stormwater runoff are of key significance.
Lyons Capital chose Biofilta for its specialist expertise in precinct scale, state of the art stormwater treatment systems employing robust treatment techniques to remove pollutants from development runoff to Best Practice standards.
With the Biofilta Systems, the developer was able to fast track environmental approvals with the Federal and State Authorities who were impressed with the protection to downstream environments offered with the design.
Biofilta was engaged by Lend Lease to supply and install a compact stormwater harvesting and treatment system for the iconic GTV9 Studio redevelopment in Richmond.
The system includes our unique treatment train and stacked tank configuration to provide 75m³ of primary storage which is then filtered through a 3 tier 50m² Biofilta vegetated planter. Filtered water is then collected in a 50m³ re-use tank for on-site irrigation needs with over 75% reliability.
Meeting the Greenstar Category C rating criteria for the 3ha development site in such a small footprint requires a Biofilta treatment train approach. All this performance is achieved without the need for chemicals or cartridges.
Birrarung Marr is an 8ha Park on the Yarra River’s north bank next to Federation Square and its also Melbourne’s newest major park. Opened in 2002, it hosts events and festivals and now hosts one of Melbourne’s largest stormwater harvesting systems.
Integrated stormwater management doesn’t get any more integrated into the fabric of an urban landscape than the Birrarung Marr stormwater harvesting project. Commencing in early 2013, the City of Melbourne commissioned a stormwater harvesting system based on Biofilta’s twin tank and recirculating bioretention design.
This system is big on output and small on footprint. Capturing stormwater from 37ha of Melbourne’s CBD and railway runoff the system provides over 30 Megalitres of fit for purpose irrigation water per annum for the Birrarung Marr landscape.
Fitzroy Gardens is a one of Melbourne’s iconic inner city garden parks and attracts 2.8 million visitors per year. The site is high profile and has been operated by the City of Melbourne as a public garden since 1917, with the land originally set aside as a public reserve in 1848. The Gardens are now home to many significant tree and plant species both exotic and Australian natives. The stormwater harvesting project was required to provide greater water security to the gardens during period of drought as well as reducing the overall use of potable water for irrigation. The spatially efficient Biofilta system was chosen by the City of Melbourne to harvest stormwater from a 67ha urban catchment which includes the runoff from Parliament House to provide up to 69 million litres of fit for purpose irrigation water for the Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens. This represents over half the total irrigation demand for the 33ha of heritage listed gardens.
Working with design engineers Cardno, this system was designed to intercept two main drains and filter the gross pollutants and sediments before temporarily storing a massive 4,000,000 litres in an underground tank acting as a mini urban catchment. From the primary tank, the stormwater is pumped up through our specially constructed 247m2 Biofilta vegetated planter containing our own blended sand media and tolerant native plants.
As the water passes through the treatment bed, the combination of physical and biological treatment processes removes suspended sediments and the attached pollutants such as heavy metals and soluble nutrients from the water. Excess pollutants such as Nitrogen and Phosphorus promote algal blooms in the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay which can detrimental to their ecological health.
The Biofilta system greatly reduces these pollutants to help protect our natural environment. Up to 48% of all total Nitrogen, 57% of Phosphorus and 85% of total suspended solids are predicted by MUSIC modelling to be removed from the catchment, easily exceeding current Best Practice Environmental Standards for this major urban catchment. Our smart control systems work to optimise the watering regime to manage the planter vegetation and health of the biofilms to work at their best and meet the demands of the irrigation system. After treatment through the Biofilta vegetation, the cleansed stormwater water drains to a 1,000,000 litre reuse tank where it ready to be utilised by the City of Melbourne to irrigate the gardens.
Contact us today to find out how Biofilta can meet your needs for spatially efficient stormwater harvesting and precinct scale pollutant removal. Further info: firstname.lastname@example.org Or Call: Gareth Jack, Operations Manager on 0468 469 616
The Euneva Ave Carpark Building Biofilta System provides for the capture and treatment from the entire 1,700 m2 site and provides treated stormwater for the two green walls of the 6 level carpark as well as the irrigation needs for the surrounding landscape. The Biofilta system was selected for its unique ability to provide a spatially efficient stormwater treatment, with a significant reduction in footprint when compared to a traditional raingarden.
Without the Biofilta system providing filtration and collection, there would be a large silt load which would lead to clogging of the elevated planters which are difficult to maintain. With the current configuration all maintenance is done at the ground level Biofilta bioretention planter. Our Biofilta system provides an attractive landscape which also lowers the Urban Heat Island Effect and cools the western facing entrance way and office.
The first major Biofilta bioretention system was built in partnership with the City of Melbourne and Citywide in 2011.
This system is located on and under Darling Street, adjacent to Darling Square in East Melbourne. The Darling Street installation utilises the Biofilta bioretention system as part of a robust and logical treatment train. Much of the multi phase treatment train is located underground including gross pollutant and sediment capture, stormwater capture tanks, and efficient smart pump systems.
The Biofilta system delivers a spatially efficient design, enabling best practice stormwater objectives to be achieved in a significantly smaller area than traditional Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) approaches. As part of the Darling Street design investigation it was determined that a conventional raingarden sized to meet the best practice guidelines would be required to be approximately 2,200 m2 in area. This area was not available. The Biofilta system provided the equivalent treatment with an above ground footprint of only 120m2. In addition, to meeting best practice pollutant reduction guidelines, the Darling Street Biofilta is configured to supply up to 20,000,000 litres of fit for purpose irrigation water per year which the City of Melbourne is utilising to irrigate adjacent heritage listed green space.