As the decade draws to a close it's a time for new beginnings and a time to decide what your New Year's/Decade's resolution is going to be.
If you can't think of anything, we have a suggestion.
GROW YOUR OWN FOOD.
There are so many amazing reasons to grow your own food. At Biofilta, we are on a mission to help everyone achieve their food growing goals. But we aren't the only ones with food on our minds. There is a revolution going on in our suburbs and in only 12 weeks since we launched our newest wicking garden bed, the Foodcube, we've seen dozens of home gardeners with small and large Foodcube farms ranging from one square meter to over ten square meters.
But we are not ready to settle. We want to see more. We want more food growing in homes, schools, communities, workplaces, rooftops and anywhere else where the sun shines.
So for anyone who needs a little extra encouragement, here are four good reasons why your New Decade's resolution should be to grow more food, and how we at Biofilta are going to help you keep your resolution!
REASON NUMBER ONE - Our Planet
For better or worse, the way humans interact with the environment will define the next decade and the decades to come. We need to start paying attention to the earth and what better way than to roll up your sleeves and stick your hands in it. Around one third of our greenhouse gas emissions comes from agriculture. Growing your own food builds biodiversity in your garden and reduces food miles and our reliance on fossil fuel based fertilisers as well as pesticides, fungicides and other inorganic chemicals which reek havoc on soil health.
Growing your own food is also a great way to learn about ecological systems and to instil environmental consciousness into your own behavior and the behavior of people you live with and around. When you grow your own food you become invested, literally and emotionally, in the environment. You don't want to waste food because you put in your own time to grow it. You compost your scraps because you know how valuable they are. You learn the taste of delicious home grown produce and you get a practical understanding of biology, chemistry, ecology and climate science.
This idea is at play at Athol Road Primary School where the environmental studies teacher Brian Hunter has installed 66 wicking beds which are well on the way to producing over 1.5 tonnes of fresh produce per annum (worth more than $15,000) for the school community. This farm is an incredible teaching platform for students who are learning what it takes grow food and be custodians of their environment.
Environmental literacy is more important than we think. If we, as individuals and a community don't understand the basics of ecological systems, how can we be expected to make wholesale environmental change in the upcoming decade. Growing you own food may only seem like a small step, but the principles which underpin food growing and the knowledge you obtain in the process will inform all the small (seemingly insignificant) choices that you make on a daily basis about the environment and your role in it.
REASON NUMBER TWO - Quality of Life
Growing your own food has the potential to improve your quality of life immensely. Green thumbs have been saying it forever and we at Biofilta couldn't agree more. The happiest people in the world go to sleep with dirt underneath their finger nails. Yes, we might be biased, but we are also right!
Growing your own food creates opportunities to connect with your family, community, neighbours and anyone else who wants to join in. You can share recipes, seeds, knowledge and time in a productive and creative setting. More and more studies are showing the physical and psychological benefits of growing food and there is an overwhelming amount of evidence to show that people who grow their own food are more likely to make healthy food choices.
I know personally that there is no better remedy after a busy day a work than to go out into the garden and harvest some veggies for dinner. I have the good fortune of looking after the pop-up urban farm outside our office space in Port Melbourne. The garden has become a great space for staff to unwind during a busy day, take a phone call, have lunch or just enjoy the vibes. We also hold harvest days when all staff get to participate in the gardening. It's always a great opportunity for everyone to get together, relax and chat about things other than work!
A sustainable housing project in Cape Paterson called The Cape has taken this idea to the next level. Not only are residents at this housing estate setting up their own wicking urban farms in their own front and backyards, but the developer is building a large scale urban farm which will serve as both a community garden and a shared space for residents to live and learn together. Already the 1st stage of the community garden is built and it has become a hub for residents of The Cape to meet up, socialise, get some exercise and get to know their new neighbours. The final designs for The Cape Community Garden are set to be built next year.
REASON NUMBER THREE - Save Money
This may come as a surprise, but growing your own food can save you money. Our office garden in Port Melbourne recently concluded a 12-month trial which found that 18m2 of Biofilta wicking beds have the capacity to grow 468 kilograms of fresh produce in one year. That enough vegetables for three healthy adults and is conservatively valued at just under $5,000.
Now, not all veggie patches will produce this amount of food in such a short space of time. Wicking gardens beds allow plants to have constant access to water which ensures rapid growing rates and allows you to get 3-4 harvests each season where typical garden beds allow for 1 maybe 2 harvests. The more veggies you can grow, the more money you can save.
However, if you don't have a spare 18m2 or you don't want to dive head first into a veggie garden at that scale, there is still good news. The easiest way to save a few bucks also happens to not require much time and effort at all. Start a herb garden!
By weight, herbs cost a bomb to buy and they hardly take up any space in the garden. If you don't have a lot of experience growing food starting a herb garden is like dipping your feet into the shallow end of the pool on a hot day. Very little risk, very little effort, very very satisfying. It will save you money and your home cooked meals will taste even better. Herb gardens are also a gateway to bigger and better things. Once you get used to you're herb garden you'll want to branch out into salad greens and larger veggies and then the sky's the limit!
REASON NUMBER FOUR - It's Easy! Well.....now it is
The reasons why people don't grow there own food are pretty standard. It takes up too much time, its too difficult, I wouldn't know where to start, I always forget to water them etc. etc. At Biofilta, we are on a mission to make growing food easier. Our latest wicking garden bed, the Foodcube, is the culmination of years of work, testing, more work, trial and error and finally we've come up with a wicking garden bed that turns first time food growers into champion gardeners.
How? The design of the Foodcube is inspired by the principles of horticulture. For example, in horticulture, plant access to water is paramount. This is why the Foodcube is a wicking garden bed. What does that mean? The Foodcube has a 110 litre sealed reservoir of water at its base. This allows plants to wick water from the reservoir through capillary action, accelerating plant growth and ensuring you're plants stay healthy and happy. This method of watering also happens to be more water efficient than tradition top watering gardening because you loose less water through evaporation and to runoff. Unlike other wicking beds, the Foodcube has designed aeration vents to ensure the root zones of your veggies receive oxygen and don't become anaerobic and smelly. You can also adjust the water level depending on the water requirements of plants.
Our wicking beds are also designed to reduce the time you spend maintaining your garden. Wicking beds store water in the base so you don't have to water everyday, or every second day. Water requirements depend on rain fall and weather conditions but from our trial gardens we estimate that you only need to fill up your wicking beds every 1-2 weeks in summer and 3-4 weeks in winter. Plus, Foodcubes can be connected at the base. This means that you can water a whole series of Foodcubes from one point instead of each individually. Put it this way, would you rather water all you plants individually every day, or would you rather fill up your Foodcube reservoirs every week or so from a singular point? Bottom watering also suppresses weeds by creating a dry surface layer of soil which weed seeds struggle to germinate in. Less weeding, less watering, more harvesting, more eating!
Finally, the Foodcube has been built for versatility. We've added 25mm holes and hooks around the edges of the Foodcube which allow you to customise your own netting, shading and trellising structures (or buy ours!). The Foodcube can be easily move by are pallet jack or forklift, even when there is soil and plants in them. You can choose our cladding options for a more designed finish or you can make your own. They are made from UV stabilised recycled plastic and are manufactured in Melbourne. Any gardening requirements that you have, we've got you covered. The only downside is, now you have no more excuses not to grow your own food.
At Biofilta, we have a New Decade's resolution of our own, to empower people to grow food so together we can transform our cities into urban farms. There are so many great reasons to grow your own food and now it has never been easier.
Let's get growing!
Last week we showcased our newest wicking garden bed, the Foodcube, as well as a range of design options and attachments to 80 landscape architects, architects, landscapers and urban farmers at the HQ of Cirrus Fine Coffee and Australian Ecosystems in Port Melbourne. They were on show at our 16 square meter, self watering pop-up farm that has just had a makeover with our older model of wicking beds being replaced with the Foodcubes. This 16 square meter set-up can be assembled, connected and planted in a day by a skilled landscaper and has the potential to grow 400 kgs of produce per annum.
The new features on show included a trellising system to allow the garden to climb vertically. We also demonstrated a netting system that keeps pests off the garden such as possums and birds. Both of these new features are extremely easy to set up, with the trellis and netting frame sliding into holes in the sides and corners of the Foodcube for stability. The net can be fixed onto the customisable edges of the Foodcube which were designed for this purpose.
We also clad the garden rows with a number of different finishes including RedCore panels, modwood and recycled pallet timbers, to give a range of finishes.
Another innovation is height extender tree rings that raise the soil level to 500mm, allowing us to use the Foodcube as a tree planter for instant rooftop and backyard orchards and fruit trees.
It was a great evening and we hope to help kickstart an urban farming revolution that sees any underutilises space in a city as a potential mecca for food production, composting, urban cooling, urban biodiversity and community building.
Thanks to the staff at Cirrus Fine Coffee for your great work helping us have a really successful evening and thank you to all the people who came along. We hope to see you soon!
Wicking beds growing food in Tuvalu
Biofilta just returned from another successful trip to Tuvalu where we are assisting in a DFAT funded, Tuvalu Food Futures project. Food security is a major issue in Tuvalu with local conditions making food production a huge challenge. As is the case in most atoll nations, soil in Tuvalu is extremely sandy, has little carbon content and is highly alkaline. As a result, soils struggles to retain water and nutrients. Tuvalu also has an average above sea level height of 1.83 metres which makes high tides and extreme weather events disastrous for productive lands which frequently become inundated with salt water. These events are likely to become more severe and frequent with sea level rise and the impacts of a changing climate. Biofilta is working with international organisations such as ACIAR, SPC, CSIRO and the University of Tasmania to bring the best minds and products together to tackle the challenges of food security on atolls.
The effects of food insecurity are already being felt in Tuvalu. A lack of access to fresh, nutritious produce is contributing to high rates of non-communicable diseases and dental issues. Tuvalu is almost completely reliant on regular shipments of food from Fiji and, as a result, any disturbance in these supply changes can leave Tuvalu extremely vulnerable to food shortages. In 2018, Biofilta began testing the efficacy of our wicking bed systems in homes and community garden sites throughout Funafuti, Tuvalu’s capital. Our wicking systems are raised and sealed to prevent salt water intrusion, retain water, and prevent loss of nutrient through leaching. In short, our wicking beds resolve the main challenges faced by food growers in Tuvalu. The trial period was a success so we are moving forward with the supply and installation of more wicking garden beds to Tuvalu.
The purpose of our most recent visit was twofold; to monitor the progress of the home and community gardens that we established over a year ago and to provide technical assistance for the first installation of our newest wicking garden bed, the Foodcube. One of our partners in this project is Live and Learn, an NGO dedicated to promoting environmental education in the Asia Pacific Region. Live and Learn’s Tuvalu rep Teuleala Manuela was an amazing host and showed us around the home and community gardens on Funafuti. It was great to see home gardeners growing all sorts of veggies in their wicking beds. We saw people growing Chinese cabbages, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, chillies and spring onions. We also visited the demonstration garden at the University of the South Pacific (USP) campus where John Kennedy, our gardening champion, has been growing fresh veggies for the community. This site will be used as a teaching tool of students at USP.
A scaled-up community farm 30 minutes by boat in Funafala is being constructed using our newest wicking garden bed, the Foodcube. The site on Funafala is currently housing 75 Foodcubes and is set to become a market garden which will provide significant amounts of fresh produce to Funafuti. This farm is part of a broader project undertaken by the Kaupule (local council) and the Ministry of Agriculture to revitalise Tuvalu’s fresh product market. Biofilta performed an in-depth demonstration to farmers and agriculture workers on how the Foodcube works, how to install them and technical insights on how to best make use of the site and the process was filmed by an ACIAR documentary team accompanying the group. We are very excited to see the progress of this farm and with any luck it will be pumping out food for the community in no time.
A big thanks to all those people who made us feel welcome in Tuvalu and made the trip a great success.
Stay tuned for more updates on this project soon!
Wicking beds now with netting frame
Biofilta's newest wicking garden bed now has a frame for netting! The Foodcube is the most customisable wicking bed on the market. You can design you own netting systems and trellises to suit your garden. For people who want the whole kit without the fuss, we've got you covered. We've designed a netting frame that fits perfectly into the Foodcube.
Made in Melbourne
Once piece frames that don't require mucking around with fitting and cutting pvc tubes only to find that one leg is longer etc.
No need for solvent glue.
Works with trellis in place.
Cross braces connected with a custom connection we have designed and made ourselves.
Maximum growing area, less loss of space compared to a simple bent over pipe.
Manufacture has commence and pricing will be announced soon.
You can simply buy some netting, drape over and attach using the hooks supplied with the Foodcube however, we are looking for suggestions for reputable netting cover manufacturers to provide fitted net systems for our new Foodcube frame.
Send us an email if you have any company suggestions who could make a durable net system with zip access sewn in to keep insects and possums out of the urban veggie garden.
Happy pest free gardening soon!!
Wicking beds are making gardening at schools easier and more fun!
School gardens are great teaching tools. They are a hands on learning platform for students to explore sustainability, ecology, biology, agriculture, maths and much more. School gardens allow for different learning styles and types of intelligence to flourish and the more a child knows about how food is grown, the more inclined they are to make healthy and sustainable food choices. School gardens have also been shown to discourage students away from graffiti and vandalism as they foster a greater sense of ownership and respect towards space.
So there’s no question, school gardens are great! But there's a catch. For school gardens to thrive they require lots a time for installation and ongoing maintenance. They need dedicated staff members and they often use a lot of water. At Biofilta, we want to give teachers a leg up. We’ve designed the Foodcube to make growing veggies at schools easier, more time efficient and more fun!
The Foodcube is an innovative wicking garden bed with 1 square metre of growing space. It is self-watering and it holds 110L of water in its base. That’s enough to keep a school garden watered for over a week at the height of summer and over a month in the winter. Each Foodcube can be connected at the base so you can water multiple wicking beds from a single point. Bottom watering also reduces germination of weed seeds in your garden by creating a dry crust on the surface of the soil. In short, you can grow more food and spend less time doing it. The Foodcube is also customisable so you don’t have to faff around building your own trellising structures and netting systems to keep the birds and possums out. Installation is super fast and can be done by anyone with simple tools.
Biofilta is now installing Foodcubes in schools across Victoria like Athol Road Primary School and Carey Baptist Grammar. Brian Hunter, the environmental studies teacher at Athol Road Primary School installed some of Biofilta's earlier wicking bed models in 2018 and was so happy with the results that he decided to install some Foodcubes as soon as they were released in 2019.
Brian explained that... “the benefit of the Biofilta system is its going to be a lot more low maintenance than the rest of our garden....over the school holidays we can keep growing produce and not have to worry about coming in to water by hand"
Like many of us, Brian is concerned that children are losing contact with the environment and ecological processes. He is committed to teaching his students the importance of growing food.
“I think a lot of kids these days are disconnected from gardens and they just see fruit and vegetables coming from supermarkets wrapped in plastic...I wanted to reconnect them back to where it's actually coming from”.
With the help of Biofilta's wicking beds, teachers like Brian can spend less time taking care of the garden and more time teaching!