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!
Companion Planting in wicking beds