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
Biofilta wicking beds feature on Gardening Australia
Back in June we were lucky enough to have Paul West from Gardening Australia visit our pop-up city farm in Port Melbourne to film a segment for Gardening Australia. It was a great day of filming which ended with Paul cooking up some delicious pizza's in our pizza oven using ingredients from the garden.
The segment talks about our target to grow 150kgs of fresh produce (UN recommended annual diet for one healthy human) out of one parking space and how we were able to smash that target in under 6 months. It features our advanced wicking garden beds and highlights our efforts to divert urban waste streams by collecting coffee chaff from Cirrus Fine Coffee Roastery, composting it and using it in the wicking beds.
Shout out to Ozharvest who are our partners in this project. They come and collect the food growing in our wicking beds, cook it up and provide meals for people across Melbourne.
It was exciting for us as a company to know that the work we are doing is garnering the attention of experts and the broader gardening and horticulture industry. With any luck we'll have more Biofilta projects featured on Gardening Australia into the future!
Check out the segment here: