Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Growing Power -- An Inspiration

GP multi-tiered greenhouse at left, aquaponics system at right
I've written before about Milwaukee's Growing Power organization, and I just read a new article in a magazine called Biocycle that explains a lot of what they're doing. GP's founder, Will Allen, was recently awarded a MacArthur genius grant, and it's not hard to see why.

Basically, Growing Power does intensive all-year farming in cold climates, using greenhouses, and shares the techniques it develops with anyone who's interested in learning. They compost 80,000 pounds of food waste a week, create quality soil by both regular and worm composting, grow fish and plants together in an integrated aquaponics system, and grow vegetables that are sold in the area.

In fact, I'm almost overwhelmed with everything they do -- I'm very inspired, but I don't know where to start! Here are some of the facts I picked up from the article and watching the videos:

  • GP produces $5 worth of food per square foot; that equals $200,000 per acre.
  • They grow greens all winter, some of them in greenhouses that are not conventionally heated (the heat is a byproduct of composting materials in the greenhouse).
  • They're working on anaerobic digestion, which takes five tons of food waste a day and turns it into energy to heat the greenhouses.
  • They're constantly looking for new ways to become more self-sustaining. One current example: Although they give conventional fish food to the fish they grow with aquaponics, GP is figuring out how to breed Black Soldier Fly larvae to use as feed instead. The larvae are naturally attracted to some of the material GP is already composting.
  • GP makes its own potting mix by using half worm compost and half coir (instead of peat moss). Coir is the nonfood part of the coconut. As GP's co-director says, peat moss is a nonrenewable resource, whereas coir is. There are three coconut trees for every person on our planet, and using coir makes the entire coconut usable.
Outpost Natural Food Co-op in Milwaukee has made three short tour videos about GP. You can check them out on YouTube.

This sure gets my plant/gardening brain working in combination with my organizational brain... why isn't someone modeling GP's whole enterprise in the Twin Cities?

1 comment:

elena said...

Thanks so much, DN3, for gathering so many Growing Power sources together here. Just in time for me to read before a Local Growers Guild winter workshop on farming efficiencies, this next Saturday in Bloomington, Indiana. It all looks quite amazing, hope-inspiring.