I have now seen the mother of all worm farms. It was at CERES, a community and environment park in East Brunswick in Melbourne and I cannot recommend highly enough that when next you are in Melbourne that you take a tram trip out there as it is a hive of activity for everyone interested in sustainability.
Look at this, so many old baths in a line with the pipe directing all worm juice to one point for collection and sale in the shop. All vegetable waste from the garden and the café is shared between the worms and the chooks. There is a chook club, community garden plots, alternative energy demonstration centre and a weatherboard house showcasing energy efficiency technologies. But I went to see aquaponics in action.
I met Stephen at the Community Gardens Conference in Devonport where he was talking about aquaponics. This is the idea of a closed loop using the waste generated from fish in a pond to fertilise vegetable beds dug into lined holes or old baths etc. Then once the vegetables are harvested using the vegetable waste to feed worms and then using the worms and juice to feed the fish. It is a perfect strategy for bringing fresh vegetables to places where climate has made it impossible to grow food.
In the Pacific for example, salt water incursion into fresh water lenses has meant that farmers can no longer irrigate their crops and so they have to import food. When I was in the Cook islands in 2002, a lettuce cost $9 as it was imported from New Zealand. At the time locals were experimenting with hydroponics using a solar powered pump to pump the water around the system but this aquaponics system seems even more efficient and can produce a great deal of food. Wilson is providing technical expertise and design skills and together he and Stephen are a powerhouse of ideas. Soon, they will be conducting a pilot project in India using this method and I will keep you posted. It would be a wonderful technology for AusAid to promote in the region.
Furthermore it is a great way for people who have no available land to have a community garden on cement! Imagine the applications from inner city blocks of flats. They have a grant to have a “proof of concept” facility built at CERES very soon and as a bonus it is very portable with all the technical bits able to be stored securely in a shipping container. Go and see for yourself.