Waste Transformation Farming
Growing your own clean fresh food by
transforming the waste of one organism
into a feedstock for others.
This is our latest recirculating aquaculture system design. Comprising a fish tank of 1000 litres, twin radial flow separators, a packed media filter and moving bed biological filter, this little unit can be connected to any one (or a mix) of variety of plant growing system.
Being able to grow your own clean fresh fish is great. Being ble to grow plants on the metabilic wastes of the fish is even better…and a simple (but powerful) demonstration of what waste transformation farming is about.
Jade Perch are fast-growing and good to eat. They are a warm water species – native to Australia’s tropical river systems.
Fried Jade perch and a Greek salad…from our backyard.
Crustaceans are useful organisms for inclusion in waste transformation farming. They are detrivores so they feed on organic wastes in water…and they go very well on a plate, too.
This system…dubbed the ‘Tidal System’…was one of our first aquaponics systems. It had a number of features, not the least of which were the mini-greenhouses that we used for passive climate control for our plants and fish.
This old aquaponics system was located about 4 metres from our back door. Aquaponics is just one of several great ways to grow food. Vegetables don’t come any fresher than this.
This is another of the many aquaponics systems that we’ve designed and built over the years.
Hydroponics using gravel media – cheap but heavy…and hard on the hands.
This small nutrient film technique (NFT) set up is just one of several hydroponic growing systems suited to small-scale farming. We use this system to grow Asian and salad greens…and soft herbs.
Duckweeds are among the world’s smallest flowering plants and in good conditions they can double their mass every 48 hours. They are also high value plant protein and can be eaten by all micro-livestock.
We operate 35 square metres of wicking beds for vegetable and fodder production. They offer greater water efficiency than conventional gardening…and their height is appreciated by those of us with old backs.
These are hybrid laying chickens…capable of yielding nearly 300 eggs per year – when properly managed.
These day-old chicks are reared for meat.
Meat chickens at processing age. At this size, they are a perfect for roasting and frying. We set a few aside for a few more weeks after which they can reach a dressed weight of up to 4.5kg and we use those for chicken pieces.
Japanese quail are the quintessential small-holders livestock. They offer a complete ‘cradle to the grave’ farming experience and will allow you to grow enough quail meat and eggs – to sustain a family of four – in a footprint of a couple of square metres.
The product of an hour’s work…a dozen dressed quail en route to the kitchen.
Quail eggs are nutritious and can be prepared in any of the same ways we’d use chicken eggs…frying, boiling, poached, omelettes…and their novel size makes them very useful for making canapes and hors d’ oevres.
Japanese (coturnix) quail yield dozens of little eggs (about one-six the weight of a chicken egg) and they can be prepared in all of your favourite ways…including for use in canapes.
Quail and fried rice…gourmet food from our backyard.
Greek people know a thing or two about food…and they eat quail this way.
Muscovies provide eggs and meat…and can eat more greenfeed than most ducks. They hiss rather that quack…and are much quieter than chickens for those who live in urban settings where neighbours may be problematic.
Young Muscovies almost ready for the table. They yield tasty meat…and duck fat – for cooking delectable potatoes like a French cook.
Designed by Dr Paul Olivier, the BioPod is used to grow black soldier fly larvae. It accommodates the self-harvesting behaviour of the larvae in that, when they are mature, they climb up the ramp and drop into the collection chamber…and then down the throats of our chickens.
Once the BSF larvae have eaten the food waste in a BioPod, the ‘larvicast’ is transferred to our worm farm. It still retains 50% of its original protein level so it’s good for worms who then transform it into castings…another great example of the value-adding that WTF delivers.
This is the sort of bounty that is possible when you feed animal manure or spoiled food (Type 2) waste to BSF larvae. It’s also the gateway to cheaper food for your pigs, poultry and waterfowl and, eventually, to worms and worm castings. BSF larvae are the best way to mitigate against odours emanating from your livestock and their manure…because when you feed manure to BSF there is no odour.
Their voracious appetite for livestock manure and other Type 2 organic wastes…and the quality animal protein that they yield…means that black soldier fly larvae are a ‘must have’ for serious waste transformation farmers. They are the favourite food of chickens.
Kangkong – excellent stir-fried and a fast-growing forage plant.
Freshly dug potatoes are food fit for a prince. We start stealing ours out of the beds while they are still quite small. Fresh baby potatoes with butter are food fit for a king.
We grow plenty of strawberries like this one. Most of them, however, never make it to the kitchen…falling prey to human predators.
Waste transformation often delivers unplanned bounty…like these pumpkins. Hundreds of them grew on the effluent that resulted from cleaning the filters on our aquaculture systems.
We planted bottle gourds on trellises across the front of the house for craft supplies – and passive climate control.
This is a Neem tree…now about three years old. Natural insecticides are made from the leaves…something we have yet to experiment with. A friend in the US has successfully used Neem oil to discourage root knot nematodes.
Gourds come in lots of different shapes and sizes. While they can be eaten when very young, we grow ours out to this stage…for use in gourd art.
We grow luffa – a vine that yields large pods that contain a fibrous ‘skeleton’ that can be used for many things including biological filters and skin exfoliants.
This is a cross-sectional view of a luffa. Cut into 50mm lengths, these make great biofilter media and dish scrubbers and exfoliate dead skin cells.
The Moringa is known in various parts as the ‘Miracle Tree’ – because just about every part of the tree is used for something. It grows rapidly and the foliage is valued by cooks for its nutritional value. It’s also a valuable livestock forage.
Clumping bamboo is a very useful plant. It provides fuel wood, trellis poles and copious quantities of forage and trash for mulch and soil-making.
We harvest bamboo trash and chop it into small pieces for use as mulch and as an ingredient in our homegrown soil.
This is the means by which we harvest grass, weeds, bamboo trash and any other similar Type 3 waste. We reduce the particle size so that it can serve as deep litter in our chicken tractor and eventually become part of our soil enrichment process.
Perennial Peanut – excellent forage and ground cover
Flowforms are used to stir air into water and play an important part in bio-remediating effluent ponds. The movement of the water as it makes its way down the flowforms is quite hypnotic and calms the spirit.
This is our existing worm farm…a re-purposed quail pen. We grow worms to produce vermicast (held sacred by organic gardeners) from cardboard and the pre-digested contents of the BSF BioPod.
We fenced a 6m x 6m corner at the back of our block…at the lowest point…that we use as a soil pit. We excavated it to a depth of about 750mm and filled the hole with chipped tree waste. Our chicken tractor adjoins this space and the bedding from that gravitates out into the soil pit. We throw coarse plant residues into the pit, too. The chickens are released into this pit during the day so the pit is being continuously manured and dug over by the chickens. This compost forms the basis for our homemade growing soil.
The ubiquitous blue barrel is a frequent feature of small waste transformation farms. They can be used as planters, wicking beds, filter modules, feed fermenters, water storage…and all manner of other things.
Waste cardboard is to be had almost everywhere. We use it as a weedproofing cover for our wicking beds – during rest periods…and, smeared with the contents of the BioPod, it becomes a very good worm bedding/food.
We produce our own biochar using this small top loading updraft gasifier. We’re currently fuelling it with wood pellets (horse bedding) but farming waste like rice hulls and nutshells can also be used. While we pay money for the wood pellets, we add value to the pellets by burning them and we get high-grade heat and biochar in return. The biochar, if we sold it, would be worth much more than the original pellets…plus we get to cook and heat water for free.
High-grade heat is a byproduct of using this small gasifier to make biochar. This ‘waste’ heat is used for coooking, space and water heating, coffee roasting, and food drying.
Inoculated biochar is highly regarded as a soil supplement. The specific surface area of biochar is such that it can accommodate billions of soil micro-organisms in a spoonful.