The intersection of innovation and environmentalism

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Michael Bourne has been developing sustainable resource technologies − food sustainability being the key foundation − for many years.

If ever there was a time when our planet’s future looked bleak, that would be now. It is a well-known fact that unless drastic measures are taken without further delay, our planet will be irrevocably damaged and, consequently, the human race will be at risk of going extinct.

On the flip side, we have never been as aware of our impact on the environment as we are now. That means governments, activists, more companies and, perhaps most significantly, individuals everywhere are starting to take stock of their actions and change their ways and policies to avoid further destruction.

I have been mindful of my own impact on our environment for a long time and have spent years trying to figure out the best way to be sustainable without sacrificing the things I enjoy while ensuring the continued supply of the things that us humans will always need, especially food. This led me to investigate and research everything that had already been done, which introduced me to microfarming and aquaponics. Aquaponics is a system that combines aquaculture and hydroponics (the cultivation of plants without using soil). With this system, nothing goes to waste, since the waste produced by fish supplies the nutrients for plants that are grown hydroponically. The plants, in turn, purify the water that the fish grow in.

There are many reasons why microfarming, aquaponics and vertical farming are more eco-friendly ways of growing crops. To start with, there is greater control of the growing conditions and there’s a greater choice in the location of food production. This means that food can be grown right next to those who will eat it, thus reducing pollution caused by transportation. Now, if this is taken one step further and local organic waste is allowed back into that system, there’s an exponential mitigation of carbon impact through the reduction of food waste and food miles. This is the premise we kept in mind when coming up with the immici system, which uses organic waste fed to insects as part of the cycle when feeding the fish. This way, we created a system that is fully circular.

Our planet’s resources are finite, so it’s vital that we implement cycles in all that we do to be sustainable. If we ignore the fact that we rely on planet Earth’s life cycle, we run the risk of running out of food once the unsustainable food model breaks. Although the traditional agricultural model has existed for centuries, we must keep our minds open and admit that things need to change. So, when real solutions are available, they need to be embraced and supported.

Considering that conventional aquaponics can yield up to six times more produce per square metre than conventional agricultural farming while using between 90 and 97% less water, it is a no-brainer that this new method of farming needs to be encouraged. If we take basil as an example, immici’s first microfarm will be able to yield between 4 and 7kg per square metre which can be harvested every 28 days. This is just one of the many crops that grow faster and thrive more in the immici system than in conventional farming. By the end of the first year, if the whole crop were basil, we could produce more than 20kg per day picked only when ordered. Apart from the larger yield and better use of resources, there is no need for pesticides or fertilisers.

The system we have devised can also be used at home with smaller units. At a time when few have the luxury of owning a garden or allotment, having an ornamental aquarium which doubles as a small garden that grows fresh produce is a low-cost and effortless way to live more sustainably and healthily. The problems facing humanity and the planet we inhabit are not something people should have to think about every day. I have, but the result is something that can help us all thrive sustainably if we simply choose to care about how our food is produced and act accordingly.

With a background in science and engineering, Michael Bourne has been developing sustainable resource technologies − food sustainability being the key foundation − for many years. He is committed to delivering sustainability solutions globally. You can learn more about immici microfarm system at immici.com. You can also support the first immici microfarm on ZAAR, Malta’s leading crowdfunding platform, at zaar.com.mt

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