The Root Center is a non-profit project in Vermont that’s building the solar-heated, aquaponic ‘Garden of the Future’. Its mission is to bring about the “easement of the basic stressors of human life (providing food, water, shelter, energy and community) through the intelligent application of simple technologies.” And that means taking gardening to the next level — armed with only fish food and seedlings, the Root Center can grow produce and raise fish year-round.
But first, the blueprint: The Root Center has laid out a three-step plan for bringing radically sustainable gardening practices mainstream. The first stage of their plan was to use a total of eight backyard sites spread over seven cities (1/10th of an acre in total) to grow nearly 3000 lbs of fruits and vegetables — achieving this impressive feat is how the center obtained its initial funding. The group is now transitioning into the 2nd stage of the plan by leasing a single plot of land. TRC hopes to spread its ideas to other communities, and eventually, by the end of the 3rd stage, the international community.
Along with the backyard sites (which it will continue to maintain), the Root Center is now leasing half an acre from The National Gardening Association, in Vermont Garden Park. The plan is to build a passive solar heated domed greenhouse, about 45 feet in diameter, which will house the team’s working spaces while sustaining a year-round fish pond and creating a thriving natural habitat. And this is where things get interesting.
Water containing fish waste will be cycled up to planters stacked within the dome which will use the waste as food; the water comes back clean to the fish pond, where bacteria self-regulate pH. This self-sustaining system will produce fruit, vegetables, flowers and fish on a year-round basis — and it will be the continent’s first organic fish farm to boot. The only inputs into the entire system are fish food and seedlings — the aquaponic garden essentially transforms that fish food into fresh produce.
All this will allow the center to supply even more fresh organic food to local food banks and schools — their target population is families with kids under the age of 16, the most needy demographic.
To power the operation, passive solar technology will be used in concert with vertical axis windmills – these types of turbines, created by engineer and board member David Allard, don’t interfere with the view while supplying increased amounts of energy.
Finally, the structure is designed to become an educational center, providing outreach programs which will teach green building techniques, nutrition and alternative energy. This hands-on learning center will empower the community through its clean and cost-efficient energy practices while helping those who need it most; by doing so, it will “meet the basic needs of humanity so individuals can focus on maximizing their full human potential”.
The Root Center plans to use all its waste to produce even more sustainable energy. Its backers see the possibility for expanding the center, and bringing the idea into new communities around the world. The hugely ambitious project may indeed turn out to be the next evolution in farming — it not only might we efficiently produce large quantities of a diverse range of foods with extraordinarily small inputs, but it can weather harsh conditions around the world. It could indeed turn out to be a model for sustainable farming the world over. A more thoroughly Utopianist project would be hard to imagine.
Follow the Root Center’s Youtube channel for videos and updates on their progress.
All images: The Root Center