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Fanatic Inspiration #4 – ‘The Plant’ – 93,000SF of Net Zero Growing!


The Plant - ExteriorIt’s always exciting when people put their creativity to good use and take something that’s been tossed aside and turned into something quite remarkable. In this case it comes in the form of a former meat packing plant in an industrialized area of Chicago that is undergoing a major conversion. The goal by 2015 is to have an entirely off the grid food production/processing facility incorporating aquaponics and underground farming; a brewery; a local food business incubator and outdoor growing spaces will also be part of its design.

The Plant - DiagramSome highlights of note about this fantastic project:

  • The Plant will create 125 jobs in Chicago’s economically distressed Back of the Yards neighborhood
  • Divert over 10,000 tons of food waste from landfills each year to meet all of its heat and power needs via an Anaerobic Digester, which produces methane through organic material breakdown in an area with no oxygen, is to be integrated into the setup that will help provide both power and heat for the grow areas, brewery and kitchen (roughly 400kWh by consuming roughly 27 tons of food waste a day by their estimates)
  • It will have artisanal food businesses, including a beer brewery, a bakery, a kombucha (fermented tea) brewery, a mushroom farm, and a shared kitchen
  • Plans to host seminars for sustainability professionals, college students, schoolchildren, and the public to learn about a wide range of topics, from energy and efficiency in buildings to obesity to growing techniques
  • Operates under a what’s called a social enterprise model – meaning there is a non-profit and for-profit side, but both are aimed at socially and environmentally responsible goals

Obviously this is NOT a small project. A great deal of thought has gone into putting this plan into action. The Plant’s founders have already secured $1.5 million in grant money from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to get their project off the ground. They’ve even had a recent visit from Chicago’s Mayor.

To get a better understanding of the system they plan on using, a fantastic video was created to help make it simple to understand..

If you are ever out Chicago way, you should pay them a visit and see first hand the incredible amount of good ideas being brought to life!

The Plant

Urban Farm Fanatic Item #2 – Aquaponics Greenhouse… The Build Continues!


Well, the opportunity to finally get down to the fun part of building the greenhouse, i.e… actually building the greenhouse has come! No bushes to dig out, no irrigation to dig around for, no screening out river rocks. Just fun old, “Break out the power tools and grunt like Tim the Toolman Taylor building!!!” Arrrrghhh arrrgh aaahhhh!!! 🙂

Originally my thought was to just start adding in a few images as the build progressed, but by the end of the day I had realized that I had been quite the camera bug.. and so putting together just a few still frames wasn’t going to do this build the justice it deserved. After all, you plan a project for months, you need to give it the full blogging treatment. So, I decided to dust off what little knowledge I have about video editing and put together a nice little clip of the days progress… and yes, this all occurred in just one day! (The magic of the hoop house build.) All together about 8 hours of work.

After completing the first days work, I’d have to say the hardest part of the initial build was the 2x4x6 foundation. I was wanting that to be as level as I could get it, but realized that the ground was in no way level for my needs. I pre-drilled holes for each of the pieces on my back porch which I knew to be level, then moved them into the yard for assembly (the greenhouse’s dimensions are 12×40). I used scrap blocks to add support to the low lying areas. Followed that up with the sledgehammering of the 3 foot re-bar pieces (drove those half way into the ground.. my right hand is dead by the way from swinging an 8 pound sledgehammer).

As for the easiest part, that would be the assembling and installation of the PVC supports. Got a nice little 45 degree joint to mount the two 10 foot sections together, slid one end over the re-bar on one side, then bent and slid it over on the opposing side. That part took all of 20 minutes to complete the entire hoop!

Next weekend I will be receiving a large order of rock that will be applied to the foundation. The plan was to do that anyway and I thought it better to work with the rock in order to achieve a level base rather than trying to dig up the surrounding dirt and raking that around. But as I said.. next weekend.. right now the old bod is ridiculously sore, so I’m going to be giving it a breather before I put it back to work!

Enjoy the video!!! 🙂

Fanatic Inspiration #3..


If ever you need ideas, the webs just a click away 🙂