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Let’s Start a Farm On Mars

Power, Water, Nutrients, and Food

Everything I do Mezzacello is geared towards learning, exploring, and growing food as efficiently as possible. A young friend calls my 21st Century Urban Farm the “Let’s Start a Farm On Mars” farm. I like that title.

Power

I start with power because it is essential. So many things for building a farm ANYWHERE need power to run tools, cook food or run pumps. Power is a critical component.

There are multiple ways to gain power. Wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, gravity batteries that use falling water, methane generators, and solar powered electrolysis systems that create hydrogen to fuel a system. Just to name a few.

I use all of these – methane and hydrogen electrolysis systems will come online this summer. They will both be integrated into the Biodome project. The project will create fresh water from waste water as well as collect dew from the atmosphere on its plastic sheathed dome.

The biodome 2.0 will also house a new methane generation system that will transform manure and kitchen scraps into methane gas. It will then store that gas under minimal pressure for use in a generator. The heat that was a disaster last year will be a benefit in version 2.0.

Water

Mezzacello recycles as much water is practical. Rainwater, and recycling waste water is done in new and novel ways. The biodome 2.0 will contain three water evaporation stills that will purify water. The outer dome will feature a dew collection system that uses vibrating actuators of the steel dome frame to shake dew off the outside skin of the biodome for collection.

All this water will be used in multiple ways. Some of it will be used to water animals, add to hydroponic growing systems, or mixed with minerals to make it drinkable. Water is a valuable resource anywhere, but especially at Mezzacello.

The ability to easily recycle and purify water makes the pond an even more useful feature. I always maintain that the addition of the pond into the ecosystems at Mezzacello makes us draught proof. I always have fresh liquid water even in the winter.

The pond at Mezzacello is 1.7m (5’8″) deep. This depth insures that fish and aquatic life can dive and avoid prey birds. This depth also insures that there is liquid water in the pond at all times.

The liner for the pond at Mezzacello

This reservoir of water is also a useful feature of sustainability. Knowing there is a THIRD backup of water is a good idea. The more diversity, the better.

Nutrients

Nutrients at Mezzacello come from a variety of sources. The top three are from compost, manure, and the soil structures themselves. I need the nutrients to support the life I am trying to grow in terms of food.

Compost is a primary nutrient resource. I create it from collecting greens and browns from all around Mezzacello. I accelerate the compost with a combination of water, beer, soda, and ammonia.

This accelerant not only makes compost in a speedy 45 days, it also produces a pre-biotic fluid. This fluid is an excellent fertilizer! I can also use this fertilizer in combination with algae from my pond and make an even healthier fertilizer.

One of the summer camp kids testing the fertility of the accelerated compost in the bioreactor.

I can then use the compost anywhere I am growing food or even plants. It improves the soil and the water drainage. It encourages micro biotic life to come up to the surface.

I also collect manure and waste materials from five species of animals and insects at Mezzacello. All of these sources of nutrient materials arrive in different ways and require differing treatment. For example chicken and duck manures are acidic and dangerous to plants fresh, whereas rabbit and algae are fine fresh.

Regardless, all manures get recycled here at Mezzacello. Either directly in the soil structures, in the compost, or as a base for liquid fertilizer, nothing goes to waste. No pun intended.

In the livestock coops and warrens, a system of underground pipes channel chicken and duck wastes to a holding tank where they naturally lose their acidity over time. The fish wastes are collected in the biofilter for drying and reuse. The rabbit, worm, and cricket wastes are immediately recycled.

Food

All of these resources are leading us to food. Food production at Mezzacello is the primary focus of all of the above resources. From power to water, to nutrients, all of it can be traced back to food in some way.

There are six primary avenues of food production on site. These include:

  1. fruits and vegetables
  2. herbs and flowers
  3. meat production
  4. egg production
  5. food-grade insects
  6. imported grains, and dairy
No cows or grains at Mezzacello!

All serve some purpose at the farm and are part of the sustainability network. And what is eaten is largely recycled back into systems that provide feedstock to compost, insects, or to the animals directly. Regardless, food is a precious resource here.

The power systems provide energy for grow lights for the hydroponics systems and energy for the bioreactor which creates compost and waters the garden beds. Power also keeps animals safe and warm, and keeps water liquid in winter. Power also automatically pulls water from the rain barrels to the central bioreactor water tank.

The water helps us obviously to grow food and produce nutrients for food. Water also provides us resources for and from the animals, fish, and insects. These in turn provide nutrients which -you guessed it! Help us grow food!

Well now I am hungry. I think I’ll go down and harvest some spinach, open a can of canned tomatoes, grab some fresh herbs and make an egg omelette. Enjoy your day and thanks for reading this!

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