Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Vertical food, circular processes, smart businesses

Recently, I've been lucky to tour two facilities in Indiana, in two very different settings.

First is the beautiful Ivy Tech culinary arts building just north of downtown Indianapolis. I took a tour with Chef Thom England, Program Coordinator at Ivy Tech Community College. This visit was in the context of our partnership on the Climate Camp, so I wasn't really prepared for the tour, I was just there to have a conversation. It was mind-blowing.

Now, I want all kids to tour the Ivy Tech facility and see with their very eyes how food can be prepared responsibly, with as low a carbon footprint as possible, as well as seeing how waste can be kept to a minimum — and save money in the process.

The Culinary Arts Program is state-of-the-art when it comes to carbon footprint reduction in terms of food processing and preparing, from how waste heat is vented to the chefs learning how to utilize every single aspect of the animal so that nothing goes to waste.

This is what really got me excited, their food composting system, what's known as waste reduction technology. Here is the Ivy Tech facility's Somat unit:

It takes all the food waste — even bones (except for beef bones) — and processes it down to almost nothing. The Somat site says an 8:1 reduction, and I believe it, after Chef Thom's tour. The end product of this process can be used as compost or whatever you want. It's a natural byproduct, produced by this amazing machine.

In fact, Chef Thom pointed out their dumpster and said they are now saving $15,000 per year in reduced trash pick up costs. A win-win!

A couple weeks later I found myself in a very different setting, a warehouse tucked away on the west side of Bloomington. There I met the creators of the Garden Tower Project, a great way to grow food vertically. Here's Colin Cudmore, showing off an early stage of the life of a Garden Tower-to-be.

Vertical gardening is the future — and really, should be the present. Units like the ones created at the GTP are perfect for that: grow food in small spaces, create excess composting materials for additional growing needs, and reduce water use anywhere from 60-90%. Now that's conservation!

This circular pipe in the middle is the vermicomposter where your table scraps and bits of otherwise-recyclables (paper, cardboard) can go to turn into fertilizer for whatever it is you're growing. Colin and crew told me the vermicomposter creates a surplus of material that you can use on your other plants and gardens.

We know that population is growing, worldwide, and we know that most people will be living in cities. They will need to know how to grow food vertically and dispose of their waste products not just responsibly but as part of a cycle that mimics nature's impeccable process.

Here's what they look like in full regalia:

Entrepreneurs like Chef Thom and his crew at Ivy Tech and Colin Cudmore and his partners at Garden Tower Project are making the right, sustainable decisions, saving and making money. In the process they're teaching us to be better earth stewards.

Go here for more on the Garden Tower Project.

Go here for more on the Culinary Arts Program at Ivy Tech, part of the Hospitality Administration.


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