I'm Nate Ayers, a permaculture researcher and educator in Ann Arbor and Detroit. Permaculture is a design system based on bio-mimicry, appropriate technology, and renewable energy. With permaculture, we can transition our neighborhoods and communities to sustainable food and energy production, without using fossil fuels. I am lucky, because I get to teach people solutions to many of our world's problems, and this makes people hopeful and inspired. In permaculture design, there is the concept of "stacking functions". This is based on observing how nature works, and that nature likes to use a lot of different plants and animals working together to create eco-system balance and resilience. Using those same principles, I have designed a food and energy production system that will solve a lot of the problems found in our communities, namely, access to healthy organic food, clean energy production, and the American obesity epidemic.
My design, called the "pedal powered vegetable grow rack", is an example of closed loop, whole systems permaculture design. It works like this:
1. An individual pedals a stationary bike, which is hooked up to a small generator. The person gets valuable exercise, while at the same time, the generator produces valuable electricity.
2. That electricity is stored in a battery, and then used to power super efficient, LED grow lights. These lights are really great (they were developed by NASA). They allow vegetables like lettuce, kale, chard, herbs, peppers, tomatoes and spinach to be grown indoors, in a small space.
3. The Individual eats the vegetables, getting healthy vitamins and energy, which then allows them to return to step 1 the next day.
This is a closed loop design system, where the output of one element, becomes the input of another (stacking functions). Here is a prototype that I developed:
The best part about having the money to properly make my design, is that I would get to use it while teaching permaculture to K-12 kids. This type of design would get kids really excited about science, making their own food and energy, and taking care of their health. It would also allow me to teach all kinds of people how to make their own vegetable grow racks, further increasing the locally produced food and energy supply.
Thanks for considering my project, I hope you think its Awesome!
Funded by Ann Arbor, MI (December 2011)