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Atlanta Women's Shelter Starts Bioponics Farming Project

By Neil Seldman, President, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Washington, DC

The City of Refuge, (COR), was founded in 1970 to provide hope and assistance to residents of challenged neighborhoods in the middle of Atlanta. COR serves over 10,000 people annually from its 8-acre campus, including short-term transitional shelter for women and children. COR also hosts a 6th-8th grade academy for students from at-risk communities and provides a range of medical and mental health services.

COR has hired Bioponica, a local aquaponic designer-builder to install onsite a first-of-its-kind sustainable farming system. The system, funded by Kaiser Health Foundation of Georgia, will be a 20’ x 36’ square foot greenhouse, with two to three grow beds and fish tanks to raise organic vegetables simultaneously, utilizing “bioponics” a process of nutrient cycling that Bioponica have pioneered.  David Epstein, D.O. and Kenneth Lowell, P.E. founded Biponica in 2010 with the goal “to make farming, gardening and the harvest of organic food, simple and sustainable.”

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) introduced the two companies during its consulting assignment with the Atlanta mayor’s Office of Sustainability. The objective was to introduce potential partners who will advance our goal of developing “zero waste” projects. Since its first installation at the Atlanta City Park Outdoor Activity Center, (Department of Parks and Recreation), in July of 2011, Bioponica has refined their process of recycling nutrients to create fertilizer and fish with no cost and little labor, while recycling loads of pre-consumer food discards and lawn clippings.

The City of Refuge operates within an 8-acre campus where residents have full access to on-site medical and dental care, a kitchen, daycare, adult and children’s library, sports and recreational activities. Emory University assists in the development and operation of the medical and dental facilities. The COR-Bioponica project of waste recycling to support organic plants and fish will help COR reduce the costs of serving 20,000 meals per month. It will also provide hands-on jobs and skills training in the area of food and water self-sufficiency. The Bioponica grow operation will produce tilapia, crawfish and a garden variety of fresh fruit and vegetables for residents and community members.

The greenhouse and Biogarden grow beds will be owned and operated by City of Refuge. Bioponica will provide ongoing technical assistance, service and upgrade technology and management and worker training. The installation will be operational by May 2013.

For information contact:

Tony Johns, Chief Operating Officer City of Refuge

David Epstein, D.O., Manager
404-444-7121 Bioponica

[image credit: Martin Cathrae: Flickr cc]

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