The Space 200 and beyond
You may have heard of Jeff Pernell's 'Space 200'. The compact, seismic-ready, mobile aquaponic system was built last year for the University of Montana.
A few weekends ago I had the chance to meet Jeff Pernell, its' creator, in person. Since the Space 2000 Jeff has developed his business - Galactic Farms - even further.
Meet Jeff Pernell and Galactic Farms in Missoula, Montana.
Jeff is an educator who returned to the University of Montana to do continuing education credit. He wanted to create a project that used aquaponics. The Dining Services was excited to have a cutting edge, sustainable project. Jeff created a small micro-greens unit on a small budget, using scrounged and donated materials. Though the project started valuable discussions and excited students and staff, a problem with one of the donated tanks required that they tear the system down at the end of the project.
Jeff moved on to create the Space 200 for the University, which you can read more about here.
By then Jeff was hooked on aquaponics. He began to experiment with different systems at home. At the same time he realized that alternative agricultural practices would be necessary for humans to thrive in coming years. He saw a need for intense (high-efficiency, low-density) farming, and the integration of farming into urban spaces.
"What I'm hoping is - especially with indoor farming that's urban-based - that we'll let some farmland go back to being nature, or at least stop taking space from nature to create our food. With urban sprawl, humans have taken enough space. And while it may seem like there's enough space out there to take, with water issues and soil degradation, it's time to let the earth heal a little bit. And we actually have the technology now to actually come back and grow huge amount of food in urban places.
"I think what we're going to see is a big paradigm shift, where your food is grown ultra-local; not just local, but next door or in the restaurant that's serving you that food. That's my hope for the future, and that's where I'm pointing Galactic Farms."
Galactic Farms is currently a small farm. Pernell recently bought a triplex, and will be using some of the space as a urban agriculture education center with a bent towards agri-tourism.
"People know about Missoula being the 'garden city' of Montana, so they come here to see where food comes from anyway. ...I'll be able to bring people to the residence, have them stay in the bed and breakfast, eat the food that is grown locally, and then give tours of small intense gardens, both indoor and outdoor."
Jeff will have a range of gardening methods, including raised beds with sheet mulching, vermiculture, and indoor vertical hydroponics. He sees the opportunity to create a food landscape and share a new style of farming with guests.
So far, Jeff has been surprised and pleased with how his crops have performed in the experimental phase. As an urban ag forerunner, he anticipates that there will be obstacles that have never been seen before. Jeff is happy to face these obstacles; he sees it as a learning opportunity that he can pass on to others.
As a one-of-a-kind startup business, Jeff is working hard to balance his day job while putting a lot of hours towards bringing Galactic Farms to its potential. The next step is to get his 38-tower demonstration system running to start taking pre-orders. From there Jeff will expand as his demand grows, without taking loans, which means that like us Jeff Pernell will be bootstrapping his business.
It's a tough task, but Jeff has his vision to guide him, great equipment, and a whole network of farmers to share ideas and expertise. If you want the same resources behind your farm, check out our site. There you can see our equipment and meet more of our farmers.