Sunday, December 16, 2012

WApU Willow!

Thanks to Dan's shopping trip to Petco, I'm now in the WApU mix! Today I set up my tank and got the water cycling, so that I can add fish and plants soon. I did a 10 gallon tank with a cover [my cat loves water...], and I'll be planting some herbs. The idea is to test a different, smaller system than Dan or Kyle + Lauren have, so that we can continue to widen our research sample. This system will be small, compact, and ideal for small spaces or an introduction to aquaponics! Stay tuned for the introduction of fish and plants next week...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Winterization at Lindsey Street

In order to prepare for snow we have completed the winterization of the aquaponics system at 32 Lindsey Street. Our research will continue over the colder months with our indoor systems (WApU) and the testing of our solar panels. Beginning January 22nd, we will be working with students at the Boston Architectural College through two Gateway Initiative project teams and one advanced architecture workshop on the design of this systems greenhouse enclosure, along with other exciting sites and partners!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

WApU as Living Machine

Here's a great representation of how the WApU operates within our own home. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

WApU Update!

We've got a few changes to the fish tank and some good growth from the plant beds:
The two WApUs - Inman and Davis - allow us to test a number of aquaponics system variables such as plant productivity, aesthetics, and lighting, and water quality control from two locations at once.

Today we welcomed (3) more fish to the WApU Davis (11 total!) including an algae eating sucker. We've also got a few more aquatic top plants for varying light conditions and fish hideout.

The hops root we claimed from Alex's in-ground lot pre-freeze has sprouted. The root was submerged for about a month and found its way to the sun (and our artificial light fixtures!) - We're looking forward to it taking over the living room.

Speaking of a take-over, the mint plant has clearly become the most productive  member of our grow beds. So much so that we harvest a good third of it this weekend and plan to make some tea/use it in our juice recipes. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Nearing the End of the Season


Our 2012 Season Draws to a Close
We're now approaching the end of our growing season. With enough produce for a few more weeks of sales, we are cleaning our fields, getting our tools and supplies into sheds for the winter, and starting to plan for 2013. We had wild successes growing for market this year (see our restaurants page for a list of places to buy or eat our produce). We love growing food for markets so close to us, so connected to Boston residents. We're looking forward, in the year's to come, to expanding our markets beyond restaurants to include neighborhood grocers, farmers markets, and schools...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Congrats to Maa-Bara!

The Project Maa-Bara: Catalyzing Economic Change & Food Security by Designing Decentralized Aquaponics Production has won a 2013 SEED Award! Congrats!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Almost Aquaponics...

A Google Search of 'Nitrate Cycle' while researching your WApU yields some great late night graphical comedy... just close the loop already! Nice gradient arrows. good fishes.  

To me, The PC's investment in aquaponics and productive urban form necessitates 'design-thinking'; identifying an opportunity within an existing complex condition, visually communicating its value, and introducing responsibly it to the build environment.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The PC Presents at Feast Mass Tonight!

Hello All,

We'll be visiting The Food Project's greenhouse tonight, presenting our work and seeking donations at this season's Feast Mass! Wish us luck and considering coming this evening unless you've got other ghoulish plans!

The Food Project has built a national model of engaging young people in personal and social change through sustainable agriculture. Each year, we work with over a hundred teens andthousands of volunteers to farm on 40 acres in eastern Massachusetts in the towns and cities of Beverly, Boston, Lincoln and Lynn. 

Their focus is on identifying and transforming a new generation of leaders by placing teens in unusually responsible roles, with deeply meaningful work.

Feast Mass is a recurring dinner party that gives micro-grants to make good ideas happen. During each dinner, people present proposals for creative, community-based projects that need funding.

Everyone votes, and the winner receives a grant funded entirely from the night’s ticket sales.

Friday, October 26, 2012

WApU Davis Updates

We have completed the setup for WApU Davis with some great progress and a bit of trial and error over the past two weeks!

We doubled the system to two beds and replaced our house plants with young vegetables from the local market and even some that we saved from the Davis Community Garden.

Lauren and I added 4 more tropical fish to our system - a few gouramis and also two catfish. They are all quite happy and we have a lot of activity at all levels of the tank - though it seems we do have a bully in the group...

I purchased a larger air pump for the system so that we could include air stones in the planter beds - This has increased the amount of oxygen the plants get while they are feeding on nutrient rich water from the fish tank.

Dan and I installed some additional electrical lighting above each grow bed to insure that the plants are getting enough exposure as the days get shorter! The system seems to be responding well as you can see - mint, chard, and the lettuce seem to be doing great!

Finally, Lauren added some worms from our compost bin to each media basket. The worms assist in breaking down solid fish waste and creating more food for the plants!

Monday, October 15, 2012

City Growers Season Extension

As we continue to fundraise for the aquaponics greenhouse, PC members Bobby and Nataka are doing some great work with their City Growers plots - extending the season with hoop houses! Here's a great post from

Sunday, October 14, 2012

WApU_INMAN: The Hanging Planter System

This is the now-operational system in Inman square. The planters are made from 1L Poland Spring bottles, with baskets set in. Alligator clips allow for easy adjustment. I adapted a design found on:, a great resource for hydroponic vertical gardening.

In total this system will support 12-18 planters, with the remaining bottles supplied by teammates over this coming week. The pump, which has a 6' maximum head height, is doing the job. But an on/off cycle may be out of the picture.

Currently growing: one romaine lettuce (on top) and one cabbage.

We're beginning a new WApU page (see at top) to document the ongoing research in each location, with live feed to the data we're collecting. The page is under construction, but check back soon for more updates.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Garden Pool

This is an amazing setup of aquaponics, hydroponics, aquaculture, permaculture, and poultryculture (chickens) in a swimming pool in Phoenix:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

WApU_Davis: the PC Goes Tropical

As Dan described in a previous post, the Productive Collective is continuing aquaponics research this winter through several versions of Window Aquaponics Units (or WApUs!) in Davis Sq., Inman Sq., and Back Bay at the Boston Architectural College. Here's the latest on our most developed system.

WApU Davis uses a 'solids only' filter (as opposed to a bio or carbon filter) so that we can cultivate the naturally occurring bacteria that break down ammonia (fish waste) into nitrate plant food (nitrate).We are using a pump on a timer (15 min. on/30 min. off, 24 hours a day!) to transport the water from our fish tank to a 'flood and drain' grow bed. The nutrient rich water feeds the plants and returns clean the water!

With the WApU Davis system, we're employing mature house plants. The plants live in baskets filled with an inert clay pebble growing media so that they can be easily rotated to receive maximum sunlight.

*In this photo you can see the intake and return lines as well as the silhouette of the water line and the baskets in the grow bed.

WApU Davis uses a 20 gallon heated tank and it is currently populated with 5 tropical 'community' fish of the Platy and Swordtail varieties. Cute little buggers indeed...

The PC collects temperature, pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate data for each WApU daily. WApU Davis is currently experiencing an uptick in ammonia levels and are beginning to see nitrates form in the system after only 5 days!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


The moment we've all been waiting for has arrived: the newest member of the Productive Collective is a Ryukin Goldfish, approximately 1.5" in body length (+ another 1.5" of tail)!

The Ryukin are a Japanese variety dating from the late 18th century, from the Ryukyu Islands, between Japan and Taiwan.
Yes, he is pooping! That's what it's all about.

NAME UPDATE: As an homage to my alma mater, it's only fitting that ryukin's new name is Fumihiko Maki, the architect of two buildings at Washington Unversity's School of Architecture, the Media Lab at MIT, and writer of 'Investigations into Collective Form.'  Thanks to all who voted! there were some great write-ins:
  • fluffy
  • fishie
  • RYU (from streetfighter)
  • zangief
  • Nova (like the Lox :P)
  • ja-poon
  • woof blitzer, ruff ellison, paws cowgill :)
  • Wanda
  • Haduken

Saturday, September 29, 2012


WApU = Window Aquaponics Unit

As part of our way of learning about aquaponics systems and moving forward we all decided to construct window-units in our apartments. This is the first in a series of posts I will make showing the progress of my WApU = Window Aquaponics Unit.

One of the windows in my living room faces approximately south. I have yet to finish the shading diagram to determine exactly how many hours of sun falls on the windows, but this first image shows accumulated solar radiation between October 1 and April 30, where red is the peak (Analysis performed in DIVA for Rhino).

The red area above will be where I will construct the planters. I'm going to plant kale and maybe other leafy greens that can handle 3-6 hrs of direct sun (I hope I will get this much). For the planters I plan to revisit a project I did at University of Michigan. The project proposed a flower farm in a favela in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, to increase water retention and provide an economic opportunity for the neighborhood.

As part of that process, a colleague, Charlie Starr, and I designed a system for reusing soda bottles as hanging planters. It seems like this project could be a great way of incorporating the design research from that project into a working prototype.
So, today, Kyle and I bought the fish tank system to start the process. 
This is a 20gal (long) tank with aerator, filtration unit and pump with 10 feet of tubing to eventually feed the upper system. All three elements draw a total of 122.5W. I'll probably get a timer for at least the pump.

The system will run for a week, then we will introduce a few fish (likely goldfish for now). They will probably die. We will re-stock. Goldfish can stand cooler temperatures but if I want to introduce tropical fish I may need to add a heater. 
More to come.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

PC Shirts on the way!

Join our collective by donating $55 and we'll thank you with official PC schwag:  a t-shirt, pint glass and sticker. Yes - I said a STICKER!

Rezoning For Urban Agriculture, Boston

Just FYI to all of out followers - this is the BRA's official website regarding the working group. The last meeting was Sept. 6th and the next meeting will presumably be the first Tuesday (the 2nd) of October.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pint Glasses and Stickers Arrive!


PC pint glasses and stickers have arrived... our gift of thanks to you for donating $25 to our cause.

Remember, a $55 tax-free donation gets you a sweet Productive Collective T-Shirt, and beyond that there is some other fantastic stuff.

Check out our Support Tiers for more information on what YOU get when you help US out!

Email to send us your shipping address and t-shirt size, and expect to see these arrive by hand or by post very soon!

TED Talk: Britta Riley

More on window gardens!

Vertical Farm and Retail Store Grows Mushrooms and Herbs

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ark Fab

These folks from Georgia Tech are doing some great research on urban agriculture and as they call it, 'appropriate biotechnology'. Cool stuff.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Windowfarmers R&D-I-Y: Developing Edible Gardens For Urban Windows.
This site is the online community of windowfarmers around the world. Together, we are continually getting better at growing food in the local conditions of our own homes. We are contributing to the “green revolution” as non-experts. We call it R&D-I-Y, or Research &Develop IYourself. We use this site to collaborate on evolving designs for these vertical hydroponic systems– proposing experiments, testing techniques, and developing a shared knowledge base around the many variables involved in building and maintaining a farm inside a city apartment. Welcome!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Highlights from Toronto! pt.1

For those of you who haven't heard us mention it, Toronto just hosted the largest urban agriculture conference Canada has ever seen - THE URBAN AGRICULTURE SUMMIT. There were four days of speaking events, workshops, tours and exhibits that brought together hundreds of like-minded individuals from all over the continent.

Lauren, Marilyn and Kyle were invited to present the Productive Collective pilot project and mingle with the inspiring crowd. The conference wrapped up with a beautiful evening of organic food and drinks at the impressive Wynchwood Barns. Here's a taste of some of the fantastic people we met along the way:

Santropol Roulant is a Montreal-based not-for-profit organization founded and run by young people in the community. They bring people together across generations and cultures through our innovative meals-on-wheels service, our intergenerational activities and our volunteer programs.

Two guys from Omaha Nebraska began teaching their community about urban agriculture using a mobile truck farm, and have now set out to document urban farming initiatives all across America. They are interested in how this emerging trend is revitalizing our cities and making us more conscious of the way we eat.

The Stop is a community food center that strives to increase access to healthy food in a manner that maintains dignity, builds health and community and challenges inequality.They provide frontline services including a drop-infood bankperinatal program, community action programbake ovens and marketscommunity cookingcommunity advocacysustainable food systems education and urban agriculture. The Stop’s 'Green Barn' is a sustainable food production and education centre which houses a state-of-the-art greenhouse, food systems education programs, a sheltered garden, our Global Roots Garden, community bake oven and compost demonstration centre.

Of course, we had enough time to check out some of Toronto's architecture, waterfront redevelopment projects, markets, and FOOD!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

BUILD DAY 04: System Startup!

The system was filled with water, and the plumbing was calibrated!

This aeration bar is supporte by a commercial grade aerator below.

The syphons and the fish tank return work like a charm!

Marine grade boat battery, inverter, timer, and meter are all running on site!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Solar Power!

Today, Dan and I picked up a solar panel and two batteries with all the fixin's:

- A 100 watt Solar panel and battery courtesy of Lam Partners
- A marine grade deep charge battery
- An inverter to convert the batteries' DC power to AC
- A timer to run 4 hour of 2 hour on cycles
- A charge meter to check how much power we're getting
- A trickle charger (wall outlet battery charger) for at home or on-site charging

We've got a nice little tub for everything to sit under... it's time to fill the tanks and cycle the system!