Midwest Permaculture

Leaving the planet in better condition than we found it.

What about combining the benefits of installing a downdraft wood gasifier into a permaculture greenhouse to run in the mornings and evenings to generate light and heat?  Would we not be using the summer sunlight stored in woody material to grow food all winter long in the temperate climate zones?

What is motivating me to pursue a permaculture greenhouse design is the vision of possibly creating a unit that would allow a family in the suburbs or city to grow the most commonly used vegetables 52 weeks a year for themselves and some of their neighbors in a small, well made permaculture greenhouse. If an individual or family could provide 12 of the most commonly eaten vegetables (cucumber, radish, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, tomato, etc...) to 20 of their neighbors as a CSA, charging them $50 a week, that would come to $1,000 a week.

The system could be well insulated with a massive heat-storage capacity using various forms of thermal mass. The necessary additional heat and lighting in the winter months could be supplied from a downdraft wood gasification unit and even large compost piles.

Jean Pain's 18 month woodchip compost pile and methane production. Part 1 and 2

Our friends up at Sustain Jefferson (Wisconsin) and their first operational wood gasifier.

Plans from FEMA for Building a Downdraft Wood Gasification Unit 

And when a downdraft wood gasifier is cleaned out there is a generous amount of biochar left behind.  What could we so this this biochar?
Article on Terra Preta (.pdf)

The bottom-line to this food production system in the temperate climate zone is that all heating and lighting could be theoretically provided by sunlight in the form of biomass (ie. wood chips) or direct radiation. Traditional farms could be replaced with food forests producing abundant food crops and the excess biomass, as the systems mature, could be harvested and converted to wood chips and methane gas.

Our farms would then be building topsoil instead of losing it while storing CO2 into the soil and plants (helping to minimize global warming).

What's not to like?

Here are some fun photos of woodgas autos used in the past.

Bill Wilson (Updated...May 2012)

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Replies to This Discussion

Bill here is a good example of an urban greenhouse functioning as both CSA and UW Extension demo site. Nicole Jain Capizzi teaches adults about small scale urban food production through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee County Cooperative Extension. She now has a blogsite called The Hungry Gardener at www.jsonline.com/blogs/digin.
She has a 1/4 acre yard site in Wauwatosa Wisconsin with a 20 by 40m foot poly covered hoophouse. She has a degree in ecological horticulture from the Center For Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems in Santa Cruz, CA.
I have met Greg David (and actually seen the gasifier in action), and I know that Rob Frost is a member of the Madison Permaculture Guild. These guys are doing good work in Jefferson County. They care deeply about leaving things better for our children. They rely heavily on the 4 Natural Step System Conditions in their work (not to increase crud in the earths' atmosphere, not to mine more stuff, not to physically degrade the earth, and to share the resources for all to benefit).
What an ingenious idea. It is simple technologies like these that need to be implemented on a wide scale. I guess it's all about educating the public and instilling the belief that we can do it in our own backyard! It would be great if the government could incorporate this as part of their green energy plan but their time-lines are too long in my opinion. But that's government. With a little education and savings I believe this can be done in every backyard to save on energy and reduce our carbon foot print while giving back to the earth. Just brilliant! Thank you for the post and all the little extra goodies that came with it.
Bill what size would you need to build this to feed the 20 or so people?
Hi Adam...

I don't really know that answer. This greenhouse idea is still conceptual I believe. I don't know of anyone who has done something simmilar, especially with a downdraft wood gasification unit.

Midwest permaculture would help support anyone who wanted to undertake such a project with publicity and as a result, there might be others who would help fund the prototype and research.

This is the project I would personnally put my time into if I wasn't already working 60 hours/week on Midwest Permaculture (our business is still relatively young), but visibility is something that we can offer.

Best... Bill


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