From the category archives:



The Green Machine at Jasper Hill Farm combines compost heat recovery, anaerobic digestion, biological waste water filtration, grey water, and food production in one of the most highly integrated and unique waste to energy to food systems in the world. As a Highfields’ Lead Designer on the project, we focused on the composting and heat recovery portions of the system. The compost heat recovery system we chose was developed by Agrilab Technologies and utilized a technique in composting called Aerated Static Pile (ASP) composting. Heat is pulled from the composting dairy manure through a system of ductwork by a high powered blower, providing fresh oxygen to microbes simultaneously. This hot air and vapor then passes over Agrilab’s Isobar heat exchanger, which transfers the heat into water. Compost heat that exits the hydronic Isobar heat exchanger, is then pushed through this planter bed (right), which filters the exhaust. Acting as a secondary heat recovery system, a planted “biofilter” supplies both additional heat and CO2 to the greenhouse. The heated water created by the primary heat exchanger is then used to heat an anaerobic digester, which produces methane, and the heated liquid in the digester (digestate) then passes through the wastewater filtration system in the greenhouse, providing thermal energy to the green house. Finally, the filtered grey water is used to drip irrigate an orchard and vegetables are grown in the extra spaces in the greenhouse which are plentiful. Visit Jasper Hill Farm and The Green Machine.

Compost heat the exits the hydronic Isobar heat exchanger, is then pushed through this planter bed (right), which filters the exhaust. This secondary heat recovery system adds supplies both additional heat and CO2 to the greenhouse.

IMG_0777CJH Green Machine 20120820 - 0022 IMG_0276IMG_0273process diagram_4-12-11IMG_0339


Installing Irrigation

SOS stands for Sato’s Sustainable and Organic Farms and they are just that. Yuichi and Kelly Sato (Left) are wholeheartedly devoted to redefining what many people understand as “local” when it comes to food production.

Through their Eat Local Service (ELS) they have tapped into the locavore movement, evolving the Community Supported Agriculture model to create an online farm stand and local food delivery service, which is order and pay as you go. No more turnips if you don’t want them!

Georgia O'Keefe 2

A large part of what sets SOS farms apart from other farms that may claim sustainable approaches is that they divert foods wastes from local food producers and convert it directly back into food through their use of a rotational chicken system on their farm. Old bread, GMO free soy by-product from tofu, and local fish scraps from restaurants give there laying hens a rich and diverse diet, while the chickens do the work of fertilizing, weeding, and tilling the soil for future generations of nutrient rich vegetable and fruit crops.

Feeding Chickenschicken spa 2 (top cut off)

I consulted with the Sato’s as they developed their plans for converting an acre of old guava plantation into what has become their livelihood. In May we installed the fences and irrigation and this summer they have been working the land, tending the chickens (now over 100 strong), and launching the pilot ELS program for a limited number of clients in Kilauea and Princeville, as well as selling at local farmers markets.

The details of the collaboratively developed farm design and management plan include gravity fed irrigation with an innovative low-pressure Japanese tubing (Sumisansui®) that covers a 20 ft. width and any desired length with a fine laser-precision mist.

The design below shows how their chickens are rotated from one 8000 square foot plot to the next on a quarterly cycle around the  chicken coop which is located in the center. Fed with food scraps and lots of love (above – Yuichi cutting up fish for chickens) the Sato’s use no other fertilizers, just calcitic lime from the Big Island, and have very little need to till. Opposite the chickens, vegetables and cover crops are rotated quarterly around the plots. Soon they will begin planting white clover after the chickens clear to create permanent nitrogen fixing pathways which will be mowed/harvested with a bagging mower. This can be added to compost and for use as a green manure mulch. In time this farm is designed to become self sufficient and low maintenance, much like a perennial system would be. Visit their website at

SOS Farm Design

Jaeb’s Food Forest, Kilauea HI

May, 2009

While working for Sustainable Design, LLC. and with Co-Permaculture Designer Gary Seals (Sol Systems, LLC.), I led our crew in the planting of this one-acre food forest. The site started as a compacted sod, devoid of topsoil due to decades of commercial sugar cane and pineapple farming. Cover-cropping, chicken tractors, composting, ground covers, and extensive sheet mulching were used […]

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Merkin Vineyards, Verde Valley AZ

May, 2005

Working for Permaculture Designer Andrew Millison, I spent one year building this old world inspired wine vineyard. Below are the finished terraces just after planting. Visit their website for more recent pictures and check out the trailers for Maynard James Keenan and Eric Glomski’s new movie Blood Into Wine on wine making in Arizona.

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Wellwater Wall, Worcester VT

May, 2005

In the summer of  2005, I designed and constructed a 40-foot retaining wall in Worcester, VT using rock found at the site and from a nearby quarry. The design included drainage features, integrated stone steps, and a stone-rimmed planting areas.

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Ecohood in Prescott Arizona

May, 2002

While I was a student at Prescott College from 2001-2005, I lived and worked in an organically forming “Eco village” coined an “ecohood”. Working with Permaculture Teacher Andrew Millison, I implemented grey water systems, passive rainwater catchment, and mixed food forest plantings. In 2005, with a $500 dollar grant from the Prescott Ripple Project I […]

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