March 3, 2018


We've long understood that sustainable development has to go with the flow, not against it. One result is that we work on various projects when the right people and sufficient resources come together, rather than on some arbitrary schedule. The construction of our third aquaponics system is a good example.

Our first system (barrelponics) held 250 gallons of water that served about 30 square feet of grow space. We learned a lot from that system, and used what we'd learned to create our second system (duckponics) which held 1,200 gallons of water and served about 160 square feet of outdoor growing space.

We've taken what we've learned and are currently converting a 24' long insulated shipping container into the Pearl which will be our flagship aquaponics system. Below the walk-in freezer, there will be a 3,000 gallon fish tank that will nourish 400 square feet of heated, moist horizontal grow space for tomatoes and peppers, and 200 square feet of vertical grow space for strawberries.

The Pearl awaits a southern wall

Windward gets its moisture over the winter, so spring crops such as potatoes, garlic and saffron do well outside, but the dry season starts in July and quickly limits our ability to grow garden crops without supplemental water. Last year we completed work on a solar powered water system that delivers a thousand gallons a day to the garden for us to work with, but even with some irrigation, crops like tomatoes and strawberries don't do well in dry environments. We're looking forward to having a humid grow space for those crops in late summer and early fall. That should greatly increase our overall productivity.

The Pearl will also allow us to integrate another key system: black soldier flies. We'll be growing BSFs to convert all sorts of waste into fish food, and the Pearl will offer them an ideal breeding environment. The adult flies don't have a mouth, so without a protective space they quickly dehydrate and die before getting a chance to mate and lay their eggs.

Half the glass panels await delivery to the Pearl

Recently, one of our long-term supporters came across seventy-four double-pane, tempered-glass greenhouse panels at an estate sale, and he was able to talk them into donating them to Windward. It took two days to haul the three tons of glass home, but it was time we gladly invested.

The panels are made out of 1/4" sheets of tempered glass, with a 1/2" inch of space between the panes. They're 18" wide and 68" long, so that will be more than enough to create a southern wall that's 24' long and 16' high. That will let in a lot of light and heat to grow our plants and keep our fish warm.

Storing the panels under the shipping continer

I'm especially delighted in that otherwise, these incredible panels would have most likely ended up in the landfill. A key part of Windward's ability to grow and create comes from our ability to transform what otherwise would be waste into a productive resource.

So now we know what one of our primary construction projects will be this summer--building the framework for the Pearl's southern wall. It will involve forming up 48 linear feet of concrete stem wall, and lots of carpentry. If learning how to do that sort of work is of interest to you, let us know.