INTERVIEW: Eric Maundu on Turning Aquaponic Gardens into an Internet Connected Resource

by , 06/13/14

Urban Farming, Kijani Grows, Aquaponics, fish, plants, symbiosis, biomimicry, American Steel, West Oakland, oxygen, environment, environmental science, education, schools, interviews

Inhabitat: So tell me about your work here at American Steel Studios.

ERIC: I build gardens like these. This is the smallest one I’ve ever done with an aquarium on the bottom and a garden on top.

Pretty much you can use chicken poo or cow poo or any kind of waste to grow food. I used fish waste. I have rocks on top and I culture bacteria, which is what breaks down the fish waste and it turns it into plant nutrients. The plants take it, and then the water goes back to the fish when it is clean. It is a symbiotic relationship between the fish, the bacteria, and the plants with one helping one another. My only input is my food to my fish.

Inhabitat: What else can you tell me about your small gardens?

ERIC: This is the smallest garden I’ve ever built, [they] are actually going to be kits for schools. The idea is I’ll cut them all with CNC cutters, so kids will actually assemble them. I’m running a five-day program called “one school one garden” in the South of Market Street in San Francisco in about three weeks or so.

Each kid, basically, gets a wooden kit that I put together, and they do everything. In the five-day program: the first day I like to explain it doing computer editor design, so I sketch art, talk about design and actually design the gardens out of pieces. Then the next day, we put the garden together and start developing the biology and the chemistry. The third day, they actually build Bluetooth controlled electronic kits. I can build one of these from scratch and the kids can assemble them.

Inhabitat: How old are these kids?

ERIC: These are like preteens. I’ve had even really young kids before actually, about five or six. I just simplify the kits a little bit while I do all the complicated stuff and then show them what they need to do. But on the third day they will actually build the electronics from scratch. The fourth day they will actually do all the programming. And then on the fifth day it’s sort of an option day; it might be more programming or more software or more hardware. But the whole idea is, even though I do gardening, I focus more on just software and electronics.

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