Research and development of sustainable farming systems for education, jobs and food security.
Algosolar, LLC, dba Bioponica™ was established in 2010 when David Epstein, D.O. and Kenneth Lovell P.E. got together to and decided to implement a system that Dr. Epstein conceptualized would grow food entirely from site-derived resources.
The two form a well rounded association, with each bringing a unique set of skills to the team. Epstein is a holistic Osteopthic physician who founded and operated a distribution company, Earth Solutions, for 15 years including the design, branding, packaging and sales of products that provide alternatives choices for health and wellbeing. Lovell is a veteran professional engineer with expertise in soil, wastewater management and bioremediation. He also has managed a hydroponic tomato farm and currently along with his wife maintains a 10,000 square foot garden in Grant Park from which they produce and preserve an abundance of food year after year.
The goal of their efforts was to advance the technology of hydroponics and aquaponics into an arena more specifically described as ‘bioponics’. This intention came about when the two were challenged with raising tomatoes with aquaponics on a commercial scale. The client they were consulting for was a pizza franchise in Atlanta seeking to improve the quality if its tomatoes. What they discovered was that aquaponics, while sufficient for leaf greens and light feeding plants, was not enough to fully support the growth of tomatoes and other heavy feeding plants.
Other experts in this field, namely James Rakocy, PhD and Nick Savidov, PhD, claim there is little if any successful commercial production of tomatoes and other heavy feeding plants using fish urine as a the exclusive source of nutrients. While it is conceivable that aquaponic could support such growth it requires supplementation with phosphorus and minerals. Both Rakocy’s and Savidov’s opinions are that if fish poop could be further decomposed then aquaponics could come closer to providing the necessary factors without the addition of nutrients.
There are others who use a hybrid of hydroponics and aquaponics to achieve this but that means they rely on chemical fertilizers. The breakdown of fish poop through biological and mechanical nitrification has been explored through aerobic digester bags but the energy and labor requirements may push the system beyond reasonable levels. The ebb and flow, soil-less beds of aquaponics facilitate this to some degree as these “fluidized bed bioreactors” harbor nitrifying bacteria. But the breakdown has not proven fully adequate for commercially reliable tomatoes.
The deficiency of nutrients in aquaponics was a challenge for Epstein and Lovell. To resolve this it became necessary to create a system that would either further decompose fish poop, which contains much of the missing minerals or find other site-derived supplements. It was the other sources of phosphate, minerals and growth factors that caught their interest. The end result turned out to be more than an organic, locally produced fertilizer. In fact, it may indeed turn out to be a revolution in food production. Cycling nutrients, creating a food web and building a perpetual fertility machine that supports fish and plants sustainably.