“We get so much from each of the projects we’re involved in and meet some amazing people – I guess the best part of my job is seeing the transformation of the land we work with to produce healthy and happy plants that in turn contribute to improving and contributing to the environment around them.” Bob, WaterUps
PA’s Kym chats with Bob from WaterUps about waterwise growing & community permaculture projects.
1. Tell us about the team behind WaterUps and your involvement in permaculture?
Each member of the WaterUps team brings their own skills and passion for nature and sustainability. Several have completed permaculture-based courses and locally we’re members and regular contributors to projects run by Permaculture Sydney North and Permaculture Northern Beaches. One of our staff’s family are practicing regenerative agriculture at their farm in the Southern Highlands, another is doing a part time Horticulture course at TAFE whilst another is working towards creating a Permaculture based property in Byron.
2. How does your product/company relate to some of the permaculture principles and ethics?
Our product and the results they help achieve “tick” pretty much all of the ethics and principles. We didn’t “invent” wicking, rather, we use the natural capillary action of soil and water (Observe and interact) to help grow plants sustainably. Growing food is a great way to help catch and store the energy of our sun. Obtaining a yield is a key component of how and why our product is used. As I look at each of the principles and ethics there is alignment to what our product does and how we run our business – that’s not surprising as one of the product inventors was on the first Permaculture Northern Beaches committee.
3. Sounds like WaterUps has supported some great community projects over the years which is fantastic. Tell me about some of your favourite projects & why your team gets involved with these?
Gosh! There have been some great projects and new ones come every day. I guess I have a soft spot for the West Pymble Community Garden as this was our very first community food growing project and it was great to help turn a dusty block of land in to a hub where people meet to grow food. More recently, working with Sophie Thomson to support a Community Food Growing garden on Kangaroo Island after the horrendous bush fires “killed” the soil was a special project.
We’re very excited to be working with a number of Urban Agriculture projects to help grow food sustainably for local community (and also teach them how to do it!).At this working bee at the Naremburn Community Garden, WaterUps staff worked with local volunteers to remove an old defunct and rotting timber bed and helped replace it with a new raised bed giving around 4m2 of growing space for locals to grow food (before and after pictured left)
At the Hawkesbury Valley Permaculture Community Garden near Richmond the team worked with local volunteers earlier in the year to help turn a barren waste land in to a thriving community food growing hub with over 100m2 of wicking bed gardens providing the irrigation solution (pictured left).
We get so much from each of the projects we’re involved in and meet some amazing people – I guess the best part of my job is seeing the transformation of the land we work with to produce healthy and happy plants that in turn contribute to improving and contributing to the environment around them.
4. What are some of the biggest challenges you see being faced at present in the community/globe – and how can permaculture & sustainable living support these?
There are people far more skilled and knowledgeable than me that can answer this but from my perspective drought and climate management are then key challenges to be addressed and managed. Whilst focus is rightly on government and large business, I’m also a big believer in the power of a little bit done by a lot of people can also amalgamate to deliver significant change. Waterwise practise, lowering our carbon footprint by growing some of our own food, using less throw away packaging in our homes… the list goes on as to how individuals can really help contribute to positive and meaningful changes.
5. Why should folks consider wicking beds?
Water wicking as an irrigation method for growing food and plants is a proven and effective way to combat water waste and in time of drought and increasing water use restrictions provides a reliable, low-tech and sustainable watering solution for an increasing number of gardeners and growers. There are many designs available in print and on-line to help people build wicking beds. However, a significant number of these designs rely on sand or scoria/gravel like products to wick the water. As much has been written about the environmental impact of gravel mining and river dredging for sand it’s great to see an Australian made wicking product doing so well that uses neither of these resources and instead makes use of waste plastic by re-purposing it for something useful. The WaterUps From Down Under wicking products are made from re-cycled plastic and can reduce water needs by up to 80% – a recent order from a commercial tomato grower in Austin Texas in the US diverted over 5,500kg of plastic from landfill and will save an estimated 3.5m litres of water in the first year of operations! Most gardens can often be left several weeks without the need for the beds to have additional water added so they are also very popular for gardens that might not be able to be tended to on a regular basis.
6. Anything else you’d like to share?
WaterUps are able to help with advice on designing and building new gardens and also supply a number of how to guides on retro-fitting existing growing spaces to help save water and the time needed to keep gardens happy and healthy.
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