A winning vision to feed to world

Andrew Bodlovich with a prototype of the Ecocity Farm, which is designed to feed urban populations.

The New Inventors judge Allison Page tries out Monika Boenigks award-winning birthing system.

Quarter-acre city gardens teeming with fresh fruit and vegetables dotted every few miles throughout urban areas across the globe. Nearby residents walk from their home to the farm and purchase what food they need for their families. No transport costs, no refrigeration or storage costs, and no extra labour costs on top of what the farmers are paid to grow and tend the food.

This is the ultimate vision of Nimbins Andrew Bodlovich and Goolmangars Hogan Gleeson, who last night won the ABC TVs The New Inventors program for their Ecocity Farm concept.

Andrew and Hogan were also named Northern Rivers Inventor of the Year at the INR Technology & Innovations Awards in Lismore last week, giving them both renewed enthusiasm that their dream for the future can indeed come true.

The grand vision is to see an Ecocity Farm in every city and every neighbourhood all over the world, said Andrew. It would bring food production back to local areas and it would mean were not transporting food 2000 miles or more to feed people. Only around 10 per cent of energy embodied in our food is actually used for growing around 90 per cent is in transportation, storage and packaging. The Ecocity Farms would cut out most of that 90 per cent.

Andrew and Hogan, who together run Urban Ecological Systems, will gain plenty of media exposure thanks to their The New Inventors win. They will also get a financial boost from the INR Technology & Innovations Awards, receiving $5000 from award sponsors (the NSW Department of State and Regional Development and AusIndustry) to further their design. They also get $5000 worth of business planning advice from WHK Rutherfords.

Andrew and Hogans revolutionary idea, inspired by the principles of permaculture, would create enough food from a quarter-acre block to fulfill a significant part of the daily diet of 300 families. The market-garden style farms would use aquaponics, where the nutrients from water inhabited by fish is used to feed plants. This in turn means peoples protein needs can be met by eating the fish. The concept can be adapted to different climates and would work in all but the coldest of conditions.

A small prototype has been established at Rivendell Village near Nimbin, a new settlement based on the latest and greenest technologies. The next step is to build a commercial-scale system, iron out any bugs and begin rolling out the concept across the nation, and then the world.

Andrew and Hogan are keenly aware that to make the idea a reality, it has to be profitable.

We realised a few things had to happen... to produce an incredible amount of food in a very small space; to do it without using toxic chemicals because people dont want that in an urban area; and to ensure there was minimal wastage as councils wouldnt want a lot of waste or sludge dumped into their drainage systems, said Andrew. This all came together piece by piece and at times painfully. It has been a hard slog, but these awards have given us a new injection of energy. The public and governments are becoming aware that we have to take action to reduce our impact on the environment and our ecosystems. People are sitting up and paying attention, which is good news.

George Lewin, the inventor of the Triton Work Bench, had high praise for the Ecocity Farm idea.

Nothing can move mountains more than a man with an innovative idea, said Mr Lewin, and the time is ripe for Andrew and Hogans invention.

The Ecocity Farm concept is just one of many clever local ideas and gadgets that are attracting attention.

While perusing the inventions at the INR Technology & Innovations Awards last week, The New Inventors judge Allison Page was impressed by Monika Boenigks birthing system, admitting she was getting more than a bit clucky.

I think its just a fantastic invention and I wouldnt mind trying it out for real, said Allison.

Monika, from Stoney Chute, received a Smart Inventor Merit Award for her Birthrite system and said she hoped the award would increase awareness that birth is a natural event, not a medical procedure, and is best done in an upright position.

Birth is simple and we dont need to make it more complicated than it is, said Monika, who has birthed 1200 babies in her 20 years as a midwife.

Monikas holistic approach to birth inspired the invention, which she researched and developed over several years, using her own funds.

The lightweight fibreglass system comprises a birthing seat, backrest support, midwife seat, equipment table, tri-positional mirror, large floor mat and kneeling pad.

Monikas recent exposure on the ABCs The New Inventors has seen interest in the Birthrite increase, and she said once obstetricians start to give it the thumbs up, orders will really start to roll in.

I can already feel the pendulum starting to swing, said Monika of womens desire to take control of their birthing options and go for a natural, upright position. A lot of women are starting to think that all this intervention and lying down in beds just isnt right.

Ballinas Glenn Lapham also received a Smart Inventor Merit Award for developing a lightweight, portable post rammer, drilling rig and lifting device that is the smallest of its kind in the world.

Were just a bunch of local guys who build things, said Glenn of his team, and I hope to use this win to get my invention out there into the market because my marketing skills are pretty pathetic.

If you think youve got a great idea and would like to enter next years awards, phone Invest Northern Rivers on 6622 4011.

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