Seaberry Farm – Mongolian Biodome Agriculture Initiative
Bill Mollison, the founder of Permaculture, once told me, ‘the design is only limited by the imagination of the designer’.
This project certainly stretched our imaginations.
Considering the remarkable success of ‘The Eden Project’ bio-dome in the United Kingdom, we were quite enthused to do something different as a ‘world first’ for outer Mongolia.
The client’s brief was to pioneer an example of a ‘sustainable project’ for a ‘New Mongolia’.
Its objectives: to produce and distribute locally grown organic fruits and vegetables, specialty teas, jams and fruit wines, along with a range of health and beauty products derived from Mongolia’s many berries. All this combined with a healing spa, restaurant and first-class residential accommodation.
The project would involve the construction of a 10,000m2 biodome facility. Its closed loop production system is a world-first, with a unique blending of new sciences of soil and plant microbiology, organics and polyculture systems for high yield low input production.
Only 20 per cent of the structure is above ground. The intention is to have it set into the sun side of the hill. Because it set on the edge of a natural aquifer, the year-round water temperature is about 16C. This means we can effectively use geo-thermal exchange to warm the structure during times when the outside temperature can reach -50C.
The glazing options include vacuum sealed glass to reduce heat exchange. The primary feature of the main growing room is an aquaponic pool with floating rafts, which acts as a thermal mass deep enough to be warmed by the aquifer and provide additional heat exchange. The glass roofed area of 1500m2 is an awe-inspiring design feature, as the stars of the Mongolian night sky are something to behold.
Supplemental energy is provided by the steady wind of the Mongolian plains, at 25 knots, and by the very clear days for 6 hours of direct sunlight in winter and 14 hours of direct sun in summer. At Ulan-Bator’s 49 degrees N latitude, the longest day is about 16 hours and the shortest is about 8 hours.
We use quail and rabbits to add additional warmth and additional CO2 for the growing area, and all vehicles are run on electric from power generated onsite. Composting takes place in a separate area but the heat is collected from the 65C composting stacks for additional warmth, and mushrooms enjoy the composting room climate.
The food growing areas are supplemented by LED grow lights in the 4 months of the shortest days of winter and during summer we enjoy more than 15 hours of daylight.
The clients intend to live in the building when in Mongolia and enjoy a unique lifestyle that is shared by international clientele. The project is an exciting model that could be transferred to a city centre, and include a food hall and attachment to apartments, approaching a fully ‘closed loop’ system. It can be scaled up or scaled down as the principles apply, no matter what the size.
The project is fascinating as a concept and exciting that it could actually be built.
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