Turning stormwater runoff into a resource: a new system enables homeowners to harvest and use rainwater that falls on their property
Garrett Tribble and Evan Bell have always been interested in agriculture and alternative methods of food production. The duo bonded over their love for food and creative agricultural production systems. They founded WaterFarmers Urban Agriculture in 2017 to help people “grow better”. They were motivated to form the company when they noticed the gap between “do-it-yourself” growing systems and overly sophisticated, expensive high-tech growing systems. By combining Evan’s business sense and knowledge of alternative food production systems with Garret’s horticultural and construction expertise, they began to provide agricultural infrastructure and ecological landscaping services that meet clients’ needs. Soon after establishing the company, WaterFarmers applied to Innovation Guelph’s Fuel Injection program to kickstart their business, leveraging existing contracts for shipping container greenhouses in order to access funding to grow their business and make capital investments for tools and workspace. The startup period and mentorship from Innovation Guelph helped define their vision and goal to “create better spaces to grow”.
When Garrett and Evan heard of Seeding Our Food Future (SOFF), they knew it was a great fit to support their rainwater harvesting product. The idea was to create a rainwater harvesting product that helps people turn what is otherwise a wasted resource, and an environmentally detrimental source of stormwater runoff, into something homeowners can use for irrigation of food and flower gardens. Their product, RainWaterOne, is a super-sized rain barrel that has 5-6 times the capacity of a conventional rain barrel. Compared to a standard rain barrel, RainWaterOne includes a passive overflow mechanism, an easy-to-use pump, a UV and mosquito resistant enclosure, and a pre-filter/leaf screen. These features help clean incoming water, safely store it for extended periods of time, and make it easier for people to access and use with a regular garden hose. With the help of SOFF, WaterFarmers has been able to develop their product, build a prototype, and organize partnerships and a marketing campaign to support their product launch this spring.
WaterFarmers has partnered with the City of Guelph and the University of Guelph to create a demonstration site at The Arboretum’s Nature Centre this spring. The site will feature a RainWaterOne harvesting system that collects rain from the Nature Centre roof, to be used by Arboretum staff for watering nearby gardens. The purpose is to educate the public about rainwater harvesting and to encourage homeowners to install similar systems. The City of Guelph currently offers rebate programs for both rainwater harvesting and rain gardens, with each program offering a $0.50 per litre rebate for installed rainwater harvesting and rain garden capacity, up a maximum of $2,000 per activity. The demonstration site at The Arboretum is expected to be operational in April of this year.
For Garrett and Evan, circularity is about reducing waste and finding opportunities to create new resources from what is traditionally seen as waste. Their commitment to recognizing waste as an asset extends beyond their rainwater harvesting systems; and is apparent in many of their products. Whether they are turning used shipping containers into greenhouses, old chicken coops into mushroom production facilities, or unused roof space into beautiful green roofs, WaterFarmers is working to create new value and better places to grow.
For more information about the City of Guelph’s rainwater and rain garden rebate programs, please see: guelph.ca/stormwater
Photo courtesy of WaterFarmers Urban Agriculture