An environmental resource for East Tennessee Businesses

June 2012 Archives

Greater Growth, founded by Joel Townsend and his wife Linda in 2009, is combining traditional aquaculture with hydroponics to create a system in which the two sustainably support each other.

Their 12,000-square-foot aquaponics greenhouse holds rows of lettuce, greens, bok choi and herbs  suspended in an insulated concrete tank through which flows a steady supply of the water and nutrients the plants need for life, reports Larisa Brass in this month's Business Journal. 

The nutrients come from tanks of fish at the other end of the greenhouse, part of a symbiotic horticultural process that is 100 percent organic, says owner Joel Townsend.

"Because we have fish and plants together it keeps us entirely honest," Townsend says. "There's nothing harmful to humans that I could put in here and not kill my fish."

The Lenoir City startup is currently selling produce at local farmers markets and will soon launch a sales effort targeting area grocers and restaurants. It will begin selling fish, likely through local fish markets, in August.

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Genera Energy plans to take on a more focused role as a biomass supply company for biofuels producers as the state of Tennessee's $70.5 million investment in the Tennessee Biofuels Initiative ends this month.

At the same time, the University of Tennessee will spin off a second company, TennEra, based on the Genera model, to pursue related opportunities to transfer university technology to the marketplace, according to Kelly Tiller, Genera president and CEO.

TennEra's general research and development focus will be on technologies and processes for biomass fractionation, or separating cellulosic biomass components and commercial application of biorefinery co-products.

Meanwhile, Genera will shift away this summer from its work with the Tennessee Biofuels Initiative to become a self-sustaining commercial venture as a biomass supply company.

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The city of Knoxville, Knox County, and the town of Farragut have joined with the Water Quality Forum to offer rainbarrels and compost bins to area residents.

Fifty-gallon rain barrels will be sold for $58 and 85-gallon compost bins will be $55.  Officials hope the discounted pricing will encourage residents to protect water quality and help reduce the waste stream to area landfills.

Saved water can be used to water vegetables, flowers and lawns or used for outdoor washing of decks and vehicles among other uses. "During a one-inch rain, more than 700 gallons of water will run off the average roof. That's enough water to take 17 baths or 58 showers," said Melinda Watson, a water quality specialist with TVA in a press release.

The rain barrel is made of 50 percent recycled plastic and is manufactured in the United States.

Pre-ordered rain barrels and compost bins will be available for pickup 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, June 16 at the West Town Mall parking lot by Morrell Road.  A few rainbarrels and compost bins will be available for sale at the event, but preordering is encouraged.

"This program is an important step in offering an inexpensive option to help our residents save money and understand the significance of water conservation and waste reduction," said Parci Gibson with the Water Quality Forum.

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Pellissippi State Community College got its first solar array this year thanks to the work of two electrical engineering classes headed by professor Ken Swayne.

Swayne's Applied Electricity class wired the six panels to an inverter located in a classroom in the McWherter Building on the Hardin Valley Campus. Then the Photovoltaics Alternative Energy class installed brackets and the solar panels on the roof of the building. 

The panels are expected to produce 324 watts of electrical energy under peak sun conditions.

"The system will be a great learning tool for our technology students," said Swayne. "I am very grateful to the college for supporting this project. I believe any contribution toward green energy production and training is a plus for Pellissippi State and the Knoxville community."

The college has previously installed electric vehicle charging stations on its campuses and also received the 2010 Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award for its collegewide sustainability and environmental efforts.

Pellissippi State Engineering Technology students Jeff Station (left) and Anthony Hudson install solar panels on the Hardin Valley Campus' McWherter Building as a class project earlier this semester. Photo courtesy of Pellissippi State.

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