October 4, 2021

Living in an Ecosystem: The Future Food System Greenhouse

Meghan Grech
Living in an Ecosystem: The Future Food System Greenhouse
Inspired by the waste-free ecosystems of the natural world, Joost Bakker’s eco-friendly home and restaurant is modelling the future of sustainable living right in the heart of Melbourne.

Tucked away in Federation Square, the Greenhouse, also known as FutureFoodSystem, is a self-sustaining home and dining experience created by Dutch-born Australian Joost Bakker. Responding to the fact that the global food industry produces fifty-eight percent of the world’s carbon emissions and wastes $940 billion worth of product annually, Bakker sought to create a home that worked more like the natural world, where all waste products are reintegrated into the home to help grow all the food its residents could ask for.

The two-bedroom house takes up 87 square metres of land – just a quarter of the average Australian home – but it still manages to pack so many innovative solutions into its three storeys. The bathroom is right next to a wall of growing mushrooms, allowing the steam from the shower to create the perfect environment for the useful ingredients. An aquaponics system creates a closed loop between fish tanks and plant life: waste from the live fish is used to feed the plants, which in turn clean the water that is recycled back into the fish tanks. The rooftop garden sits in recycled plastic drums that not only contribute to the home’s cool industrial aesthetic, but also maintain the produce at the right level of heat while catching water downpours in a way that prevents nutrient loss. The whole property is a house-sized ecosystem where every element gets circled back in to ensure nothing goes to waste.

[The Greenhouse system] could radically reduce the land required for agriculture … [and] tackle food waste, malnourishment and environmental degradation … all whilst turning our urban areas into the most biodiverse on earth.
JOOST BAKKER, FUTUREFOODSYSTEM CREATOR.

Over 250 different species of plants, fungi, insects, snails, fish, freshwater mussels, and crustaceans grow on-site at the Greenhouse, meaning the freshest ingredients get delivered straight to the plate. For the last eight months, award-winning chefs Jo Barrett and Matt Stone have been living on the property, eating only what they have grown there themselves and hosting dining experiences to give visitors a taste of the future of sustainable living. There are also tours of the house every Sunday – when Melbourne isn’t in lockdown, anyway – and information on the design is open source so you can implement some of the solutions yourself. It’s all part of Bakker’s hope that the Greenhouse will be a source of inspiration that will encourage all of us to embrace a more sustainable way of living and eating.

The Greenhouse was going to move from Federation Square in June 2021, but due to COVID shutdowns and the popularity of the experience, the home will now be in place until June 2022. In the meantime, you can hear more about Bakker’s ideas in his speech from Melbourne Design Week 2021 in the video below, or even take a virtual tour of the property here!

For more innovations in sustainable design, check out our article on ETH Zurich and Zaha Hadid Architect’s 3D-printed footbridge.


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