SB produces a winnerOn Jan. 16, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota will hold its Local Government Innovation Awards. The Minneapolis event will honor 18 winners from among cities, counties and schools that have used inventive approaches to improve services in their areas. And a delegation from Silver Bay will be there.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
On Jan. 16, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota will hold its Local Government Innovation Awards. The Minneapolis event will honor 18 winners from among cities, counties and schools that have used inventive approaches to improve services in their areas.
And a delegation from Silver Bay will be there.
Among the 18 winners selected from 111 submissions is Silver Bay Produces!, a collaboration of the city of Silver Bay and the University of Minnesota Duluth. Built in what is now called Silver Bay’s “eco- park”, the operation raises fish, algae and produce in a closed-loop system — a method of production that doesn’t produce waste or emissions and sustains itself.
“Our project addresses the need for our food system to become more localized and affordable while increasing quality, reducing transportation requirements and providing for resource conservation,” wrote Bruce Carman in a narrative for the awards.
“I don’t think the award will change anything we’re doing, but it validates our intent in terms of integrating education, economic development and the environment,” he added in a phone interview with the News-Chronicle.
Added Silver Bay City Administrator Lana Fralich: “It’s nice to be recognized for our innovation and collaboration of the biofuel, food greenhouse facility. This demonstration facility is unique because it is proving the concept for how our region can use our local and natural resources to create a locally grown food supply, a renewable energy source and enhance education and aid in workforce development.”
Readers of the News-Chronicle may be familiar with the project. The aquaculture, aquaponics, algal growth water flow system is the first of its kind that uses locally available renewable energy to heat and power the facility. It’s innovative, yes, but not so complicated that other communities could not undertake a similar project.
“We feel that this example can be replicated throughout the region,” Carman said.
The system works like this: Rainwater or snow is captured for the fish tanks where tilapia is being raised. The water is enriched by the organic nutrients in the fish excrement and sent through a filter where solids are held until they break down enough to pass through to the system. Then, the water’s pH is adjusted to make it suitable for plant and algal growth and it flows to the three hydroponic growing troughs. As the plants — lettuce this year — absorb the nutrient rich water, the liquid is cleaned, preparing it to go through the algae troughs where it is re-oxygenated before returning to the fish tank.
The fish and produce are sold locally and the oil in the algae is turned into biofuel. It’s an initiative that can allow cities like Silver Bay to grow economically while protecting the natural environment of the North Shore.
“It’s a feather in the cap of Silver Bay and the county. It represents things environmentally that every one of us desires,” said Carman, adding: “It provides a method for small communities to become sustainable.”
The LGIA is in its 6th year, said Julie Lind, a spokeswoman for the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, “but this is the first year we’ve had call voting,” meaning that interested parties will be able to review the winning projects online and vote for the one they think is best. A $25,000 grant will be awarded to the project receiving the most votes.
“I’m not sure who stepped onto the dance floor first,” said Lind referring to who proposed the idea of the grant, “but the idea was that the money would allow (the grantee) to take their project further.”
Lind said she has been impressed by the projects she’s seen.
“I’m always surprised by how varied the entries are. Every year there’s something new … the creativity is always amazing, she said, noting that “the projects that have really succeeded are those were different entities work together.”
Overall, said Carman, Silver Bay Produces! has received tremendous support.
“I’m not sure we’ve had any critics,” said Carman. “There are no political boundaries when it comes to food.”
Read about all the winning projects that will be recognized at the Local Government Innovation Awards and vote for your favorite online or in a text message between Jan. 7-15. Go to http://challenges.incommons.org/LGIA
The awards ceremony will be held at the Humphrey School, 301 19th Avenue South., Minneapolis. It is free and open to the public. RSVP at the above website.