PROJECTS

AQUAPONIC AGRICULTURE When you look around The Perennial’s dining room, you see that agriculture is integrated into the décor: vegetables, herbs, and micro-greens growing in a “living pantry” mounted along the walls and in the front window; and an aquarium filled with fish. All of these reflect our restaurant's offsite aquaponic system that reduces food waste, conserves water, prevents pollution, and allows us to grow whatever unusual plants we want to serve--plus, it offers a way to start conversations about where our food comes from. So what does “aquaponic” mean? It means that we are raising plants and fish together in a mutually beneficial arrangement, where the plants send their roots down into water fertilized by the fish. We love aquaponic farming because it uses only one-tenth of the water and is about six times more productive per square foot relative to soil-based agriculture, but an added benefit for The Perennial is that it helps us reduce food waste. That is, we’ve developed a closed-loop system that converts our kitchen scraps into fresh, delicious fish and produce. The Perennial is building a 2,000-square-foot aquaponic greenhouse in West Oakland, where we also built raised beds irrigated by the water from the fish tanks. We bring our kitchen scraps to be “composted” by chickens, worms, and black soldier fly larvae. The worms and larvae are dehydrated and made into fish food for sturgeon, catfish, and clams who live in water that is filtered through a tank of pebbles seeded with beneficial bacteria that convert ammonia, first into nitrites, and then nitrates. This nitrate-rich water is circulated to our planting beds where it provides excellent, non-synthetic nutrition for our plants, which will be transferred to the living pantry in The Perennial’s dining room and eventually served at the restaurant. Once mature, the fish and clams will also be on the menu. Of course, not all of our food will come from our greenhouse. We are working with local soil-based farms to source all sorts of things that we can’t raise ourselves. And we aren’t suggesting that aquaponics should replace regular farms. Far from it. But as a society, we need to start thinking more seriously about food in terms of systems design, and imagine better feedback mechanisms (pardon the pun) between farming and eating, and aquaponics helps open that discussion. We hope to start offering tours of the greenhouse soon—please check back soon for updates—but in the meantime, you can check out the smaller scale operation we’ve got going in The Perennial’s dining room. (We think it’s pretty cool.)

AQUAPONIC AGRICULTURE

When you look around The Perennial’s dining room, you see that agriculture is integrated into the décor: vegetables, herbs, and micro-greens growing in a “living pantry” mounted along the walls and in the front window; and an aquarium filled with fish. All of these reflect our restaurant's offsite aquaponic system that reduces food waste, conserves water, prevents pollution, and allows us to grow whatever unusual plants we want to serve--plus, it offers a way to start conversations about where our food comes from.

So what does “aquaponic” mean? It means that we are raising plants and fish together in a mutually beneficial arrangement, where the plants send their roots down into water fertilized by the fish. We love aquaponic farming because it uses only one-tenth of the water and is about six times more productive per square foot relative to soil-based agriculture, but an added benefit for The Perennial is that it helps us reduce food waste. That is, we’ve developed a closed-loop system that converts our kitchen scraps into fresh, delicious fish and produce.

The Perennial is building a 2,000-square-foot aquaponic greenhouse in West Oakland, where we also built raised beds irrigated by the water from the fish tanks. We bring our kitchen scraps to be “composted” by chickens, worms, and black soldier fly larvae. The worms and larvae are dehydrated and made into fish food for sturgeon, catfish, and clams who live in water that is filtered through a tank of pebbles seeded with beneficial bacteria that convert ammonia, first into nitrites, and then nitrates. This nitrate-rich water is circulated to our planting beds where it provides excellent, non-synthetic nutrition for our plants, which will be transferred to the living pantry in The Perennial’s dining room and eventually served at the restaurant. Once mature, the fish and clams will also be on the menu.

Of course, not all of our food will come from our greenhouse. We are working with local soil-based farms to source all sorts of things that we can’t raise ourselves. And we aren’t suggesting that aquaponics should replace regular farms. Far from it. But as a society, we need to start thinking more seriously about food in terms of systems design, and imagine better feedback mechanisms (pardon the pun) between farming and eating, and aquaponics helps open that discussion. We hope to start offering tours of the greenhouse soon—please check back soon for updates—but in the meantime, you can check out the smaller scale operation we’ve got going in The Perennial’s dining room. (We think it’s pretty cool.)

zeRO Foodprint The Perennial is a for-profit business with a non-profit partner: Zero Foodprint. The goal of Zero Foodprint is to help restaurants lower and offset their greenhouse gas emissions by offering environmental impact assessments and recommendations, and then facilitating fundraisers to purchase food-related carbon offsets. Our co-founder Anthony Myint has been working with Chris Ying (Editor in Chief of Lucky Peach) and Peter Freed (enviromental consultant) to develop a charter group of restaurants to participate in Zero Foodprint.

zeRO Foodprint

The Perennial is a for-profit business with a non-profit partner: Zero Foodprint. The goal of Zero Foodprint is to help restaurants lower and offset their greenhouse gas emissions by offering environmental impact assessments and recommendations, and then facilitating fundraisers to purchase food-related carbon offsets. Our co-founder Anthony Myint has been working with Chris Ying (Editor in Chief of Lucky Peach) and Peter Freed (enviromental consultant) to develop a charter group of restaurants to participate in Zero Foodprint.

PERENNIAL GRAINS “If your life’s work can be accomplished in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough.” That’s what Wes Jackson, one of the founding fathers of the sustainable agriculture movement and president of The Land Institute, has said about his goal of restoring North American prairie ecosystems. Jackson’s statement of environmental ambition has become a kind of touchstone for The Perennial, and so we are proud to be involved in one of The Land Institutes most important projects: a perennial grain called Kernza, which could revolutionize the environmental impact of the vast swaths of land currently devoted to annual wheat crops. Long ago, before the plains states were cleared for agricultural use, prairies stored enormous amounts of carbon, deep in the soil.  When the native perennial grasses were cleared to make way for annual crops like wheat, corn, and soybeans, that carbon was released into the atmosphere and bonded with oxygen to make carbon dioxide. For the past twenty years, scientists at The Land Institute have used traditional breeding methods to develop a perennial plant they’ve named Kernza, which will help restore the soil ecosystem and draw carbon out of the atmosphere into the soil. Kernza is an intermediate wheatgrass that can be milled into flour and used alongside and in place of conventional wheat flour. As a perennial, Kernza’s deep root structure has a lot of benefits. It provides a home for many other carbon-storing organisms, from bacteria to insects to worms. And healthy soil means less erosion, better water retention, and less fertilizer run-off. The overall goals are to restore the health of the prairie ecosystem and mitigate climate change. The Land Institute has been working on Kernza since 2002, and the journey has just begun. There’s still a lot of work to do. The Perennial has an agreement with The Land Institute to be the first restaurant to serve bread made from Kernza, and our pastry chef has developed an incredible bread recipe that combines 40% Kernza with 60% wheat flour. Meanwhile, we're experimenting with other applications for Kernza. We anticipate a long process of experimentation, but it feels good to be part of something big. Even if it takes more than a lifetime to achieve.

PERENNIAL GRAINS

“If your life’s work can be accomplished in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough.”

That’s what Wes Jackson, one of the founding fathers of the sustainable agriculture movement and president of The Land Institute, has said about his goal of restoring North American prairie ecosystems. Jackson’s statement of environmental ambition has become a kind of touchstone for The Perennial, and so we are proud to be involved in one of The Land Institutes most important projects: a perennial grain called Kernza, which could revolutionize the environmental impact of the vast swaths of land currently devoted to annual wheat crops.

Long ago, before the plains states were cleared for agricultural use, prairies stored enormous amounts of carbon, deep in the soil.  When the native perennial grasses were cleared to make way for annual crops like wheat, corn, and soybeans, that carbon was released into the atmosphere and bonded with oxygen to make carbon dioxide. For the past twenty years, scientists at The Land Institute have used traditional breeding methods to develop a perennial plant they’ve named Kernza, which will help restore the soil ecosystem and draw carbon out of the atmosphere into the soil. Kernza is an intermediate wheatgrass that can be milled into flour and used alongside and in place of conventional wheat flour.

As a perennial, Kernza’s deep root structure has a lot of benefits. It provides a home for many other carbon-storing organisms, from bacteria to insects to worms. And healthy soil means less erosion, better water retention, and less fertilizer run-off. The overall goals are to restore the health of the prairie ecosystem and mitigate climate change.

The Land Institute has been working on Kernza since 2002, and the journey has just begun. There’s still a lot of work to do. The Perennial has an agreement with The Land Institute to be the first restaurant to serve bread made from Kernza, and our pastry chef has developed an incredible bread recipe that combines 40% Kernza with 60% wheat flour. Meanwhile, we're experimenting with other applications for Kernza. We anticipate a long process of experimentation, but it feels good to be part of something big. Even if it takes more than a lifetime to achieve.

CARBON FARMING When we started working on The Perennial, we expected that reducing our fossil fuel use would be the most important action we could take. But as we learned, agriculture accounts for about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and farming has been a source of greenhouse gas ever since its invention about 10,000 years ago, when humans began clearing forests and plowing the land, which releases carbon dioxide from the soil into the air. The good news is that agriculture can become part of the solution to climate change. After several years of experimentation, scientists and farmers have found that a concerted campaign of “carbon farming” — the practice of converting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into plant material and soil matter — can dramatically reduce emissions and revolutionize the way we farm. As a plant grows, it takes in carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and breaks it into carbon (C), which builds cells, and oxygen (O2), which is released as a waste product. Trees and deep-rooted plants like perennial grasses store more carbon than shallow plants because their longer roots are surrounded by a nutrient-rich region of soil where microorganisms convert CO2 into organic matter in a process called soil carbon sequestration. We can jump-start this process by spreading grasslands with a layer of compost, which seeds the soil with good microorganisms, resulting in more soil carbon sequestration. Herd animals like cattle and sheep contribute their own manure (along with some microorganisms) to the soil, while their hooves push the manure and compost into the earth, promoting soil carbon sequestration. Moving livestock from one field to another in tight groups, so that each field is grazed intensively and then allowed to recover, further encourages the growth of deep perennial roots. The plants that are trimmed through grazing shed root matter below the surface, which becomes fodder for bacteria to accomplish even more soil carbon sequestration. The livestock are also managed to eat away annual grasses that bloom on a different schedule than perennial grasses, further encouraging carbon sequestration. This process, and its potential to reverse climate change, inspired us to name our restaurant The Perennial. We are proud to serve beef and lamb from Stemple Creek Ranch, raised as part of a carbon farming project. Our chef, Chris Kiyuna, receives whole lambs and sides of beef from Stemple Creek and develops the most appropriate preparation for every part of the animals. In an era of dire warnings from climate science, carbon farming offers an optimistic breath of fresh air.

CARBON FARMING

When we started working on The Perennial, we expected that reducing our fossil fuel use would be the most important action we could take. But as we learned, agriculture accounts for about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and farming has been a source of greenhouse gas ever since its invention about 10,000 years ago, when humans began clearing forests and plowing the land, which releases carbon dioxide from the soil into the air.

The good news is that agriculture can become part of the solution to climate change.

After several years of experimentation, scientists and farmers have found that a concerted campaign of “carbon farming” — the practice of converting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into plant material and soil matter — can dramatically reduce emissions and revolutionize the way we farm.

As a plant grows, it takes in carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and breaks it into carbon (C), which builds cells, and oxygen (O2), which is released as a waste product. Trees and deep-rooted plants like perennial grasses store more carbon than shallow plants because their longer roots are surrounded by a nutrient-rich region of soil where microorganisms convert CO2 into organic matter in a process called soil carbon sequestration. We can jump-start this process by spreading grasslands with a layer of compost, which seeds the soil with good microorganisms, resulting in more soil carbon sequestration.

Herd animals like cattle and sheep contribute their own manure (along with some microorganisms) to the soil, while their hooves push the manure and compost into the earth, promoting soil carbon sequestration. Moving livestock from one field to another in tight groups, so that each field is grazed intensively and then allowed to recover, further encourages the growth of deep perennial roots. The plants that are trimmed through grazing shed root matter below the surface, which becomes fodder for bacteria to accomplish even more soil carbon sequestration. The livestock are also managed to eat away annual grasses that bloom on a different schedule than perennial grasses, further encouraging carbon sequestration.

This process, and its potential to reverse climate change, inspired us to name our restaurant The Perennial. We are proud to serve beef and lamb from Stemple Creek Ranch, raised as part of a carbon farming project. Our chef, Chris Kiyuna, receives whole lambs and sides of beef from Stemple Creek and develops the most appropriate preparation for every part of the animals.

In an era of dire warnings from climate science, carbon farming offers an optimistic breath of fresh air.

Image courtesy of Soil Solutions, a program of the Center for Food Safety. 

Image courtesy of Soil Solutions, a program of the Center for Food Safety.