The Canadian Food Garage

Consulting, Construction, and Coaching services to help property owners thrive in the 21st Century

The Canadian Food Garage is the flagship enterprise of Phoenix Fire Marketing Inc., an Alberta-based corporation specializing in consulting, construction, and coaching for both urban and rural property owners. Owner and operator, Rene Michalak brings decades of experience in project and small business management with an extensive network of resources for community building across all economic sectors. See his LinkedIn profile here – https://ca.linkedin.com/in/renemichalak

The Food Garage is a demonstration project to turn everyday detached garages from simple storage units (aka ‘car-holes’) into food growing, rainwater harvesting, and renewable energy-generating systems using urban permaculture design. The basic concept is to partner a garage with an attached greenhouse and renewable energy to create sustainable 4-season growing systems with minimal fossil fuel input that serves both practical and recreational purposes. Owners of a Food Garage can then customize how they want the system to function and what and how they want to grow. Hosted by Rene Michalak (Phoenix Fire Marketing Inc.) on a 1/5-acre urban homestead, this project demonstrates sustainable urban living to the community and the rest of the world as it leverages the practice of urban homesteading and the success of the existing edible forest garden on site.

The prototype Food Garage partners a two-car garage with a Deep Winter Greenhouse (DWG) and renewable energy to create sustainable 4-season growing systems with minimal fossil fuel input that serve both practical and recreational purposes. Primary clients include urban and rural property owners looking to increase their resilience in addressing the combined issues presented by climate change, escalating fossil fuel prices, and the resulting economic impacts. The prototype takes an existing 24′×22′ two-car garage and couples it with a 16’x22′ four-season passive solar greenhouse. The greenhouse hosts a 3000L aquaponic system to raise fish and freshwater prawns, grow various plants, utilize a rainwater catchment system to fill the fish tanks and water the greenhouse, a 7′×9′-32-tray aeroponic system for growing microgreens and wheat grass, and a 12.75kW solar PV array on the garage. There is even enough room in the garage for a small workshop and/or one parking space. Climate control is achieved through the integration of both passive and active heating and cooling methods. Heating is achieved via passive solar gain using thermal mass (concrete and Phase Change Material) and, in new builds, a “climate battery” subterranean heating and cooling system (SHCS). Active heating sources include waste heat from digital currency mining, an electric boiler, and a natural gas space heater as emergency back-up. Cooling is achieved via passive ventilation (convection), fans, and an air-source heat pump. The DC-powered heating and cooling equipment is supported by the rooftop solar PV system that demonstrates a “DC microgrid” that integrates with the main AC power grid through bi-directional metering, supporting and providing valuable metrics for Alberta’s electricity system transition to SMART Grid technology.

The Canadian Food Garage has been supported in part by Alberta Innovates’ Entrepreneurial Incubator Program, The Carbon Farmer’s Community Investment Fund, the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, and individual contributions through crowdfunding campaigns. Future research is lining up with Red Deer Polytechnic and additional support from Alberta Innovates and National Resources Canada (NRCan).

Check out the project history interview courtesy of Verge Permaculture – https://vergepermaculture.ca/2013/05/02/megga-watt-rise-of-the-food-garage/

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