Shumei Natural Agriculture

Project Details


Phase 1 of the Shumei Natural Agriculture garden at Rodale Institute showcases a small homestead about an acre in size that has the potential to support a family of four with fresh wholesome produce most of the year. The diverse landscape surrounding the garden is alive and rich with flowers, herbs, trees, shrubs, birds and wildlife.

Solar geodesic dome greenhouse
This 22-foot-radius geodesic dome contains: an above-ground storage tank; sun-powered photo-voltaic panels to provide all electricity for circulating air and water; 375 masonry pavers as solar mass to absorb, hold and radiate heat as the dome’s internal air cools); and sub-surface ventilation tubing for heat transfer.

Winter greens for eating, spring transplant production and summer growing space make the dome an energy-neutral, year-round supplementary food source for a family of four. A 400 gallon tank provides thermal mass, and a potential aquaculture site. The entrance door, as well as four vents—two in the ceiling, two on the sides—provide natural cooling. The vents open and close automatically without electricity by using the expansive properties of a special wax, tension springs and gravity.

The solar-powered fan runs when needed to optimize the dome’s air temperature, helping to synchronize heat-storage capacity with what plants need to survive. Insulation in the walls and on the earth surface surrounding the walls also conserve collected heat.

Green-roof building
The small structure in the garden used for seed-saving and workshops, has a “living roof” made of succulent plants. The natural insulation of the plants helps to maintain warm temperatures during the winter and cooler temperatures in the summer. It also increases the roof’s lifespan and reduces storm water runoff.

Root cellar
A mounded-earth root cellar is used to store and preserve the harvest. Built four feet above ground and four feet below ground, it maintains a temperate climate throughout theseasons.