The Gbiota box story


Technology should benefit the community

nannaGo to any supermarket and you can buy a lettuce or cabbage for a couple of bucks. It is truly incredible that they can produce, transport and put these on the shelves so cheaply – this is possible because of a whole range of innovative technologies from chemicals, automation and genetics.

I am a great believer in technology, over hundreds of thousand of years it has enabled us humans to survive and become the dominant creature on our planet.

But I believe technology must work for the benefit of the community and not just make a few people very rich.

I was a pioneer in the computer revolution and for my pioneering work on computer aided engineering I was selected by the Institute of Engineers as one of Australia’s top one hundred innovators, but when I look at the food industry I see that innovation is focused on profits and not the health of the community.

Food that looks perfect but lacks the essentials

The products may look amazing, clean and perfectly shaped as though they had been made in a factory but what about the nutrient value? Modern food is lacking the mineral which are essential for a complex creature like us humans but which the much simpler plants don’t need, or only in small amounts. (See Technology)

But what is seriously lacking in modern food are the microbiology and fibre needed for a healthy gut.

I see very sophisticated data on how much carbohydrate, sugars, fats, minerals and vitamins we should be eating. I can look up and see how many micro-grams of selenium, zinc and magnesium we should be eating on an average day.

We are very strong on the bio-chemistry but what about our micro-biology?

Our gut brain

gut brain connectionBut the point is that over hundreds of thousands of years we have evolved a gut brain that automatically looks after us, without us even thinking about it – and it does it much better than weighing micro grams of minerals.

Our gut brain consists of trillions of cells which communicate with each other and send out signals saying we need to eat more of this or that or simply stop eating as we are satisfied.

It automatically monitors our bodies so it knows if we have had a couch day and tells us to reduce the amount of food, if we have been out in the hot sun it knows we need some extra salts and if we have been on a long hike we need to get the sugar levels up. Our gut brain is a very clever organ.

I spend many years of my life writing computer code, I understand how code works but I have absolutely no idea how the code works in our guts – and neither does anybody else. All we can do is marvel how well it works.

Unfortunately our modern food system does not look after our gut brain so we suffer many diseases related to poor diet but instead of fixing our gut brain we spend all this time and energy on creating an artificial process to control our diet.

Principles of Gbiota beds

gbiota bed principlesThat is why I developed Gbiota beds – to feed our gut brain. These large in ground beds work well and are well suited to commercial use by competent growers – but they do require some skill and understanding to make them work.

The microbes in the soil enter the plants which we eat so they become natural pre and pro biotics but we need to feed and water the microbes. The beneficial microbes need the soil moist, but not too wet, when they will out breed any harmful microbes. If the soil is too wet these harmful microbes will predominate – a process of ecological balance.

The key to maintaining that Goldilocks moisture level, not to wet not too dry, just right is the leaky dam and the partial flood and drain system. Water is pumped into a compost tube where it absorb the nutrients, flows down to the base of the bed where is spreads and starts wicking upwards to wet the root zone – just like in the wicking beds I pioneered some twenty five years ago.

But in a Wicking bed the water just stays in the base of the bed until it gets used up, this stagnant water can lead to the growth of the harmful microbes – in other words they become pongy. But in the Gbiota bed the water slowly leaks out through the leaky dam so there is never any stagnant water.

In a full sized commercial Gbiota bed water is pumped, for just a few minutes, several times a day, by a pump and timer system.

This is a very effective system well suited for commercial growers who obviously need a market for Gbiota food.

There was a clear need for a simpler system where people, may be just living in a flat, could have fresh Gbiota food growing in their own home.

This led me to develop the Gbiota box

The Gbiota box system

So I have now developed the Gbiota box so anyone can grow their own Gbiota food – even if they live in a flat and have no growing skills.

I am setting up a network of local suppliers who can manufacture and supply these Gbiota boxes so people can buy one or more boxes directly and have fresh Gbiota gut food growing at home.

breast feedingManufacturing these Gbiota boxes would be a very nice home business for the handyman who would be providing a service to their local community.

How to make these Gbiota boxes is described elsewhere on this web in the various articles and videos but now I want to describe how the user, may be a young mum who wants her kids to have a healthy gut can manage the Gbiota boxes she buys from the local supplier.

On Arrival

They come with plants already growing ready to be harvested. The most effective way is to use tipping where the tips of the plants are harvested where they can be made into green smoothies, wraps, sandwiches or whatever way suits. (see tipping video).

The micro farm

Anyone looking at a Gbiota box can be forgiven for thinking this is just for growing fruit and vegetables – and of course they are partially right. But the real point is to breed the beneficial micro biology for our gut and this is really like managing a dairy farm except that the animals are a lot smaller than normal.

But like any farm the animals have to be fed and watered – even if they are a bit on the small size.

The supplier of the box will have already loaded the box with these tiny animals and an initial burst of food and water. The new owner has the job of feeding and watering the animals – something a young mum would be very familiar with.

Let us start with water – Goldilocks moisture – not too wet and not too dry.


The bed is watered by simply trickling water into the compost tube. A compost tube is simply a tube in the soil made from compost, as the water soaks through the compost it picks up nutrients from the compost to feed the microbes and the plants.

Some people prefer to have a proper pipe to hold the compost, this is a nice clean way of doing it, but I prefer to have a simple hole filled with compost – technically better but a bit messier – not a problem for a young mum used to changing nappies.

The water, or more correctly the compost tea trickles down to the base of the bed where it will spread over the base and start to wick upwards from the base.

This is exactly the way that the millions of Wicking Beds around the world work.

But the Gbiota box has a swivel drain.

box wicking b edWhen the pipe is pointing upwards the box act just like a conventional wicking bed.  Water (or compost tea)  is stored internally in the box.  But it is stagnant and will encourage the growth of harmful micro- biota if left.

When it is pointed downwards it acts like a true Gbiota bed with the partial flood and drain system so the soil is never wet for any length of time so the soil is kept moist which encourages the beneficial micro biota.  But it does need topping up with water more often.

boxgbiotaThe boxes are made with a soil dam so the box can be used with the drain pipe permanently pointed downwards so it is acting as a full blown Gbiota bed. This does mean that the bed may need to be watered every day (depending on weather).

The box must be raised with a container to catch the water. From a technical view point this is the best way of operating a Gbiota box but in the absence of an automatic pump and timer it does mean watering daily.

But, despair not, the box can be used as a hybrid Wicking and Gbiota box.

Before watering simply twist the drain pipe upwards when the box will become a conventional Wicking box. Trickle the water in until there is water in the sight tube (note it may take a bit of time for the water to trickle through – it is a good idea to measure out about half a litre of water and add this shot at a time with a bit of a wait in between, to see if the water has reached the sight tube.

The box can be left in Wicking Bed mode for a few days, then the drain pipe swivelled to point downwards when if becomes a Gbiota box.

While it is possible to go up a week in Wicking Box mode I would recommend draining at least twice a week and allowing a day between rotating the drain tube and refilling.

But the microbes are hungry little beasts and we have to feed them.

Feeding the microbes

boxwasteThe microbes must be fed. Fortunately there favourite food is kitchen waste which can be recycled back into healthy food. They, and particularly us, will need some additional minerals but the micro-grams needed can be added at minimal cost.

When the beds are made the lower layers are filled with compost but this will get consumed and will need replacing on a regular basis.

Soil develops a structure so we do not want to be remaking the bed but we must add the organic waste, preferably to the base of the bed where the conditions are best for composting.

We do this by refilling and remaking the compost tube. We can put a new compost tube in different places in the box to allow the organic waste in the previous tube to fully decompose.

It is best to chop up the compost, typically food waste, but making into a smoothie in a blender means the worms, already in the bed when it was supplied, will be better able to digest the waste.

boxbottlesharpThe material in the compost tube should be soft so you can refresh the tube pushing a bottle with a tapered top to rework the tube.

boxpistonThen when the tube is opened flip the bottle and push the square base to make a nice hole.

If you have made a compost smoothie you can fill the tube with this compost smoothie then push the bottle back into the tube where it will act like a piston and help distribute the compost below the surface over the rest of the bed.

boxcompostreadyCompost tube ready to go using the bottle method.

If all that sounds too complicated just dig a new hole and fill with food scraps and just leave it to the worms which are already in the bed when you bought it.

The bottle method is a nice easy way of making compost tubes but if the soil is hard then it is back to the old fashioned way of digging a new hole and spreading the soil around the bed. I don’t want do hurt the worms and am not squeamish so I just dig the new hole by hand or using a trowel, or better still a piece of pipe, so I can make the new hole without hurting the worms.

boxbiominWe also recommend covering the compost tube with some Biomin which contains a broad spectrum of minerals and some fresh biology.

You don’t need very much, your supplier may be able to provide 1 Kg packs which will last one bed about three months. (About a tea spoon per day) If you look at supplement jars in the chemist you will see they only contain micro grams so feeding Biomin to the plants is a very cheap way of getting minerals into your diet

Swap or reseed

Suppliers may offer a change over plan where you simply return the box to them in exchange of a new box with the plants already ready for harvesting or you can reseed yourself.

Before reseeding the bed – the box will need topping up with compost which is fuel for the microbes. This should placed a the bottom of the box which is done by making a new compost tube by filled with chopped compost (or a compost gel from the blender).

Seeding is done in the normal way but I recommend covering the seed with a layer of Biomin and fine soil or Vermicast and gently watering until the plants have put down their roots.