Green Glasshouses research project completed

GreenhouseStarfish’s newest Associate, Ian Gesch, has successfully completed the ‘Green Glasshouses’ (Sustainable Environment Management for Commercial Greenhouses) research project.

The purpose of this research was to inform horticulturists who are currently reliant upon LPG for glasshouse heating about options for renewable and sustainable energy resources. The renewable sources considered include solar PV, Concentrated Solar Thermal, wind, geothermal, bio-digestion and biomass. Integration of product and waste streams from other processes, particularly as applied to carbon dioxide enrichment inside the facility, were also considered.

The Green Glasshouses project identified options for sustainable alternatives to natural gas and LPG combustion in commercial greenhouses. A range of case study greenhouses were chosen in order to compare and contrast the experiences and practices of each.

The findings identified that many sustainable heating and CO2 enrichment options exist for greenhouse operations when compared to the consumption of fossil fuels. Most of these, however, have low or no appeal due to relative cost (such as heat pumps and wind power), complexity (generating syngas from industrial or agricultural processes) or physical footprint (such as solar energy collection).

Industrial symbioses also have low applicability due to the continued placement of greenhouses in regional areas as opposed to locating them adjacent to sources of waste heat and carbon dioxide.

However, there is scope for the development of a properly functioning carbon market in concert with the tailoring of greenhouse design and operational practices to the Australian landscape. This has the potential to create opportunities for strengthening the business viability of commercial greenhouses, adapting to climate change and augmenting food security and export.

The recommendations identify the need for additional research into:

  • Existing and potential demand for energy CO2 in commercial greenhouses
  • CO2 capture, scrubbing and reuse from small coal and biomass furnace exhaust
  • Greenhouse environment management practices that increase exposure times of CO2 enrichment such as reduced venting and active cooling of the growing space
  • The applicability of the Emissions Reduction Fund to the use of waste CO2 for environment management in commercial greenhouses
  • Development of tools and methods that simplify the calculation of the true cost of CO2 enrichment and investigation into the potential for industrial symbioses between commercial greenhouses and producers of waste heat and CO2.

An electronic copy of the abridged report is available by contacting Ian Gesch (see Starfish Associates).

Starfish going global as it welcomes Ruy Anaya de la Rosa

RuyStarfish is pleased to welcome Dr Ruy Anaya de la Rosa as Project Director for our global Biochar for Sustainable Soils (B4SS) initiative.

Ruy is passionate about the potential of biochar to improve soil fertility and sustainability. Ruy’s experience includes biochar, carbon markets, life cycle analysis and the uptake of appropriate technology in less developed countries. Ruy has a Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Science, a Masters of Science in Sustainable Energy Technology and Bachelor of Science in Mechanical with Electrical Engineering.

While born in Mexico, Ruy’s life and work have taken him around the globe and he is fluent in Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, Dutch, German and Swedish.

The purpose of B4SS is to share knowledge and build capacity regarding the use of innovative biochar-based organic amendments for sustainable soils and land management. In this way the project aims to support rural livelihoods for small landholders, enhance productivity, improve the capture and efficient use of nutrients, address declining soil fertility, contribute to watershed management and strengthen resilience to climate change.

Funding of USD2m has been secured from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for this purpose. The project will leverage an additional USD1¼m of value through collaboration with existing biochar projects from six countries. These projects span a range of different soils, climates and cultures with the core focus being:

  • Vietnam ~ rice straw biochar to improve soil fertility and sequester carbon
  • Ethiopia & Kenya ~ use of biochar to aid the return of nutrients to depleted cropping soils
  • Indonesia ~ working with an existing network of 1,750 small-scale women farmers with dryland cropping systems to improve soils affected by the 2004 tsunami
  • China ~ testing biochar for immobilising heavy metals
  • Peru ~ biochar to reduce deforestation and improve crop productivity.

Welcome Bob Neville & Community Regeneration

Bob NevilleStarfish is pleased to welcome Bob Neville as our newest Associate.

Bob is one of Australia’s longest serving Economic Development Practitioners and is passionate about small communities and the micro-economy.

Bob has identified, tested and documented a Natural Science for Small Community Regeneration ~ resulting in the Community Gold Program which supports community and economic development with the untapped ‘seed-ideas’ that exist in every small community.

Community Regeneration is focused on the small ~ small communities and the small seeds which stimulate their regeneration and genuine sustainability. The micro-economy ~ that is, the day to day real productivity spending of individuals, families and micro-to-small business ~ accounts for (in Australia) 84% to 100% (in many rural communities) of all enterprise, employment and spending (after excluding government).

Simply put, if a community’s micro-economy is in decline, so too is the whole community. And so the reverse is also true.

You can find out more about Bob’s work at the Community Regeneration website.

Renewables for ALL

CPA Graphic

Renewables for All is a new initiative working to develop government policies which can increase the access to clean energy for segments of the community who currently face barriers to do so, particularly:

  • Low to moderate income households
  • Renters
  • Apartment dwellers, and
  • People who live in shaded or heritage listed buildings.

The project is focused on a range of new clean energy technologies, namely solar photovoltaics (Pv), energy storage, energy control and management systems and energy efficiency measures.

A range of barriers exist for these customer segments, which if left unaddressed will exacerbate inequality. However, this inequality should not be used as a reason to stifle clean energy innovation, but rather a driver for greater innovation.

Around the world, social enterprises, charities, companies and governments are establishing new business models and policy settings and programs that increase access to new energy technologies such as solar PV and battery storage to those customer segments that are currently not able to access them.

A series of state-specific Discussion Papers have already been produced (NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and ACT) and are currently being workshopped with policy makers and key stakeholders in each jurisdiction to develop policies which can support access for the above community members.

Renewables for All is a new strategic initiative of the Coalition for Community Energy, led by the Community Power Agency and auspiced by Starfish Initiatives. This project was funded by Energy Consumers Australia as part of its grants process for consumer advocacy projects and research projects for the benefit of consumers of electricity and natural gas.

Become an Impact Investor – support Farming the Sun

Lismore Workers' Club 100kW solarfarm
Lismore Community Solar is positioned at the forefront of Australia’s nascent community energy movement and sector. It is in fact likely to create Australia’s first ever Council operated and community funded solarfarms.

The purpose of Lismore Community Solar is to create two 100kW solarfarms through a partnership between local community members and Lismore City Council ~ with funding provided by local community ‘impact’ investors and operation of the solarfarms by Lismore City Council.

This ‘model of sustainability’ is aligned with the aspirations of many more local councils right across Australia who are pursuing ground-breaking strategies in renewable energy, climate neutrality, sustainability and collaboration with their communities.

As Australia’s first ever council operated and community funded solarfarms, Lismore Community Solar will create significant potential to leverage public profile as well as the leadership, enhanced capacity and engagement of the numerous people and partners involved.

The two solarfarms are flagship projects for Lismore City Council’s 2023 Renewable Energy Master Plan which will address objectives outlined in the Imagine Lismore 10 Year Plan 2013-2023.

Starfish is proud to be supporting Lismore Community Solar through its Farming the Sun project and is seeking  … IMPACT investors.

Are you an Impact Investor?

We are seeking up to 40 impact investors who:
~ are inspired by local, ethical, responsible and fossil fuel free investments
~ see themselves taking on, or building upon, a high profile leadership role in renewable energy
~ want to leverage the significant public profile of these projects
to further build community capacity and engagement throughout Lismore and beyond.


Thursday 11 June | Lismore Workers Club
5:15 for 5:30pm start
Susanna Carpi | Community Coordinator
0401 956 710 |

*Please note that the launch of the formal investment offer, or prospectus, is still subject to successfully completing the final negotiations with Lismore City Council in respect of the various financial and legal arrangements of the projects as detailed on the project timeline.

Find out more ~

Myall Creek: a crime that will not be forgotten

Myall Creek
Remembering is central to healing the pain of injustice and atrocity. A wound can’t properly heal unless its cause is properly identified. To know our history ~ ancient and recent ~ is to know who walked before us and made our country what it is. It is to know ourselves.

This weekend people from all over Australia, black and white, converged on Myall Creek ~ a tiny place with two overgrown tennis courts and a memorial hall ~ in a small part of north-west NSW known evocatively, given its violent history, as New England. Here in 1838 a group of stockmen killed 28 unarmed Wirrayaraay old men, women and children.

The Myall Creek Massacre, as it came to be known, was not the first of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of such crimes that unfolded across the colonial frontier between the first inhabitants, soldiers, settlers, vigilante groups and Indigenous “black police”. Nor was it the last.

But Myall Creek is unique. It is the only massacre on the colonial or post-colonial frontier where non-Indigenous murderers of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people have been convicted. Seven of the killers hung for the crime. Myall Creek was also instrumental for killers of blacks ~ a lesson that spread across the continent like a Mallee wildfire: cover your tracks by properly disposing of the bodies; leave no witnesses.

In 2000, when the first of what are now annual June long-weekend commemorations at Myall Creek took place, descendants of victims and killers united in an act of mutual apology and forgiveness.

Every year at Myall Creek since 2000 it’s been the same: sorrow and forgiveness.

John Maynard, an Indigenous history professor who is currently researching Aboriginal servicemen, gave a guest speech at Sunday’s Myall Creek commemoration. Professor Maynard says:

“It seems a strange and hypocritical contradiction that some black and white politicians tell us we need to ‘move on’ and not dwell upon the frontier wars of the past whilst at the same time we are saturated with ‘Lest We Forget’ Gallipoli – a failed (allied, including Australian) invasion of another peoples’ country.”

Find out more and get involved:

Australia’s community-led renewable energy sector

Hepburn Windfarm

The past few years have been exhilarating in the world of renewable energy technology. The global price of solar PV has plummeted, while electric cars have gone from cramped novelties that might just get you to the supermarket and back, to work-horses that can take you right up the east coast of Australia. Effective, affordable home battery storage used to be something that a keen tinkerer might be able to stitch together at significant cost; now it’s a ‘coming soon’ consumer product that can be hung on the wall (with thanks to Tesla).

But while a global view of the sector might be exhilarating, here in Australia we’ve had a stark lesson in the effects of uncertainty on a market, as the RET review rolled on and on. Turns out, unsurprisingly, that uncertainty is a bit like pouring sand into an engine. Investment in utility-scale renewable energy projects has all but ground to a halt, some major global players have given up on the country altogether, and potentially thousands of jobs have been lost.

It is said, though, that creativity flourishes in times of scarcity. And one bright spot in the local sector must be the creativity, tenacity, and progress shown by the community renewables sector during the past 18 months. Community projects are driven by people who realise the urgency around Australia transitioning to a low-carbon economy, and know the critical importance of some ‘beacon’ community projects to show everyone what the future could look like.

The Farming the Sun project in Lismore is shaping up to be Australia’s first council/community owned project. Community investors will lend the council the funds required to install two 100kW installations, and then receive a competitive return on their investment.

New England Wind looks set to follow in the footsteps of Hepburn Wind in establishing NSW’s first community-owned wind farm, and the Tyalgum Energy Project aims to take the town of Tyalgum off the grid entirely. That’s a prime example of the kind of determination and ambition that the RET uncertainty has spurred in people.

Sydney Renewable Power Company will, later this year, offer shares in the financing of a 520kW PV installation at the International Convention Centre Sydney redevelopment in the heart of Darling Harbour. One of the largest CBD arrays in Australia and one of the first public-private partnerships of its kind, it will provide a visible, high-profile example of just what can be achieved by a small group of determined people despite an unfriendly and uncertain policy environment.

Re~Post:Looking for a thriving Australian renewable sector? Look to the community sector | Reneweconomy

FRRR supports Starfish for tax-deductible donations


Starfish is pleased to announce that it can now provide tax-deductible donations through the generous support of the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR).

Donations of $2 or more to Starfish are tax-deductible through our FRRR Donation Account. Donations can be either be nominated and tagged to fund a specific sustainability initiative or be given to support Starfish’s sustainability work in general.

FRRR is a charitable foundation which enables communities to build their social capital and economic resilience by engaging and providing resources for projects that create the change that communities aspire to achieve.

The form and instructions about how to donate to Starfish can be downloaded here. We would greatly welcome your financial support.*

Find out more ~

* Starfish is still pursuing its own registration for tax deductible donations through the Register of Environmental Organisations. Regrettably, this is a highly political and uncertain process. As at today it is more than 3&1/2 years since Starfish submitted its application for registration.

Greening up Glasshouses


Ian Gesch is working with Starfish in an exciting new area of renewable energy opportunities for greenhouses in horticultural production.

The objective of the project is to inform horticulturists who are currently reliant upon LPG for glasshouse heating about options for renewable and sustainable energy resources. The renewable sources to be considered include solar PV, Concentrated Solar Thermal, wind, geothermal, bio-digestion and biomass. Integration of product and waste streams from other processes, particularly as applied to carbon dioxide enrichment inside the facility, will also be considered.

The rising cost and uncertain supply of natural gas and its derivatives (such as Liquid Petroleum Gas) presents increasing business risk for Australian domestic industrial and commercial consumers. If the cost of the Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) used for energy intensive businesses is to increase, or the supply interrupted, then business owners face risks of decreasing production output or profit margins.

Horticulturists often use LPG to heat their glasshouses and as a result are left exposed to an uncertain future for their fuel of choice.

Ian’s research project will look at the risk-management options available to horticulturists. The University of Queensland and the International Energy Centre are providing supervisory support.

Starfish welcomes Ian’s involvement in our network and his industry leading research on renewable energy.

PCYC making a big move for youth

PCYC Cessnock is a “state of the art” facility. The skate park is unreal and for all ages. #getactive #skate #awesome SRC

As PCYC NSW approaches its 80th birthday it is embarking on a step-change process to redesign its role and service for young people and the wider community. In so doing PCYC will redefine itself and significantly shift its strategic position in the youth and community sector.

Starfish has been engaged to support this significant change process, building upon our work with The Youthie as part of the Tamworth Youth Strategy. Starfish is to create a strategic positioning paper to inform and underpin PCYC’s review and refresh of their services and facilities.

Significant social change has taken place in the last 80 years. In recent decades, the youth and community sectors have begun step-changing as well ~ reflecting both changing social needs and aspirations as well as innovation and developments in service delivery and support. PCYC ~ like many other institutions of its era such as Scouts or Rotary ~ risks losing relevance and importance in the face of such substantial social changes.

As a result, PCYC is now reviewing and redesigning its network of 60 clubs across NSW with a view to re-defining its leadership position as a facilitator and provider of integrated support, services, sport and recreation activities for youth. PCYC has considerable strengths, assets, history and reputation to leverage in this regard.

Change of such a scale is bold, courageous and not without risks. Robust evidence is one of the keys to well-informed and effective discussions and decisions to successfully lead the change process and so realise PCYC’s compelling contemporary vision.

Starfish’s role is to identify and build a strong, shared understanding of contemporary leading and best practice in youth services, and in turn enable more effective discussions and decision-making by PCYC and its key stakeholders through this step-change. This will draw upon contemporary leading best practice and evidence base, existing models and practices as well as the research literature.

Starfish is truly honoured to be of service with such important work.

First PCYC club opened in 1937

The first PCYC club opened in 1937. Woolloomooloo, Sydney

Find out more ~ PCYC NSW