Upstart nonprofit looks to biodomes for year-round food security

Biodomes
Drew Holman, founder of the upstart nonprofit “Back to the Mother,” describes his vision for creating a sustainable food source using domes for year-round growing. (Photo by Martin Kidston)

By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT

A new nonprofit in the early stages of launching in Missoula looks to grow food year-round in a network of biodomes while establishing a living research center to explore the use of organisms to extract contaminants from soils.

In a presentation Wednesday morning to 1 Million Cups Missoula – a national support group for entrepreneurs with a strong local chapter – Drew Holman shared his vision behind his upstart nonprofit “Back to the Mother.”

“Our founding principal is that every human being born to this world has unconditional rights to clean water, resources for vibrant health, and a clean ecosystem through which to pull the resources needed to thrive,” Holman said. “The first revenue stream we’re trying to organize is kombucha.”

Kombucha is best described as a bacterial culture that’s often fermented to create teas and coffees. Holman said the drink offers certain health benefits, such as fending off cancer.

In describing his nonprofit, Holman said Back to the Mother will explore leaching pollutants from contaminated soils by using living organisms while also working to build a glass recycling program. But it’s creating locally-sourced food that tops his list.

“We really want to make Missoula sustainable,” Holman said. “This has been six years of my own research. I have board members, I have a grant writer and I have a lot of resources that have come together. People get really excited about the idea, and that inspires me. But we’re still very early on.”

Holman, who maintains an affiliation with Pacific Domes Inc. in Ashland, Oregon, said his nonprofit is currently looking to partner with landowners interested in placing a biodome on their property.

“Say five community members want to come together, by putting a dome on their land, they’d get a certain percentage of what’s coming out of that done,” he said. “We can put these up in pretty unlimited spaces.”

While Holman’s nonprofit is looking to establish a revenue stream and will attempt to do so with kombucha, future products could include kimchi, bean sprouts and yogurt. Growing food in the biodomes could also include tropical fruits while helping local farms grow products year-round.

“We already have a lot of places in town that offer garden plots, but our growing season is so limited,” Holman said. “We want to open that up to beyond our growing season and include things we can’t grow here.”

Holman worries that most of Missoula’s food supply is dependent on fossil fuels and transporting items to the valley from another region. Any changes in the market, he said, could drive the cost of food beyond the reach of low-income residents.

“Bio-domes are easily kept at temperature year-round through passive systems,” he said. “Through these domes, we’re hoping to implement a lot of volunteer action, a lot of community action. People will get access to the resources being produced in these domes through volunteer work and shares.”