As a young man, Mark McMurtry had a love affair with Africa …but he was dismayed by the hunger suffered by impoverished villagers living in arid areas – and the effect that their food- provisioning had on their environment.
In 1984, he sold his woodworking business and, funding his own research, he went off to university to research his idea – which was subsequently investigated, analysed and published in peer-reviewed journals.
Long story short, the result was the ‘Integrated Aqua-Vegeculture System’ (iAVs).
When speaking of the method, the late Dr H Douglas Gross (Professor Emeritus – North Carolina State University) said:
“The IAVS is a tightly coupled, virtually symbiotic, system of producing both fish and vegetables on a small area of land and which employs extremely conservative water-management practices.
Our continuing research reveals that one can realize both fish and fresh vegetable produce sufficient to feed a family of four – all year round – on a plot merely big enough to park the typical family car.”
It was established that each unit volume of available water for between 140 – 300 times (subject to climate and species being grown) before being lost to evapotranspiration and into biomass (food) production.
If we were to characterise IAVs in as few words as possible, it would be more food for less water…and well suited to a world that is quickly running out of fresh water.
But the good news doesn’t end there.
iAVs was found to be scale-neutral…enabling its use for small house gardens right up to huge, controlled environment greenhouses.
Dr Gross, speaking of the village (low tech) iAVs, stated…
“Yields from the research conducted in Raleigh NC indicate that over 50 kilograms of tilapia may be harvested per year for each cubic meter of water cultured (individual fish harvested periodically as they reach 250 grams), plus about 360 kilograms of tomatoes or other vegetable fruits.
At these yield rates, a “parking space” sized unit with 3 cubic meters of water and 14 square meters of vegetable filter bed could yield 150 kg of fish and 1100 kg of vegetable fruits per year (an average of 3 kg (7 lb) fish and 21 kg (46 lb) vegetables each week).”
Dr Mark McMurtry estimated that a ‘high-tech’ approach to the ‘car parking space’ model would see annual production of at least 200kg of fish and 1400kg of fruit and vegetables
Food value (calories) per litre of water consumed is more than 20,000 times that of corn grown in Iowa (for example) with a substantial fraction of the water used being incorporated in the food biomass.
He presented the method to over 30 US universities and across Africa and the Middle East.
USDA funded a commercial trial of the iAVs method that far exceeded all expectations. The University declared iAVs ready for implementation. Following tense legal proceedings, Mark retained all rights to iAVs – which he then gifted to humanity.
USAID committed $7.5million to the implementation of iAVs across the then newly formed nation of Namibia.
It was clear that iAVs was a game-changer with a very bright future.
Then fate took a hand and the bright future descended into hell.
Bureaucratic and intergovernmental malfeasance killed the plan to implement iAVs across Namibia….and he returned from Africa to discover that the university had terminated his tenure because he’d thwarted its plans to sell iAVs off to large food production conglomerates.
Mark limped back home – bankrupt and with his mental and physical health shattered – to try to rebuild his life.
Without institutional support, income – and pre-internet – he was no longer able to support the dissemination of iAVs – and it lapsed into obscurity.
In 2014, he began to work (again at no cost) with those expressing interest in the method. But fate wasn’t done with Mark R McMurtry.
In 2018, he fled a wildfire with his dogs and whatever he could carry…while the flames destroyed the trappings of his past and the simple but workable life he’d eked out for himself. His torment and pain intensified.
But again, he returned to the mountain…and again he started to rebuild his life…and again fate has pushed him to the edge.
The Current Situation
Mark is now 70 years of age and he’s suffering a variety of medical issues…several of which are life-threatening. He is in constant (and often debilitating) pain. His condition is Critical.
He’s living on top of a mountain in the Rockies at an elevation of 1700 metres – with winter approaching – with no running water and only a generator for electricity. His ‘home’ is a pick-up camper with just 4 square metres of floor space that he shares with his two Border Collie dogs.
He’s 25km from the public road – and 120km from the nearest service town. Any day now, he’ll get snowed in and any question of him driving out will be moot.
A Call to Action
Dr Mark R McMurtry did something of enormous and enduring value.
And then he gifted it…a truly transformative technology able to save millions of lives…to the world.
And he’s spent a substantial part of his life helping people to implement his gift…without ever having been paid for his efforts.
But, in an appalling failure of natural justice, he’s allowed to languish in life-threatening circumstances.
His situation should be unacceptable to any human being with a heart.
This is not just a humanitarian call. The world has an interest in keeping him alive. He’ll go back to work on his remarkable method…but we must save his life first.
If you’d like to support our fundraising on Mark’s behalf…click here.