If I can get a small production line happening, I could make the 'Permachar Wicking Module' (PWM) made from biochar-epoxy resin biocomposite panels and pipes. Epoxidized Canola oil or even better but double the cost, linseed oil, may be used as a base for producing potentially solid water-free and VOC-free epoxy resin.
I'm hoping to use Pinus radiata (pine) for the biochar aquifer and biochar filler in the biochar-epoxy resin biocomposite module panels. As with the PWP, I hope to use sea kelp biochar for the Permafert as it contains minerals and trace elements which would be slowly released. All the biochar would also be made in the Kon-Tiki 'Rolls' biochar kiln.
Inititally, I would have to prototype the modules in order to assess the durability, water resistance/breathability (probably won't need as much breathability as ceramic terracotta), and UV resistance. Some of this testing can also be done in Mauro's lab.
The module panels could be made with basic formwork or molds. 2" PVC pipes could be used as molds (possibly used in conjunction with a DIY injection molding machine) for the vertical standpipes/2 way valves with slots.
The biocomposite panels might need a wood or steel exoskeleton to keep them in place, or possibly just a steel exoskeleton base using 3mm 'steel angle', which would also allow welding of plates that would attach to the castors. If the biocomposite panels are, say, 5mm thick, they could be attached together with angle brackets and screws . Biochar silicon (another new material) could be applied on the inside of the module at the panel joins to prevent water leakage.
Multiple 2" pipes (with slots) would be spaced out vertically along the centreline of the module and positioned on the base and locked into position by the surrounding aquifer/permafert layers. The pipes can be 'capped' with a 2" cap after filling in order to reduce evaporation from the pipe.
The modules could be on heavy duty swivel castors with brakes (like on the Kon-Tiki 'Rolls' biochar kiln). The wheels allow easy moving of the modules to the right place (over flat or uneven ground) which may vary over a year due to changing climate/micro-climates. The wheels also allow transport on trailers. Rubber, in the wheels, can also use biochar as a filler which is a whole new area of research. Until that happens it is easier to buy off-the-shelf wheels from eBay.
After R & D stages, with the right training, resources and infrastructure the PWM could be built locally and sold locally either as kits of all the components eg. the panels could be flatpacked OR as a complete unit. The seedlings could be offered as optional since some people might want to grow/supply their own seedlings.
Any punters or collaborators please get in touch on the 'Contact form'!
Or, if function and cost overrides aesthetics, you could cut a new or used IBC in half horizontally (with an angle grinder +/- jigsaw) and weld 4 castor wheels onto the base, with one in each corner. A couple of spaced out vertical 2" pipes with slots would probably do the job. If using a used IBC, you will need to check it's history and find out what it previously contained, which needs to be non-toxic.
If using longitudinally cut 200L polyethylene barrels, I would recommend reinforcing the top with wood screwed in, as they will deform over time which is what happened in the 'Permachar Kitchen Garden (PKG)' (see on a separate page - this system successfully prototyped biochar aquifers/Permafert/mulch). As with the IBCs, used barrels need to have a history of non-toxic liquids eg. ethanol.
Potentially animal feed troughs, water troughs, bath tubs, 20L ss/galv/recycled plastic buckets, large trugs etc. could be retrofitted too. Also, see the 'Permachar Wicking Pot (PWP)' page for pot-based wicking pot systems. In theory, any vessel that can hold water and is ergonomic for growing could be used.
I can use off the shelf components for this. I will need to use 200um black plastic for the aquifer with underwater Gorilla tape. I have just read that bioplastic that biodegrades in the ocean has been invented at Osaka University. Maybe one day we could manufacture it in Australia with no fossil fuels needed for the production and material! I'm going to prototype the first module with 90mm PVC stormwater pipes with push on caps. This will increase the size of the overflow reservoir which is probably needed for the larger module size, compared to the 50/65mm PVC pipe used in the Permachar Wicking Pot/Trug/Bucket.