This section sets the food security scene and provides the necessary background for the practical modules to follow.


In late 2022, the practical reality of that is already playing out as famine grips large parts of Africa.  Millions are starving…right now!

And the situation is worsening by the day as Russia and Ukraine (two of the largest grain exporters in the world) hammer each other to death while China quietly buys up all available grain.

Even if we manage to ignore the deteriorating environmental and geopolitical situations, the ongoing COVID threat made it clear our food security is not at all secure!

Indeed, food security and food quality go hand in hand.  When supply is interrupted the market allows food of questionable quality to fill the supply gaps.

And if we are reliant on imported food, availability and spiralling price hikes will make food sovereignty…or where our food comes from…an issue for us.

In short, there has never been a better time to intimately connect with your food chain.

The sands of time are beckoning.

We can’t do much about the geopolitical situation – or the other agents of uncertainty – that have affected our lives during recent years, – but we can provide you with a practical pathway to personal food security.

In so doing, we will also show you how to produce organic food – free of all chemical fertilisers and synthetic chemicals.  You’ll have to redefine ‘fresh’ when you grow your food just metres from where it will be consumed.  It’s the kind of ‘fresh’ that allows you to enjoy the food you harvested just minutes earlier.

To that end, we offer you…

How to Build and Operate an iAVs Sandgarden

“The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.”

Albert Einstein

Course Description

An online, self-directed course comprising an orientation, eight practical Modules and a course review process.

Course Aim

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Leonardo da Vinci

In ‘Build and Operate an iAVs Sandgarden’ – our focus is on:

  • the simplest way to apply the iAVs method…
  • and the easiest way to build a sandgarden…
  • in its most cost-effective configuration…
  • so it provides more food for less water…
  • in the shortest possible time.

What is offered in this course is authentic…the same method that Mark McMurtry designed to allow impoverished villagers to source their nutrition without harming the planet.

An iAVs sandgarden is almost infinitely scalable…from a one-square-metre desktop demonstration unit to a million square meters.

Our focus, however, will be on the small-to-medium end of things – from a small plot big enough to provide sufficient freshwater fish and vegetables for a single person – up to a small commercial farm.

What this Course does…and does not do!

This course seeks to provide you with the knowledge to build and operate an iAVs Sandgarden.

What it will not do is teach you biology, chemistry, commerce, controlled environments, cultivation techniques, general aquaculture and horticulture practice, fish metabolism and physiology, physics, integrated pest management, plant nutrition, microbiology, species/cultivar selection – and a host of other areas. This subject matter is available online for anyone with a desire to learn – or a need to know.

iAVs sandgardening embraces all of these disciplines and reconciles all of them within a single method. This enables you to

  • grow fish without being an aquaculturist.
  • produce plants without being a horticulturist.
  • manage the rhizosphere without being a microbiologist.

And it does these things in such a way that we claim it to be the most productive, resilient and sustainable food production method ever devised.

If you apply yourself to this course, you will begin to understand why we believe so strongly in the method…and ‘excitement’ is not too strong a word to describe what you will feel once you – and iAVs – get a good grip on each other. The more you know about it – and what it can do – the greater the sense of satisfaction you’ll experience.

To that end, we’ll start by revisiting…

We then learn about why iAVs deserves to be taken seriously.

Once we understand what iAVs is – and how it operates – and we know the advantages it provides, it’s useful to understand that iAVs is a ‘system’ – not just virtue of its name – but because it’s “a group of interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole.

It’s a biological system – a cluster of biological processes…but it’s also a physical system. Think of it as being like a machine that uses power to apply forces and control movement to perform an action. It’s an apparatus that has several parts (each with a distinct function) – and it applies mechanical power to the production of desirable outputs.

The iAVs bio-Machine utilises a defined set of principles and procedures that are applied to specific activities to achieve a specific result…namely to grow more clean fresh organic food using less water.

If this is all a little too abstract for you, let’s think of a more identifiable machine – a motor car.

Let’s imagine that we’ve designed a car that provides the ultimate in driving excitement. It’s the full light and sound show -raw performance of the sort only found in the world’s most expensive supercars. And we’ve put it into the market for the cost of a family sedan – so we’ve had to build a car that makes no concessions to luxury or foible.

In the process, we’ve designed a vehicle that is a superb blend of form and function – requiring nothing to be added – nor removed.

It’s entirely fit for purpose – straight out of the box.

Operator Discretion

While we’ve worked hard to design and build our beautiful little car we still have a problem.

Everybody wants to change…or improve…different aspects of our vehicle. Some want a different engine – bigger wheels – able to drag a boat, etc. The changes are problematic because none of these ‘improvements’ boost performance – and some of them will actually detract from our car’s ability to function as designed.

This story has a point and it’s that this behaviour is known among system designers as operator discretion – who correctly perceive it to be the enemy of consistency. It turns a simple idea into a complicated mess in short order…usually because of a lack of knowledge or unfounded assumptions…but also often because of ego.

Sometimes, we just know we can do it better.

iAVs ain’t broke and requires no fixing – or improvement.

iAVs is fit for purpose – straight out of the box – but it suffers no less than our car analogy from operator discretion.

Since this is a course – and I am a trainer with eight years experience of the iAVs method – I can simply say that it should not be done.

I could just leave it at that but I’ve seen both sides of the operator discretion coin.

As a systems designer and trainer, I know its destructive capacity – but one of my favourite pastimes is exploring ideas – and I enjoy designing and making things – so I understand the desire to tinker.

And it’s not just iAVs (and aquaponics). I’ve been designing integrated food production systems – of all types – for over four decades. When I wasn’t building food production systems, I was designing business improvement systems for fee-paying clients, so I was quietly confident that I’d be able to come up with a few ideas to brighten up iAVs.

It’s that fondness for ideas and tinkering that allows me to say – with reasonable certainty – try as you may – you will not improve iAVs.

I know this because I tried for years and I failed to come up with anything that did not detract from the original core promise of productivity, resilience and sustainability.

I learned through my tinkering efforts – and those of many others – that ‘improvements’ to iAVs are usually a response to a problem that – had things been done right the first time – would never have existed.

To be clear, I’m not saying that iAVs can’t be fine-tuned for optimum performance. Indeed, as we’ll later learn, iAVs has never been optimised so we don’t know the upper limits of its productive capabilities.

We can tweak things like the feeding rates and irrigation regime frequency/duration to maximise growth and suit the needs of the most demanding plants. Other things are non-negotiable.

This course will enable you to distinguish one from the other.

If I appear to be labouring this point, it’s because the inability (or unwillingness) to suspend our prior experience will retard our progress with iAVs.

iAVs is unique. Focus your initial efforts on replicating the method as faithfully as possible. Immerse yourself in its possibilities and experience the thrill of people who confirm our claims for the method on a daily basis.

* This car definitely exists and it does all of the things that I mentioned. I wish I designed it but – alas – that’s not the case. It’s called the Ariel Atom. The first of these little cars were made in a barn in Buckinghamshire UK. The basic model – powered by a 190bhp Rover engine – routinely outperformed supercars costing millions. To get a sense of what Aerial Atom is really about, watch this video.

Dare to Compare

To be clear, I’m not asking you to abandon your creative instincts – or to subjugate your desire to innovate. I’m simply asking that you suspend them until you can relate to iAVs properly.

You are embarking upon your iAVs apprenticeship

Once you’ve learned how to build and operate an authentic iAVs, you will be encouraged to engage in comparisons and trials to enhance the performance of your system. It’s only when you have a standard iAVs with which to compare, that your ideas can be tested in any meaningful way. Once you have that capability, we encourage you to test whatever you wish and report on your findings.

Key Points – Orientation

  • iAVs is a food production system that utilises the metabolic wastes of fish to grow organic fruit and vegetables.
  • It is unique – and it is characterised by its simplicity.
  • It works…straight out of the box. Nothing can be taken away – and nothing needs to be added.
  • It’s infinitely scalable – from a square metre to a million square metres.
  • iAVs is a product of the Scientific Method. It was demonstrated, investigated and peer-reviewed and pronounced as fit for commercial application by the North Caroline State University. Its commercial viability was confirmed by a USDA-funded trial.
  • It’s the most productive, resilient and sustainable food production ever devised…based on the available evidence.
  • It offers the difference between life and death for the impoverished villagers for whom it was designed.

So, now that we have a sense of the food production power that’s at our fingertips, it’s time to get acquainted with…SAND!