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Ilan Egoz is originally from Israel and came into contact with the BHU through helping to establish the on-site community gardens when he was involved with the Lincoln Enviro-town Trust. He “fell in love” with the BHU and decided to do the course at the Organic Training College. “I had one of the community gardens, and I have always had a small-scale garden but I didn’t actually know much about organics or horticulture,” he says.

“The course has really opened windows for me.” Two aspects of organic growing in particular really appeal to him – soil science, and tunnelhouses. Ilan puts his interest in soils down to tutor Bill Martin: “he is such a good teacher and really knows about soils”. Tunnelhouses fascinate him because they are so essential to growing in this climate, says Ilan, where there are late frosts in spring, early frosts in autumn, and wind at any time of the year. He has finished building a experimental tunnelhouse that has passive thermal mass in the form of black-painted drums of water, which will absorb heat during the day and release it at night.

“This is the area I want to pursue when I finish the course,” says Ilan. Energy will soon become a real issue and there will be huge interest in trying to grow sustainably as possible. At the moment, he says, some greenhouse growers use coal to heat their houses in winter, and coal in summer to cool them. “This is not sustainable. I am really interested in experimenting with use solar energy and thermal mass in greenhouses and tunnelhouses.”

Ilan has found the tutors at the Organic Training College inspirational. “They really encourage lateral and critical thinking.” First year was exciting and social and he enjoyed beginning to grow on a semi-commercial scale. Last summer Ilan grew cucumbers in one of his tunnelhouses and “grew more cucumbers than the whole of Christchurch could eat. The potential of tunnelhouses is immense.”

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