Growing resources sustainably and building community.
A UCI Informatics Project.

About the project

The Sustainable Polyculture project at UCI aims to help people in Southern California design sustainable polycultures for personal use. A sustainable polyculture is a mutually dependent group of perennial and self-seeding annual plants designed to thrive with little or no external inputs and provide significant amounts of human resources.

We are working with local community members, including Eco-apprentices of The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano, and Agroecology researchers to identify what novice growers need to design and grow sustainable polycultures for personal use. In this pursuit, we have engaged community members in building a sustainable polyculture at our demonstration site at the UCI Arboretum.

We have found that support of Information Technology would help novices understand, organize and visualize the complex relationships among plants that must be formed to create a sustainable polyculture. We are building a comprehensive database of plants suitable for this application in Southern California and a design tool called the Sustainable Polyculture Composer.

This work is managed by UCI Ph.D. Student Juliet Norton and Professor Bill Tomlinson in partnership with Professor Don Patterson at Westmont College and Professor Sarah Taylor Lovell at University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne. This research is funded by the National Science Foundation Award # 14442749.

Demonstration site at the UCI Arboretum

With the help of community members, on campus organizations, and independent students, we have installed a Permaculture research site at the UCI Arboretum. To date, we have removed an invasive species that covered the majority of the site, created an outdoor classroom, rehabilitated a grapefruit tree planted by UCI Founding Chancellor Daniel Aldrich, dug earthworks for stormwater management, and planted over 50 native edibles and support species.

To find out about future events join the UCI Sustainable Polyculture Google Group.

Southern California Sustainable Polyculture Database

The database is currently under development and is expected to be available Summer 2016. If you are interested in participating in the population of the database please contact us at

Sustainable Polyculture Composer

The composer is currently under development and is expected to be available end of 2016. If you are interested in participating in piloting early prototypes please contact us at