Rob & Michelle Avis

Even starting out as engineers in Calgary’s oil fields, Rob and his wife and business partner Michelle Avis knew their careers lay in creating solutions that would heal the land….and after just 10 years, they have reinvented themselves in a way many professionals only dream of doing.

Rob and Michelle left the oil and gas industry in 2008 and launched Verge Permaculture, now an internationally-recognized and award-winning regenerative design, consulting, and education center. Through Verge they are leading the next wave of permaculture education, and teaching career-changing professionals how to build successful businesses combining technology with earth science and eco-entrepreneurism.

As skilled Professional Engineers, they offer a depth of practical expertise in building science and appropriate technology (solar, wind, combined heat & power), as well as rainwater harvesting, agro-ecology, ecosystem engineering, soil regeneration and onsite wastewater treatment / septic design.

Rob and Michelle have studied regenerative design internationally, interning at the pioneering Nordic Folkecenter for Renewable Energy in Denmark; researching sustainable farms, eco villages, and renewable energy installations from Calgary to Latin America; and completing three permaculture certifications in the US, Australia and Canada. Rob later spent three months volunteering at the Australian Permaculture Research Institute and became one of its first certified teachers. Since then, he and Michelle have visited many of the world’s leading permaculture sites, and brought many internationally-known teachers to present at Verge.

With ongoing training and practice in dozens of sustainable technologies ranging from natural building materials to greywater systems, wind turbines to soil and wetland restoration, they’ve converted their urban Calgary home into a living permaculture project complete with a front-yard food forest, water-harvesting features, passive solar greenhouse, and energy retrofits on the house.

Since launching Verge, they’ve helped more than 3000 students and a growing number of clients design and/or create integrated systems for shelter, energy, water, waste and food, all while supporting local economy and regenerating the land.

In keeping with Verge’s mission to grow the permaculture groundswell, Rob donates much time as a popular and passionate public speaker for community events, non-profit groups and businesses. He has been invited to lecture at local colleges and universities, and to speak at both regional and international conferences.

They have earned testimonials from permaculture’s bestselling author Toby Hemenway, dryland-restoration guru Craig Sponholtz, and “beyond-organic farming” superstar Joel Salatin among others. Leading permaculture designer/trainer Geoff Lawton calls Verge “one of North America’s premier permaculture design and education companies!”.

In 2019, Rob and Michelle moved to a 65-hectare [160-acre] wooded property in central Alberta, Canada, and they now spend most of their free time putting the into practice what they teach while building their own permaculture property.

Rob finds balance in his life by spending free time outdoors with his wife and two children, and by devoting time to his meditation practice. In his odd extra moments, he can be found tinkering in his shop, cooking up a new recipe in the kitchen, picking out chords on his new guitar….or jotting down notes on his latest entrepreneurial idea.

Michelle is focusing her time and energy primarily on the couple’s two young children, while growing microgreens, sprouts, herbs & veggies in the Verge greenhouse and gardens (take a virtual tour here).

  • Michelle Avis
    Michelle Avis Co-Instructor / Engineer
  • Rob Avis Founder / Lead Instructor / Engineer

  • Over the past five years I have watched Rob and Michelle build Verge Permaculture from the ground up and I am proud to say that Verge Permaculture is now one of North America's premier permaculture design and education companies.

    Geoff Lawton
    Geoff Lawton Director of The Permaculture Institute
  • Rob & Michelle - I'm proud of your work and your vision. What a delight to see young people like you embrace and then lend your savvy talents to this movement.

    Joel Salatin
    Joel Salatin Owner/Operator of Polyface Farms
  • Rob and Michelle truly inspired me in so many ways. It's their passion for social change, that keeps me inspired to keep on given er'.

    Curtis Stone Author of The Urban Farmer
  • If you want to schedule an event with them, or just attend one, I recommend them very, very highly.

    Toby Hemenway
    Toby Hemenway Author of Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture
  • Michelle, Rob and the rest of the Verge crew dedicate an enormous amount of care and energy to make life-changing educational opportunities available to their community.

    Craig Sponholtz
    Craig Sponholtz Dryland Solutions Inc.
  • We engaged Rob Avis from Verge Permaculture to speak about passive solar greenhouses at SESA's 2014-2015  Solar Seminar series.  Rob is a dynamic, informative speaker who clearly knows his subject matter. As an engineer and an ecologist, Rob offers a unique and refreshing perspective.   We would be thrilled to host him again in the future.

    Rob Harlan
    Rob Harlan Executive Director, Solar Energy Society of Alberta
  • Rob and Michelle Avis are not only highly knowledgeable about all matters concerning sustainability, but also convey sustainable living in a compelling and lively way. They make the journey fun.  

    Anna Ford, Edmonton, AB
    Anna Ford, Edmonton, AB
  • Rob and Michelle, the owners and creators of Verge Permaculture, have done an amazing job in permeating the ideas of permaculture to our class. They are personable, knowledgeable and pragmatic in their approach and I would recommend that anyone who has an interest in any of the information offered by them access and support their diverse ventures in creating a better world for us all.  

    Joshua Stefan, Edmonton, AB
    Joshua Stefan, Edmonton, AB
  • Rob is a great teacher and some how he managed to cram so much into my head in such a considerably short time while not making me feel overwhelmed  and making sure I and everyone else understood.

    Anonymous Student
    Anonymous Student
  • Passion is clearly visible in [Rob's] teaching.  Great blend of philosophy, technical knowledge and practical hands-on experience.  All of the videos, photos, anecdotes, etc. make for an interesting and engaging presentation.

    Anonymous Student

The Verge Team

  • Alain D’Aoust
    Alain D’Aoust Verge Academy Director

    Alain has spent the last decade working on local food projects, delivering school garden programs and developing community-based permaculture in the Seaway Valley of Eastern Ontario.

    He and his family have since settled on a new rural homestead where they have designed and built a simple home and are developing their 10-acre parcel using the Building Your Permaculture Property process.

    When he isn’t farming or collaborating on projects, he can usually be found in the kitchen preparing nutrient dense meals or paddling down a river somewhere. 

  • Carmen Lamoureux
    Carmen Lamoureux Lead Instructor

    The lead instructor for the Verge PDC, Carmen has had a varied career, working for the Alberta government in the fields of sustainable resource management, forestry and privately in silviculture, soils and horticulture. As founder and owner of Calgary’s URBAN FARM SCHOOL, as well as the Urban Farm Permaculture Project, she is dedicated to helping emerging gardeners and permaculture enthusiasts gain the freedom, confidence and skills they need to live more abundant, sustainable and resilient lives. Having grown food organically for over 4 decades, Carmen gets excited about helping others cultivate great food, and in turn, great selves.  (Verge PDC Grad 2013)

  • Jen Nobel
    Jen Nobel PDC Coordinator / Design Mentor

    Initially an architectural graduate, Jen first heard of permaculture on a trip to Sierra Leone with Earthship Biotecture in 2011, but wasn’t formally introduced to it until she took a few introductory workshops with Jardins sans Frontières in Montreal. Everything seemed new yet was so basic; permaculture struck such a chord with Jen that she felt like her brain was being rewired. After taking Verge’s Professional Development PDC with 1-on-1 mentoring, Jen moved away from architecture and interior design to launch Northbound Bloom where she designs edible and naturalized landscapes and acreages (Verge PDC Grad 2017).

  • Mitch Rawlyk
    Mitch Rawlyk R&D Lead / Design Mentor

    Mitch comes to us with a BSc. in physical geography with a concentration in Earth Systems from the University of Victoria (BC, Canada), and an MSc. in physical geography (applied meteorology) from the University of Otago in New Zealand where he researched the utilization of machine learning for frost prediction in complex terrain, and the controlling meteorological variables of frost events.

    Mitch helps out with the Essential Rainwater Harvesting Course, Passive Solar Greenhouse Course, is the product manager of Contour Map Generator, teaches the climate & mapping section of our Online Permaculture Design Course, and leading the event planning for our summits & conferences.

    In his spare time you can catch him working on the endless amounts projects at Moose’s Groovy Grove, reading, developing frost forecasting models (amongst other data science projects), running around or cycling, dipping in some cold water, going for walks with his and Madi’s growing family of animals, or working on his latest funky sauerkraut recipe (Verge PDC Grad 2021)

  • Kate Fulmore
    Kate Fulmore Business Systems Junkie

    Kate is a business systems junkie who enjoys supporting Verge’s students and courses by coordinating all the details on the back end as part of her passion for making permaculture education available for everyone. In addition to her work with Verge, she enjoys designing and managing  her many gardens as part of her deep love for sustainable agriculture and healthy living.

  • Madi Veitch
    Madi Veitch Farm Store Manager

    As the Verge Farm Store Manager, Madi has been working closely with local farmers and butchers to produce high quality, nutrient dense, cleanest ingredient list, YUM, Grass-fed and finished beef products. She also takes care of some bookkeeping and other administrative tasks.

    Madi moved to Yeoford, AB from Dunedin, New Zealand in 2021. Her background is in food and coffee, and she has spent the most part of the last 12 years running cafes and restaurants in NZ. When she’s not in the kitchen you can usually find her outside in the garden, going on walks with her growing pack of animals, playing Catan or at the pub. She lives on a lovely piece of land with Mitch – you can follow their journey of turning a hobby golf course into a regenerative permaculture orchard on Instagram.

  • Katlin Robinson
    Katlin Robinson Sales & Marketing

    Katlin is our marketing lead and business strategist extraordinaire leading our Sales & Marketing Team. Katlin is a self-declared permaculture groupie. She has been dabbling in permaculture for almost 10-years, beginning with a roof-top container garden in downtown Toronto. More recently she’s been on a slow journey of transforming her urban property in southwestern Ontario into a permaculture space. She divides her time between supporting Verge’s mission and working in the mental health field as a yoga therapist.

  • Erin Woods
    Erin Woods Marketing Specialist

    Erin is the Marketing Specialist for Verge Permaculture. Her background began in journalism and media relations as a result of studies at MacEwan University. Erin is very versatile with a jack-of-all trades skill set. After a few years working with traditional media and advocacy groups she began to build, renovate and upgrade websites for local clients while also coming onto the Verge Team. Erin is also a beekeeper running her business as Crave Honey Alberta and loves to spend time outdoors in rural Alberta with her family.

  • Phila Hoopes
    Phila Hoopes Sales & Marketing

    Phila Hoopes is Verge’s long-time marketing copywriter, transitioning to the team in 2021 after serving as a freelance contractor for more than 10 years. A graduate of Verge’s 2020 Permaculture Design Course, she brings decades of combined copywriting, technical writing, and journalistic experience to her work.  She hails from Baltimore, Maryland, where she’s implementing her permaculture project and networking on stormwater management issues, rigorously supervised by three cats and wildlife of various species. (Verge PDC Grad 2020)


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