High density food production
July 1, 2009 at 3:19 pm #982
So I’ve been thinking about food production on a seastead. Ideally you could have a fully closed system that produces a balanced diet, all of this as small as possible. I’ve come up with
something, and I’d very much like some comments.
The base of the food pyramid consists of a plant that can be used as a substrate for mushroom cultivation. Grass would do, it grows easily and relatively fast in most every climate. In addition to being a substrate for mushrooms, it could also be fed to livestock such as chickens, sheep goats and cows. Other options are kudzu, which grows at an astounding rate and is also edible, suited for both humans and livestock. A third possibility is bamboo. some varieties grow very fast and are edible. Furthermore, bamboo would provide material suited for carpentry or gardening (trellises).
These plants all produce cellulose to be used as a mushroom substrate (cellulose will henceforth encompass all carbohydrates produced for the purpose of serving as a mushroom substrate). Cultivating a combination of these plants is likely a safer bet than maintaining a monoculture which may be affected by a disease or deplete the soil of certain nutrients.
Mushrooms are grown as a bulk food with the production of starch in mind. Ideally fast growing strains of shiitake, oyster mushrooms, honey mushrooms or others that grow well on the available substrate could be isolated. These mushrooms can be eaten fresh, dried for storage, ground up and used as flour or used as animal feed. Certain mushrooms such as the reiki/reishi may also be used for medicinal purposes (asthma treatment).
I am unsure about the best way to dispose of depleted mushroom substrate. Composting seems the most likely destination.
The fruiting of mushrooms produces considerable amounts of carbon dioxide which must vented off. Composting too produces large amouts of carbon dioxide which may be recovered for the production of algae. This exhaust is bubbled into a bioreactor where algae are grown under artificial light. Certain strains of algae can be eaten fresh, dried and/or cooked and should not be disregarded as a source of food or animal fodder. The chosen algae should also produce algae oil which is useful as biofuel or as a source of nutritional fat. After removal of oil, algae may be used as mushroom substrate (research required!), used as animal fodder or composted.
In addition to these sources of bulk food, a small garden should be maintained to provide additional nutrients and tasty ingredients as well as seasoning. Even very small gardens can produce large amounts of produce and herbs. Patti Moreo has achieved wonderful results with her urban garden. The path to freedom project shows what can be achieved on a larger scale.
Additionally, a hrdroponics installation could be maintained and fertillised with “compost tea”.
Livestock may prove challenging. Even small animals like chickens require a certain amount of space if health is to be maintained. Aditionally, livestock produces food much less efficiently than plants. Fish are supposedly the most efficient animals. With seasteading in mind, simple fishing would be a great option. However: fish populations may be contaminated or undesireable for human consumption.
Fish can be caught, killed and fed into a maggot bucket to provide chickens with a substantial portion of their nutritional requirements. If fishing is easy enough, this would provide you with a serious source of meat and eggs. Another source of healthy, tasty fish would be to raise them yourself. Worm beds, just like maggot buckets would be a marvelous way to recycle waste meat as well as many other scraps.July 1, 2009 at 4:35 pm #6754
There are several companies in the US that specialize in meat delivery…you can order all kinds of meats online and have it arrive at your door in 7-10 days (or overnight if you want to pay big bucks). Omaha Steaks is one of the more popular ones, but they only deliver to the US and Canada. Anyone know of any international meat delivery companies that would do bulk deliveries? That might be a much cheaper way of getting meats onboard…rather than having to allocate tons of space to raising livestock.
You also might want to look at mollusk farming as another method for providing meat in high density farming systems. You can grow an awful lot of clams and oysters in a pretty small space.July 1, 2009 at 7:58 pm #6755
The problem with getting meat in bulk is that it needs to be frozen which requires huge amounts of energy. Initially I would think that energy is going to be a bottleneck of any seastead. Fishing is a good option but with the very likely future shortages in ocean fish populations as well as the various pollution issues we are already seeing, I can see a lot of people having issues with this.
Diversity in food is a key factor to good health. The typical American eats meat at almost every meal. Most new nutritional research is showing that eating meat a few times a week is enough. If people can be educated on this issue, food production on a seastead will be much easier because meat production takes huge amounts of resources. Chickens, rabbits, fish, mollusk , etc can all be raised/collected in much smaller quantites if people can be re-educated to accept that eating meat breakfast, lunch and dinner is neither sustainable or healthy.
I think every food sustainability group I have seen has at least advocated for a drastic reduction in meat consumption, especially for dense urban environments. I personally would have no problem giving up all animal products (since I’m a vegetarian already) and knowing that this drastically reduces the barriers of entry into a seastead environment, I think that the people who can also adjust to at least a reduced meat diet, will be the first who can move on to seasteadsJuly 1, 2009 at 8:07 pm #6756
There is no fate but what we make for ourselves. Each to his fate.July 1, 2009 at 9:20 pm #6759
I disagree that energy production will be a limiting factor. The ocean’s pretty much a giant pool of available energy, solar (PV and thermal), wind, wave and OTEC. The real limiting factor will be the money needed to install these systems. Taking solar as an example, even if the total cost of energy production is the same as buying it from the grid over the long term, you’re effectively buying all the energy at once in the one time cost of the PV panels. Of course on the ocean there isn’t any other option, since there is no grid to hook up to.
I do agree about the food thing though. Going vegetarian or semi-vegetarian is a small price to pay for successful seasteading, IMHO. And even if not seasteading, its a good way to save money. Every $5/day cut out of food costs is $1,825.00 saved a year, and meat costs a lot more than veggies, rice, potatoes, etc. Not to mention eventual savings on the costs of health problems.
To the OP, even without fishing, aquaculture should be able to provide plenty of fish. Two things that are readily available on the ocean: water and sunlight (to convert to heat and desalinate the water). Aquaculture should be relatively easy, as long as there is a steady supply of fish food available. I believe current fish farms use soy or some other non-animal product to make the food last longer, but I don’t think they’re able to grow fish on a mostly vegetarian diet (I’m not sure why this is, or if its true for all species, or if it just reduces the growth rate to less profitable levels). Maybe some other intermediate could be used, like feeding fish with maggots? Farmed krill would be the best option, but from what I’ve read krill mortality rates in captivity are too high to make it currently profitable.
Edit: Something else, I doubt there are meat companies that will deliver at sea, but it could be a profitable start-up business for seasteaders. Travel to shore, load a boat up with thousands of pounds of meat, bring back to seastead and sell/trade at profit. That’s assuming other people on the seastead had sources of income to pay for the meat.July 1, 2009 at 11:36 pm #6760
Not to nitpick but, in that case, money is the limiting factor for everything: food, real estate, energy, etc. If we just had enough money to buy the technology, we have the ability to do just about anything. When I said that energy was a limiting factor, I was aware that given more money we could build a larger vessel and put up more PV or turbines. My point was that the first generation seasteads will be operating on a limited budget which will reduce the number of luxuries such as energy, real estate, food, etc. I assumed the point of the Infrastructure board was to try and look at what and how we can work around the various limiting factors.
With that said, for me (and I would think most others) getting a proof of concept seastead up and running is key. There are enough problems right now from an engineering stand point, anything we can do to reduce the extra inputs on the system such as keeping energy requirements down, lowering our food footprint, or giving up luxuries that would require travel back to the mainland, is going to speed up this process.
I don’t think many of us are going to have enough money to make this an easy transition. If a few of us get out there and prove some concepts, the next generation is going to improve the process and the technology. 3rd or 4th (maybe 9th or 10th) generation groups are going to start to see dramatically reduced costs and this idea will finally take off.
But until then, my thoughts on infrastructure are, how can we do this with what we have and what we can afford today.July 2, 2009 at 12:37 am #6761
We can day dream here all night long that we gonna grow tomatoes, one plant at a time on one $100.00/sq foot of seastead. But the reality will dictate that 1 sq ft of seastead can generate more profit/year then the equivalent of 5 lb of roma tomatoes,…Lets say, 1 dancing pole , 1 hot russian stripper/1 sq ft will bring the House @ least $50.00/hour. (she will keep the tips). I said it before and I will say it 1000 more time that food production at sea its a myth, in the beginning stage. But, it doesnt mean that is not feasible. When the Casinos, the Hotels, the Bars, the Strip Joints, the Fishing, the Banking, the Hydrogen production, will bring the millions in, then maybe.July 2, 2009 at 2:43 am #6762
tomohern: I suppose you’re right about that one. I was thinking in terms that the energy wouldn’t cost that much (any?) more than on land, except that the cost comes in the form of a high initial investment, but over the long term isn’t any harder to get than it would be anywhere else. As opposed to something like raising cows, which would cost significantly more to do on a seastead than on land (since a lot of sturdy material is needed per cow). Apologies for my pointless bickering, I misunderstood what you were saying.
Ocean: At the risk of disagreeing with everyone one by one, I also don’t think its a fair comparison of the profitability of growing food on the ocean to strip clubbing (etc.) on the ocean, since it shouldn’t cost as much to make an area sufficient for growing food (or energy production) as it would for casinos, strip clubs, hotels, and so on. Casinos and strip clubs require a structure, mainly a fancy building for people to hang out in and the seastead to support it, where as food and small animals can be grown on a light trellis covered with some thin material (plastic, cloth, etc.), either floated on the ocean or hanging above it, which wouldn’t cost nearly as much per sq ft as the actual seastead. Fish too could be grown in large tanks, which are a lot cheaper to build and maintain than strip clubs or casinos.July 2, 2009 at 5:34 am #6765
My point was methaphorical. And the stripper was actually from Texas. There is no risk of disagreeing here since we are trying to find solutions. To me, everybodys point of view is a step forward. The key word in my post is “in the begining stage”. No matter how big an initial seastead is going to be, it will drain some pockets. A lot of money will be initially spend on the infrastructure alone, Clubstead costs are around $100.00/sq ft. Lets say the cost can be realistically cut in half, either by few design modifications, building it abroad (cheaper labor), etc. So lets take that for granted and assume $50.00/sq ft, a bare hull. TSI plans to allocate 300 sq ft living space per person, which is ok, a bit generous for my taste,so, lets say we will all compromise @ 200.(what the heck,..we are pioneers) and save $5k per person. Now the role of thumb is that you need 1.5 acres to feed 1 person/year. Ok, we’ll go hydro and cut that to 1/10 and drop self sufficiency @25%. That is 1000 sq ft/person=$50,000.00/person. You might argue here,…hold on O, is not gona cost the same to build area for food, compare to habitat. But floating or spar, a seastead will have to hold that soil, or hydro, water cost money to be produced @ sea, maintanance and fertilizers(got to ship them in from land),…anyway, I will take $10.00 off for veggies. On top of this you need @ least another 300 sq ft/peson for propulsion, fuel tanks,solar panels/wind gens/or diesel generator, batteries, water tanks, waste(holding tank)+the cash to buy these hardware+labor+materials. Grand Total,…an easy $ 200,000.00 per person, initial investment, will give you 1200 sq ft of seastead on your name. If you want to sell it to me I will buy it. But I will do anything I want w/ this real estate, because its mine. I will ship all my food in, live large on 400 sq ft, open The Seasteadtiki Bar & Lounge on another 400 sq ft. and lease out the rest of the 400 sq ft for $4.000.00/month. And live happily ever after:-)
In couple of years, I’ll get a chunck of my profits and build 4000 sq ft module for farming or animal husbandry or fish farming.July 2, 2009 at 7:24 am #6767
Maybe I missed something (having just watched Transformers 2, I’m pretty sure it lowered my IQ significantly), but if it actually takes 1.5 acres/person/year (not that I’m doubting it) it would be even worse than you’re surmising since .15 acres = 6,534 sq ft > 1,200 sq ft/person.
Yeah, you’re right, I am gonna say “hold on O…” The seastead wouldn’t actually have to support the weight if the system floats on the water (such as if a two-in-one seastead-breakwater in the shape of a big ring was built and the inside calm waters were used to float farming systems and solar PV/thermal systems, with people and businesses residing on the ring). Hanging I suppose it would, unless buoys were used to prop it up, but even then it shouldn’t take a deep pond to grow hydroponics. Half a foot of water would weigh about 33 lbs/sq ft (more accurately, 1/6th of a meter weighs 166.7 kg per sq meter), not counting plants and the weight of the structure… ok so maybe hanging farms isn’t such a hot idea, but floating farms would be pretty hard to manage without a breakwater, so even if I’m right this may hinge on the breakwater seasteads winning out over the spar platform seasteads. Regardless, fish farming doesn’t even need to be done above water, so $1 or $100 per sq ft it shouldn’t affect the cost much, other than the room needed for equipment to manage the fish (pumping system, desalination, harvesting, etc.).July 2, 2009 at 4:29 pm #6769
Aeroponics is a much better system than hydroponics…better growth and you don’t have to worry about all that water. There are commercial systems available right now off-the-shelf that could be installed in rooms deep inside the seastead.
Meat distribution is available in a variety of ways. I found three different vendors that would deliver canned meats internationally in bulk (500kg or more). The raw meat delivery I have seen ships on dry ice, so it will stay for up to 10 days en route. Yes, once it gets to the seastead you will have to keep it frozen but that is just an energy issue. We’ll have to freeze stuff anyway, unless you plan to salt and dry all the fish you catch.
As for delivery, I plan on having a land-based outpost near the seastead that will act as the hub for communications and shipments. FedEx delivers the stuff to the outpost, and then we use ships to bring stuff to the seastead. It’s much easier to give FedEx an address in an existing country than say “deliver those engines to these GPS coordinates on the open ocean”!
As for going vegan, you can take my juicy, tender, slightly-seasoned t-bone steak when you pry it from my sharp incisors.July 2, 2009 at 4:39 pm #6770
Energy is the most fundamental resource. If you have unlimited/very cheap energy you can do anything/a lot, including growing food with artificial lighting (and build the structures to grow it in). Of course whether you will be able to do it cheaper than everyone else on the world market is another matter.
But the energy needs to be harnessed and usable. There is plenty of sunlight, wave and wind energy on the ocean. But it isn’t readily usable unless you build huge expensive things to collect it with. Because of this it becomes expensive.
Ergo any seasteaders with high ambitions should get nuclear power. It is cheap, clean and available around the clock all year long, and fuel is available for millions of years of human consumption at current rates.
There are political obstacles of course. But obstacles are made to be overcome.July 2, 2009 at 5:11 pm #6772
cheaper than everyone else on the world market
Well there are some things to take into consideration here besides just producing energy/food cheaper than the existing market. Independence from existing governments is one thing. Sure, it might cost us more to make biodiesel than to just purchase it from an existing nation. But now we give up some of our independence and are now reliant on this other supplier. Sometimes just being able to do it cheaper isn’t the only factor. I don’t mind spending a bit more on something if it will pay off higher in the end in the way of increased freedom from existing nations, or a better future for my children.July 2, 2009 at 5:31 pm #6774
You don’t buy food from governments, and they will never be able to stop everyone selling food to you. And everything else equal, cheaper is indeed better, and buying food does not diminish your autonomy. If seller X becomes available you just go to another one.
But if you still want to make your own food, for whatever reason, go for it. I think a lot of people will be negatively surprised by exactly how expensive this kind of “self-sufficiency” is though. Your children will not benefit from poverty.July 2, 2009 at 5:45 pm #6777
First off all: thank you for the comments people, all are appreciated.
Yes, buying food is cheaper on short term, and may prove cheaper in the long run as well, wether or not food production should be included in the operations of a seastead is to be decided at a later moment. This write-up is nothing more than a thought experiment towards an extremely dense method of food production Which is especially viable on junk land as well as on an offshore installation. High cellulose plants, mushrooms and algae bioreactors may very well end up as viable methods of biofuel production or production of food on land.
A seastead may have access to a highly profitable venture which would allow for the unlimited importation of fresh food, it might not. If a portion of a staple food (kudzu root, mushroom meal) can be cultivated easely and would be available without transport this will reduce ongoing costs considerably, leaving less staple to be imported alongside with meat, vegetables and other foodstuffs. Algae oil may be produced to fuel the transports that would carry those supplies, reducing cost of transport and providing yet another layer of redundancy in terms of energy security (some oil can be used in direct injection diesel engines, which can be used in generators for example).
If anything and everything can be purchased and money is plentiful, then we would not need mind these matters and simply keep the brothel / hotbox / … running.
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Written by Michael-Hawkins