October 15, 2010 at 9:45 pm #1360
As this is my first post, I apologize if it is a little rough and lacking in detail. I believe I have finally come up with a plan to build a new society on the oceans, but am still fleshing it out. But that notwithstanding, I invite everyone to tell me what you think of my idea. So let’s begin.
Operation Bootstrap is a plan from start to finish to establish a new civilization on the open oceans. Been working on the idea for years, but recently came across the one element that brought it all together. That element actually was a post on this site regarding bubble ponds as farms. Also, there was a comment in another thread that made the elegant observation that the key to starting is to emulate the floating villages around the world. “That’s all we need to do is to copy them, but do it better,” I believe was the comment. And so, he was right.
The bubble ponds with some modifications of my own can be the start of colonizing the oceans. First step is to colonize the near shore. This is where the bubble ponds come in. One modification that will result in a number of benefits is instead of a soft shell, give the bubble ponds a hard shell. The prime advantage a hard shell gives is that now the bubble ponds can act as breakwaters. But first, let’s explore the idea of bubble ponds further. These would enable sea farming. Around the bubble ponds one could cultivate seaweed (mostly for fertilizer as compost inside the bubbles), mussels, oysters, abalone, …, etc. Inside would be an aquaponics farm. Numerous freshwater seafood could be cultivated as well as food crops. As these crops would be grown without any pesticides or chemical fertilizers, they can be sold at a premium. The same with the freshwater seafood. Revenue from the bubble ponds could be quite high depending on what is being cultivated.
But the nice thing about starting out with the bubble ponds is that your startup costs can be greatly reduced. How? A number of grant/loan programs from government, businesses and institutions exist to develop mariculture and organic farming. Additionally, developmental costs can be slashed by partnering with higher educational institutions that have marine/ocean departments.
So, starting with a single prototype bubble pond which at a minimum would take a year or two to develop (depending upon what problems develop and are resolved) a demo model is produced and shown to work, one can then seek financing to begin deploying these near shore. Best location for these would be fishing towns. Prime reason is that fisheries are declining creating havoc to these town’s economies. They would welcome any industry that would provide them with jobs. Also, they already most likely have the support infrastructure in place to service the bubbles and package/ship the crops.
As the number of bubble ponds increase, it becomes more critical to have people onsite to monitor and work in them. This can be accomplished by building a mobile, floating marina and docking houseboats at them to provide worker housing. (Note: these would be houseboats, not floating homes.) By arraying the bubble ponds around this structure, a sheltered harbor is created in the center providing increased protection for the marina. As the revenue from the operations will most likely to be quite substantial, building the marina should not be a problem.
As food issues will become more and more critical in the future, expansion of the operations will bring in more revenue and also expand the number of floating “villages.” (Actually, I like to think of these as cohousing developments.) With the revenue from these, can begin work on a second generation of floating villages.
I have ideas for a second generation of floating villages, but they are ill developed at this time. Will save these for a future post. However, a second generation of floating villages that can operate on the open ocean would also enable the creation of a sovereign nation. How? Few people are aware that global warming is endangering island nations. The populations on these islands face becoming weather refugees. By building second generation floating villages around their island, one can become citizens and participate in the government. As your numbers increase, can take over the operation of government and modify it to suit your purposes. In essence, a “Free Island Project.”October 17, 2010 at 12:17 pm #11571
I don’t know exactly what a bubble pond is, but are they competitive with mainstream food production?
If they are, I would assume that everybody already do, or soon will be using them, for reasons of productivity.
If not, then It seems a bit optimistic to assume that they will be profitable.
Again, I don’t really know how they work or what they look like so I might be missing something.October 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm #11572
In fact it is a bit hard to imagine for me that any “technical floating structure on the ocean” can create a surface for growing crops that is cheaper and therefore competitive with the surface and the industrial production methods of the wide plains of Iowa. So if you go for tuna farming – i can imagine that you CAN compete with Iowa – when it comes to crop farming i really doubt it (except you show me a business plan and a pilot project that contains numbers and proves the contrary) but the burden of prove is on your side…
As far as i know we have a hard time here to create floating concepts with squaremeter prices that match real estate prices in a average city. Most presented TSI concepts even have a hard time to compete with office space cost in manhattan – but crop farming space in iowa?
The key element is the “bubble pond” what does it cost per squaremeter, how long does it last in open ocean conditions (waves, UV) – have you done a prototype or a scale model – how does it perform? how fast would bubble pond real estate devaluate due to the deterioration of the bubble ponds? – would a bubble pond float be able to stay on open ocean with no maintenace for 200 years as it is the case for concrete shell structures?
Can you connect bubble ponds to floats of unlimited size? – how do they perform when connected?
I agree that you can do a lot of things if you have a floating structure that solves that kind of problems – but do you have one? , i also agree that producing food in a capsule seperated from natural environment is a technique that works good for floating production sites. You can control the environment and keep pests out. Possibly we should think about fishfarming, shrimp, maybe mushroom growing, cell culture, hydrophonics, etc…
We could have a giant concrete sphere floating in the ocean in exactly the best water temperature – and use it as a production site, maybe we can make the upper site of translucient concrete to allow sunlight inside.
Or we can have floating industrial platform production sites for beer, for liquified gas, paper processing – those do already exist as we speak and are competitive with land based installations.
– let me hear your thoughts…
European Submarine Structures ABOctober 18, 2010 at 9:15 pm #11602
I don’t mean to be dismissive, but I think this idea falls under the broader category of making breakwaters that also perform another useful function (energy production, housing, food production, etc.).
What type of design did you have in mind? I’m imaging it as a concrete half-sphere that’s open at the top to let sunlight in (or something similar). In any case you run into all the usual problems with breakwaters, like waves slowly pushing the structure, deforming the relative locations of the pieces, needing to anchor/dynamically position to solve these problems, etc. Not that it couldn’t be done, but these issues still need to be worked around IMO. On the plus side, the incremental approach (starting near land and moving out as you have more of them) sounds good.October 19, 2010 at 7:18 pm #11611
Nice idea. Not sure you could make a profit.
“Fortis cadere, cedere non potest”
“A brave man may fall, but he cannot yield”
-Latin ProverbOctober 19, 2010 at 9:24 pm #11617
I think this was a idea of wesley bruce – the general idea was that if you do farming in standard floating bubble ponds you can move those ponds around easily for harvest and handling – very similar to a industrial production line. So this would create a new form of agriculture on the ocean – taking advantage of the mobility factor.
I am not sure if it was wesley who created the word “bubble ponds” for this. The point was that it would be a closed structure with a transparent upper side. The key problem is that a structure – and especially a “transparent” one that is capeable to float on the ocean for decades with such a low maintenace cost that the business plan “agrigulture” can pay off – is hard to achieve.
We talked originally about inflatable ponds similar to the the known transparent water toys – but it is clear that they would not stand wear and tear and UV light of the open ocean longer than a few weeks. So nobody came up with a credible business plan nor was able to point the forum to a small scale pilot project that would show the feasibility of the concept. The high end plastics used in civil engineering and yacht building are very expensive.
On the other hand the closed concrete shells we are building may be low price enough and tough enough to stand the open ocean for 200 years – but they are not transparent. Or at least they where not transparent until somedody started to embed fiber optics cables into the concrete and came up with “translucient concrete”
So this might be a new way to build “bubble ponds” ( speak translucient shells) in a ocean capeable and affordable way. The initial tought of using “hard shells” instead of “soft shells” may point into that direction.
At the moment we build autopropelled “non translucient bubble ponds” for housing purpose. Maybe in a future we can make them translucient on the upper side.
To make them fit for open ocean farming…
European Submarine Structures ABOctober 25, 2010 at 2:46 pm #11676
Thanks everyone for your comments. Sorry for the confusion. Made erroneous assumption that everyone knew or could look up what I was referring to. Mellvar and Ellmer are correct, that was what I was referring: http://vacoyecology.com/Bubble_ponds_fluke_boats.html
An additional clarification I should make is in regards to my last statement – “Free Island Project.” This was in reference to the Free State Project in New Hampshire, USA: http://freestateproject.org/
Regarding the design modifications I made, the hull as I stated, will be rigid or hard. Will be made of a composite with an expected life expectancy of 100+ years. Will be virtually maintenance free and waterproof. The upper portion will be made out of ETFE. An example of it is here: http://www.edenproject.com/come-and-visit/index.php Other modifications will include a mooring system and floating breakwater.
To everyone who stated that it would not be profitable, how did you make that determination? I mean, what facts/data lead you to categorically state it would not be profitable?
I, of course, beg to differ. I believe that it will be quite profitable. How much so can only be determined by building a prototype as I stated in my post. But the reasons I think it will be profitable are:
- Aquaponics is the most productive agricultural system per acreage. There already are commercial operations in existence now
- Industrial agriculture is quite wasteful, i.e, a significant portion of the crops are left in the fields by mechanical harvesting; too, mechanical harvesting is damaging in itself further reducing recoverable yields, …, etc
- Conversely, harvesting losses in greenhouses are minimum
- Additionally, greenhouses suffer from no to minimum crop losses due to insects, disease, bad weather
- Costs for industrial agriculture are steadily increasing, i.e, fuel, water, fertilizer, pesticide/herbicide, which would put the bubble pond, if not at parity now at least close to it and likely even better in the future
- The reason greenhouse cultivation is expensive is because of the need to cool it in the summer which consumes electricity and conversely in the winter, the need to heat it. In spite of that, there are successful commercial greenhouse operations in existence. The bubble pond conversely will produce its own power and the freshwater will act as a solar pond moderating wide temperature swings, basically, a passive solar design which is the lowest cost greenhouse
- Consequently, cultivation can be year round, not just seasonally
- Over 50% of the US population is concentrated along the coasts. Transportation costs will be negligible to local niche markets as a consequence
- There is a strong trend at least in the US towards organic produce and a willingness to pay a premium for it as evidenced in part by the success of Whole Foods and similar grocers
- Fisheries are on the decline globally and farmed fish is increasing in market share
- Farmland is being reduced due to overdevelopment, soil erosion, drought, desertification, climate change leading to a decline in food production now and a likely continual decline in the future
- Population, however, is increasing
- Finally, don’t forgot the seafood generated around the bubble pond. These will add to its profitability
Given he above, how can it not be profitable? Am I missing something?
Live Long & ProsperOctober 25, 2010 at 8:29 pm #11682
Lets consider some of your points:
Aquaponics is the most productive agricultural system per acreage. There already are commercial operations in existence now
Yes, those operations are on land. The costs of doing something at sea are more than the costs of doing the same thing on land unless there is some unrealized benefit garnered from being at sea.
Industrial agriculture is quite wasteful, i.e, a significant portion of the crops are left in the fields by mechanical harvesting; too, mechanical harvesting is damaging in itself further reducing recoverable yields, …, etc
So then you would not be using mechanical harvesting techniques? Unless you’re proposing robots, the alternative is to do it by hand. That a cost increase, not a more efficient way of doing things… why do you think mechanical harvesting is used in the first place? Farmers aren’t stupid.
Conversely, harvesting losses in greenhouses are minimum
Same as above.
Additionally, greenhouses suffer from no to minimum crop losses due to insects, disease, bad weather
True, but the costs of greenhouse infrastructure offset those gains to the point where open field farming is more profitable (better yeild for money invested).
Costs for industrial agriculture are steadily increasing, i.e, fuel, water, fertilizer, pesticide/herbicide, which would put the bubble pond, if not at parity now at least close to it and likely even better in the future
Fresh water doesn’t naturally occur in the open seas, neither does fertilizer. The cost to produce these for the bubble ponds will be more than landbased systems currently cost, so again… an increase.
The reason greenhouse cultivation is expensive is because of the need to cool it in the summer which consumes electricity and conversely in the winter, the need to heat it. In spite of that, there are successful commercial greenhouse operations in existence. The bubble pond conversely will produce its own power and the freshwater will act as a solar pond moderating wide temperature swings, basically, a passive solar design which is the lowest cost greenhouse
One of the factors TSI has analyzed is the cost of energy production… which will be more expensive using passive systems on the sea than using traditional systems on land, so your energy costs will not be less… they will infact be much more.
Consequently, cultivation can be year round, not just seasonally
As you said, there are already commercial greenhouse operations benefitting from this. Why do it on the sea?
Over 50% of the US population is concentrated along the coasts. Transportation costs will be negligible to local niche markets as a consequence
I work logistics and supply chain operations for a living. Any transportation over the water will be quite expensive unless you are close to shore (well within the EEZ) and use your own vessels (limited capacity and another overhead cost to swallow).
There is a strong trend at least in the US towards organic produce and a willingness to pay a premium for it as evidenced in part by the success of Whole Foods and similar grocers
You say strong trend, I see ‘small trend’. Walmart is changing things up to source locally but even then, the US customer has a limit on what they are willing to pay on average. Unless you’re aiming for the niche market of organic, and that’s a tough market to compete in.
Fisheries are on the decline globally and farmed fish is increasing in market share
I agree, though again you could base this system on land at cheaper cost unless they somehow make use of the saltwater environment to get better returns on farmed fish.
Farmland is being reduced due to overdevelopment, soil erosion, drought, desertification, climate change leading to a decline in food production now and a likely continual decline in the future
Climate change is altering the areas that produce the best harvest. For every bit of arable land lost, more farmland is created by new farms across the planet.
Population, however, is increasing
Demand is increasing compared to supply, so costs will increase. That does not mean that you will be able to increase your cost of producing food and still reap profits when land based groups do it cheaper. Remember, governments artificially keep the costs of producing food low, seasteads don’t benefit from this.
Finally, don’t forgot the seafood generated around the bubble pond. These will add to its profitability
If you develop a method of harvesting it cheaply. This is about the only piece that you will get at comparable costs to what is currently being done by land based groups.
That said, I like your ideas. Flesh them out with specifics and show actual costs when you model this with a small prototype.
-JasonOctober 25, 2010 at 9:25 pm #11684
Without going into much details – there is no general rule that “food production” is better on the ocean or on land – it is obvious – that this kind of food production (picture below) is better done on the ocean – other things like crop may be fine in iowa (while the climate and soils allows or we find better ways to do it) – the point is – the only space left to expand is the ocean, and viability of concepts depend most of all on a smart business plan that takes advantage of the “existing resources”.
So you might reconsider to use the “bubble pond” as living space to house the people and let the “food production” in the water. Nevertheless a (almost) submerged hollow concrete sphere would have a BIG ADVANTAGE compared to land based facilities – the surrounding water would maintain it at a constant ambient temperature without aircon cost – so you might have a “golden spot” to cultivate things like mushrooms or orchids that have high market prices combined with little sunlight requirements.
In fact land based agriculture is experimenting with MINES as “places of completly controlled artificial ambient” where you can do agriculture in a really optimized way.
The newest development is LED lights that can produce any wavelength of light and make the farmer independent from natural sunlight, and its night and day periods.
So the “greenhouse” as “translucient structure to benefit plants” may be in way to extinction anyhow due to the newest developments in light emitting technologies.
At the end the translucient bubble concept might be unnecessary for production and only have a niche for human relaxation – this would allow closed structures with a few special dedicated “natural light decks” or sky bubbles.
European Submarine Structures ABOctober 26, 2010 at 12:16 am #11693
As I’ve proposed, a single spar, surrounded by, oh, let’s say 6 of these fish pens, with the spar as housing, would provide an excellent start-up business. Make it an Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaponics system, to get the most use with the least wasted food-supplies… Voila! Seaweed form multiple uses, fish to feed the masses, possibly oysters and prawn, also for the food market, with Mother of Pearl and Pearls as possible marketable items… Geez, without being able to do a business report on every detail, I can’t even enter it in the damned contest…
I keep trying, but noone seems to take a well-thought plan, that requires less than some undisclosed number of people is not a step forward in Seasteading… It seems that the Seasteading goal is to throw something together and cram it full of people, rather than making a real living, providing a neaded increase in production/vs. increasing demand, as a starting point. Some floating hotel/computer-srevice seems to be the preffered system that TSI wants…
Who would be willing to live there and do the work? Me!!! I’d do it in a heartbeat! I can’t ‘work’ in the usual sense, due to gov’t regulations/ vs. my VA disability… but I can become a farmer and homesteader…
Never be afraid to try something new…
Remember, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.October 29, 2010 at 4:27 pm #11734
Thanks again everyone for your comments. I want to start addressing them by elaborating upon power generation for the bubble ponds as this seems to be a common concern. The power generation system for the bubble ponds will consist of two primary components – a microturbine and biodigester. (There will be other components to these to make up the electrical system, but for purposes of this discussion, I’m simplifying it to just these two.) The biodigester will be fed seaweed and crop residue to produce three valuable outputs – fertilizer, CO2 and methane. The fertilizer and CO2 will be utilized by the plants in the bubble ponds and the methane will fuel the microturbine which generates power. The waste heat from the microturbine can be used by the biodigester and/or in desalination to produce freshwater. With this system, all inputs excluding labor to operate bubble ponds are obtained/created onsite. (Regarding labor, have an idea to reduce this as well just need to investigate it further so I won’t be mentioning it just yet.) The key input to system is seaweed.
If additional power is needed, a number of renewable energy options can be tapped to provide it.
Now, to address your specific comments.
“Yes, those operations are on land. The costs of doing something at sea are more than the costs of doing the same thing on land unless there is some unrealized benefit garnered from being at sea.”
The unrealized benefit of being at sea is that you can grow seaweed which is one of the most prolific and mineral dense plants on the planet. As this is a key input that powers the system described above, it makes it possible to substantially reduce operating costs.
“Fresh water doesn’t naturally occur in the open seas, neither does fertilizer. The cost to produce these for the bubble ponds will be more than landbased systems currently cost, so again… an increase.”
Ok, I don’t want to come off sounding flippant, but I thought it rains over the oceans as well. Isn’t rainwater freshwater? Given the design of the bubble pond, it would be very simple to harvest rainwater. Also desalination is an option. And the system I described above provides the fertilizer. By the way, the reason for using aquaponics is because the freshwater marine stock’s waste is used to fertilize the plants. The fertilizer generated by the biodigester is really just soil amendment, i.e, it provides trace elements. Primary fertilizer is the waste.
“One of the factors TSI has analyzed is the cost of energy production… which will be more expensive using passive systems on the sea than using traditional systems on land, so your energy costs will not be less… they will infact be much more.”
Believe I answered that to the contrary.
“I work logistics and supply chain operations for a living. Any transportation over the water will be quite expensive unless you are close to shore (well within the EEZ) and use your own vessels (limited capacity and another overhead cost to swallow).”
Yes, of course. it will be in the EEZ. But your point is well taken. This is something I will have to address.
“If you develop a method of harvesting it cheaply. This is about the only piece that you will get at comparable costs to what is currently being done by land based groups.”
Asian nations have been harvesting/farming seaweed for hundreds of years. I think they may have perfected it by now so there is no need for me to reinvent the wheel.
“Climate change is altering the areas that produce the best harvest. For every bit of arable land lost, more farmland is created by new farms across the planet.”
Isn’t that what I’m proposing essentially. But, doing it my way would not entail destroying ecosystems for other species.
“As you said, there are already commercial greenhouse operations benefitting from this. Why do it on the sea?”
I like this question best of all. Why indeed? And my answer, PROFIT – I’m proposing a system that has high productivity for various high value products at a comparatively low operating cost; MOBILITY – operations can be moved for whatever reason; VISION – lays the foundation to colonize the oceans. And after all, isn’t this the reason we are all here?
Live Long & Prosper
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