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Urban farming - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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August 14th, 2007


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03:17 pm - Urban farming
Here's an interesting article on on transforming urban and rural spaces by by SF author Karl Schroeder, who is a moderately good SF author and clearly has some interesting and good ideas about alternatives to conventional farming. This article on on vertical farming is also well worth reading. Given current trends, the prediction of the population increasing by 3 billion by 2050 is very unlikely, I'm betting more on 1.5- 2 billion. However, the evidence that by that time 80% of the human population will live in cities is fairly solid, and this idea represents an excellent way of dealing with this issue. Being able to accomplish this sort of food production via organic means is especially good, and makes much sense given that it's vastly easier to limit pests and weeds by physically excluding them instead of attempting to poison them in a fashion that (hopefully) does not also poison both us and all manner of wildlife. The added bonus of being able to turn vast amount of land currently being used for agriculture back to wilderness is also very good. I'm also betting that it's possible to raise chickens in such an environment at least as well as is common for the best organic free-range chickens and eggs (which is far from ideal, but is also vastly better than standard non-organic, non-free range methods).

Pigs and cows would still need to be raised in more traditional environments, but with agricultural land suddenly very cheap indeed, range feed beef (or in the US, bison or beefalo) would be considerably more profitable and pigs could also be raised in better environments. I'm also not certain vertical farming couldn't accommodate pigs and it doesn't seem at all unreasonable that specialty vertical farms couldn't produce unusual heritage varieties of various crops. In any case, this is one of the most sensible ideas I've seen for maximizing both quality and availability of food, and as Schroeder mentions in his essay, it needn't eliminate private farms, it would cause them to focus on heritage crops, which is already far more profitable for small-scale operations than growing conventional mass market crops. Also, while the potential for automation is clearly very high, vertical farms would definitely generate a moderate number of jobs, right where they need to be – in cities.
Current Mood: impressedimpressed

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:feedle
Date:August 15th, 2007 12:02 am (UTC)
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Have you heard about the guy in North Dakota that is trying to get the entire northern Midwest turned into range country for a herd of bison? The theory is, since most of the extreme northern Midwest (like North and South Dakota, and the eastern third of Montana) is only marginal cropland anyway, and most of the farmers in the region are losing their shirt.. pay these farmers to simply plant grain crops as food for bison, which would be allowed to roam as they see fit across the region.

Personally, I prefer bison/beefalo to beef anyway. Better flavor, more nutrient-rich, and much more ecologically sound. Especially if the guy in ND gets his way.
[User Picture]
From:feedle
Date:August 15th, 2007 12:11 am (UTC)
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Oh, and while the Wikipedia article is a little short on the recent rebirth of the idea (it seemed to be getting floated around in Billings when I was there), here it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Commons
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:August 15th, 2007 09:14 am (UTC)
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I ran into that idea before at least 15 years ago - definitely an excellent one, especially since bison and beefalo are delicious.
[User Picture]
From:feedle
Date:August 15th, 2007 12:02 am (UTC)
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BTW: you should come over this evening.
[User Picture]
From:earlofstomp
Date:August 15th, 2007 01:33 am (UTC)
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Ever watch "The Good Neighbors"? or in the UK "The Good Life"?

It was about subsistence living and the amusements it might cause, but like many brit coms, it actually had themological messages about modern life.

Fun watch....
[User Picture]
From:mindstalk
Date:August 29th, 2007 12:30 am (UTC)
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I love the sound of the idea, but I'm still not sure how a 50 story block-sized building gets sunlight to all the plants.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:August 29th, 2007 12:33 am (UTC)
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I'm not certain either, but a mixture of mirrored ceiling and supplemental low wattage (presumably LED) lighting would likely make up the slack, and the energy and replacement costs for LED lights are both very low.
[User Picture]
From:mindstalk
Date:August 29th, 2007 12:36 am (UTC)
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Meh. However efficient the LEDs, they're trying to supplement sunlight, to the order of up to hundreds of watts per square meter. That light is what drives the plants, after all.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:August 29th, 2007 12:44 am (UTC)
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True, but a number of hydroponic farms manage to be productive using primarily fluorescent lighting, and the energy and production costs of LEDs are significantly lower. Plants also only use a relatively limited range of frequencies, which significantly cuts down the energy requirements. Also (and most importantly) I'd need to see the figures about how much energy sunlight could provide directly.
[User Picture]
From:mindstalk
Date:August 29th, 2007 01:07 am (UTC)
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I'm happy to believe it's doable, I'd just like to see more analysis. Especially when their "energy in, energy out" budget talks about methane digester as a primary energy source, with solar as supplemental, after talking about lighting as a need. It smells of violating the First Law, never mind the Second.

Yeah, saw Hodgell in your Userinfo. You're welcome! In return, I like what I've heard of Blue Rose, though I haven't tried to get a copy yet. I think I'm positively influenced by the amount and type of negativity it got. Especially from RPGPundit. That was a hoot.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:August 29th, 2007 01:46 am (UTC)
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I'm happy to believe it's doable, I'd just like to see more analysis.

I completely agree. I'd love to see a detailed energy (and for that matter resources) budget of the idea.

I'm quite pleased with how Blue Rose turned out. As for the controversy, I was honestly shocked, in large part because I assumed that most RPG players (given that the vast majority read fantasy novels) were at least vaguely familiar with the genre tropes of romantic fantasy (especially given at least 1/3 of all fantasy novels on the shelves belong to this particular sub-genre) and so the people who weren't into it would simply dismiss Blue Rose as more of that "sissy/girly stuff" and move on. Instead, it seems that a fair proportion of gamers knew absolutely nothing about these sorts of books (including that they existed at all) and got their first (often amusing horrified) exposure with Blue Rose. Surprised the heck out of me.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:August 29th, 2007 12:37 am (UTC)
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Btw on a wholly unrelated note, I recently noticed that you are the person running the PC Hodgell mailing list, which I have enjoyed being on for several years, and for which I definitely wish to thank you for.

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