Ennetech by Erasmus and Kinkajou AuthorsKinkajou Tells It True

 

 

Farming Australia

New Tech in Arid Farming

 

 

Water enables life but is a rare commodity in arid climes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Australia is a country of arid or desert environments predominately. These types of environments are defined not only by low rainfall but by the variability of the rainfall. This means that much of sub- continent is unsuitable for agriculture.

The structure of the country also causes difficulties in agriculture. The high central plateau with more limited access to the underlying water table means that even trees have difficulty surviving throughout much of the area: hence the desert. Much of northern Queensland is arid. But the high water table and the access to artesian water, means that in places the desert can indeed bloom.

One method of adapting to agriculture in the desert or arid environment is through adaptation of animals, plants and technologies. However, the key issue always remains the lack of water.

The problem then becomes how do you shift the volumes of water required into the inland of Australia. Using gravity, one could lift icebergs from the Antarctic into the centre of Australia. Using gravity could also be used to hurry water laden air from the coasts into the central parts of the continent, ( in effect creating a wet wind blowing in to the interior, perhaps even with clouds to reflect energy from the sun and to cool the interior) .

Iceberg Continent Satellite observations made by the European Space Agency (ESA), show that the new iceberg will tower 623 feet (190 meters) high over the ocean’s surface. It will hold 277 cubic miles (1,155 cubic kilometers) of ice . The surface area of the ice threatening to break off is around 2,548 square miles (6,600 square km), Once it breaks free it will become one of the largest 100 islands on this planet.

But if we’re stuck with the technology of today, we must use solar power and pumps to move water from where it is to where we would like it to be. Understanding how moisture laden air moves across the continent and understanding how to generate cloud aerosols could substantially change the heat generation characteristics of the continent.

For example, it may be more advantageous to pump water from an inland river to inland where it is used to deliver a high altitude aerosol reflecting light and heat from the land. Just using this water for irrigation may be a flagrant waste of resources. Interestingly if water is delivered as an aerosol into the high atmosphere, the low temperature guarantees the ice particles stay suspended in the air. They may sublimate of course.

At a lower altitude as the ice melts, the water evaporates into the air and the reflectiveness of the water particles/ice particles is lost. The air temperature at the typical altitude at which planes fly, is of the order -20C to -50C.

Farmers are well aware of the law of the minimum. Plant growth is a constant series of chokepoints. Poor water supply restricts growth. Poor nutrient supply restricts growth. Poorly drained clayey soils restrict root development and restrict growth.

As each one of these problems is solved, the plant comes up against the next minimum - the next chokepoint to its growth. Hydroponic farming bypasses many of these chokepoints by optimising all the inputs for plant growth to maximise growth potential. When one sees a hydroponically grown tomato plant reach 6 foot ( 2 metres) high and fruiting within a month, one realises how the environment really does limit plant growth.

Plant Growth Plant Growth

An idea from left of centre. Perhaps a new genetic variety of "crop" tree: such as specially developed Triffids (John Wyndham) could be the basis of a new arid farming crop. They would be capable of walking to a watering trough. Then again, perhaps we could culture alien mind parasites such as “The Wind” (Brian Stableford) as a new type of added value crop in areas where DNA contamination is minimal.

Weird!

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Examples From Science Fiction include:

Liet Kynes Planetary Ecologist SigmaPsiLiet KynesGrowing food in arid climate does not appear to be a very sexy Science Fiction topic. However Frank Herbert: Dune highlights the importance of technology in farming. Chromo- plastics and nano machinery have an important role in water conservation. Chromo- plastics cool quickly gathering condensate water from the air. Nano-machinery would be used in "Stillsuits to extract and recycle body water while keeping the body cool. He highlights the thought that the mere act of making the land able to grow food, changes the environment to make it better able to sustain food growth. Life enables life. The trick is knowing what to do and how?

Desert Landscape Desert Landscape

 

Alan Dean Foster in his “Commonwealth” series of books mentions flying over the inland of Australia and seeing the countless farms stretching across the landscape. He also mentions the capital of the Commonwealth – Brisbane! He also mentions our Gold Coast.

Having travelled to the same parts of the Gold Coast- namely Coolangatta, I can imagine what a magical place this must have seemed 30 years ago, isolated from the press of civilisation, a little sleepy nook of the world. It still carries much of this character today, but everything changes. Civilisation marches on.
FlinxTravellorPsi SigmaPsiFlinx Thranx SigmaPsiThranx

Kim Stanley Robinson: Red Mars . Kim alludes to food production in her book. However the problems of hydroponics in a cold environment are very different to the problems of hydroponics in a hot environment.

Cheap energy is the key. With fusion power, it is probably as conceivable to heat a hydroponic farm on Mars as to cool a hydroponic farm in the inland Australian deserts.
Perhaps partially underground structures with transparent roof to allow light access may be the answer.

In Cooper Pedy in Australia, the air temperature is so high that many people have opted to build underground. Cooper Pedy was the scene of the Sci Fi moves "Pitch Black", because it gave the appearance of the most hostile and alien landscape imaginable.

 

Mars Statistics

Mars Statistics

What does this technology remind me of in Brisbane? :

We have some small desert like sand dunes on Moreton Island. Moreton Island is worth while visiting but really needs a four-wheel-drive and camping equipment to make the most of the situation. A holiday of isolation and seclusion, but not far from civilisation.

Fraser Island is another great Sand Island off the Queensland coast just north of Brisbane. Again this type of holiday needs a full drive and camping equipment. There are many isolated and beautiful spots. Again not far enough from civilisation to feel unsafe, but far enough away to appreciate one’s engagement with the environment intimately.

For both of these holidays, camping permits are required. If you intend to go fishing, a fishing license is required in Queensland. Note there are restrictions on the sizes of fish that can be taken. All the information is available online.

Desert On Moreton Island Desert On Moreton Island

Clever New Applications:

There are two issues with water. First you must have it. Secondly you must prevent it from being lost. If airtight hydroponic structures are capable of being built, they simply require a capital investment of water at the onset. Unfortunately airtight structures also accumulate heat. Chromo- plastics to alter light reflectivity. Transferring photovoltaic energy to tuned LEDs producing light at the exact frequency required by chlorophyll, may form part of an answer.

Another solution is to produce crops more suited to the environment.

Solar farms may well become a better direction for development than agricultural farms.

To use the inland of Australia for farming will require considerable technology and thought.

There are many technologies involved in arid farming encompassing fields such as gene manipulation, cell growth control, gravity, and energy production. Much of these underlie the process of growing food but are intimately intertwined in the food production process.