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Optomising & industrialising food production is critical for disaster survivaln for the huuman raxce,






















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Biological technology focuses on the production of molecules for use as feedstock for industrial processes or for food. Glucose is commonly mentioned. However there are many other organic chemicals required by an industrial society.

Food production is one of the most important bottlenecks for sustaining a population. Currently most of our food is grown. This means that there is a lag time between inputs and outputs. If we want more food, we have to find space, plant it, wait for it to grow and then fruit or seed and finally collect our crop. There is very little storage possible for many foods. (However ripening and cool storage technologies have delivered to our society the availability of apples and oranges, for example, all year around. This food is harvested and then stored. It is ripened when needed and then moved to shops).

Our food production is also fairly inefficient. For example, when we harvest crops such as corn or wheat, the bulk of the plant is wasted. There is substantially more energy in the stalk of corn or wheat plant then there is in the seeds we harvest. However to extract this energy from the stalk of the plant requires the breakdown of the cellulose or lignocellulose structures present in the plant stem.

There are a number of substantial biochemical problems in extraction of energy or biological molecules from lignocellulose feedstocks. The ligocellulose molecule assemblies have a complex tight structure which needs to be broken down to allow access to the monomers. also the glucopyranose polymer of the cellulose has a very low energy yield, making it difficult to break down.

If humanity can develop energy extraction from lignocellulose, there is no reason why humanity cannot sustain population of 70 billion on a planet that currently feeds 7 billion and with a reduced footprint of human agricultural activities on the planet, than exists currently.

Also the ability to extract glucose from cellulose could fuel bio- ethanol production: a sustainable energy source. In the long-term hydrocarbon resources are too precious to use for simple tasks such as heating, energy or food production. They are an irreplaceable asset, though with the current realisation of our ability to extract oil from shale, a much more plentiful one than we had ever believed.

Brisbane City at Night Brisbane City at Night

Bacteria may well form the workers in our future bio-factories to create our industrial biomolecules from glucose feedstocks.

Food being the most obvious bottleneck in maintaining the human population on the planet, is also probably the most susceptible to critical problems. Vernor Vinge has suggested that civilisation is a process of increasing optimisations to support the population. Eventually a failure in a single critical subsystem can lead to a catastrophic chain of collapses that causes collapse of the civilisation. Such was the basis of the collapse of the civilisation on Canberra / Brisgo Gap.

Being able to maintain food production and being able to rapidly accelerate food production is a critical skill to minimise the chance of a civilisation wide food shortage developing from some unknown chance accident.

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An example of food production from science fiction comes from the book: “Earth Man Come Home”: by James Blish (Cities In Flight Series). Here the city uses chlorella tanks to turn energy into biological food/fuel. Amazingly I even heard about this on TV in the last few weeks, due to the adverse effects arising from the drought/cyclone/floods in Queensland. If plants such as chlorella algae can indeed be grown in closed systems, they would be an ideal food crop in arid areas.

Brisbane Space Launch Brisbane Space Launch

Examples From Science Fiction include:

Kinkajou Kinkajou : Aliens: the movie/book series. One of the unusual capacities of these organisms is their ability to convert almost any “ animal” biomass into “Alien” biomass. The picture of planets dominated by aliens is of a planet devoid of animal life. Strangely they don’t seem to eat and ingest plants very well. Unusual in that they are capable of instantly assimilating almost everything else. The ultimate carnivore!

Alien Queen Alien SigmaPsiQueen

Kinkajou Kinkajou : Jack Vance: Wyst Alastor. In this continent sized city dominated by endless humanity, food production is difficult. The founders of Wyst resolve this problem by recycling everything to their basic components and then using them to create a bland but sustaining foodstuff: namely “Sturge”.

This can be pumped to all the apartment blocks and then reconstructed into food stuffs. Unfortunately these modern bland “suit everybody” food is much less appetising and appealing than normal or natural food, (known as Bonter). The people dream of feasts of natural food but are disinclined to spend the effort required to make them generally available. Sustenance but not satisfaction / enjoyment is the name of the game. Provide people's basic needs.
Jantiffe Tourist Stars SigmaPsiJantiff Ravensroke

In another book by the same author (Maeske: Thaery), the author makes a comment on the modern world and the difficulties of food production that haunts me still. “Two hands reach for every plum”. This is a comment that to me I think it epitomizes the modern world and its limitations. Too many people – too little arable land – too much difficulty creating foodstuffs for all of them. Foods that were once passed over such as tuna, become mainstays and even popular.

Kinkajou Kinkajou : Paul O.  Williams: The Breaking Of Northwall. In these little city states, the people feed themselves by growing food in the enclosed city. As they are surrounded by hostile nomads, very little food gathering and production can be undertaken in the surrounding lands. Everything must be produced in the safe enclave of the city.

Civilisations for thousands of years have been unable to feed their inhabitants from the acreage within their enclosed boundaries. To achieve this, astronomical yields need to be attained. I’m sure food biotechnology would need to underwrite such a process.
Jestak Pelbar Citizen Adventurer SigmaPsiJestak the Pelbar

Castle Northwall Castle Northwall

Erasmus Erasmus : An example of food technology in Brisbane:

For God sakes man, just dine out. Brisbane has a range of cafes and restaurants to suit every budget and every whim. Whether it is just a takeaway, a quick bite, a snack or takeaway coffee or even a full sit-down meal at a restaurant it’s there. Some of our restaurants and chefs are award winners and the food is as good as anywhere. Good produce means good food. And Queensland is still a farm state, with really good produce.

I have personally enjoyed a few dessert / sweets crawls: going to restaurant after restaurant and just trying out the desserts / sweets.

There are restaurants that offer a variety or gourmet "wild foods" : unusual plant and animal foods with unusual tastes.

Travel up the Mt. Glorious road for an experience of unusual foods in a beautiful and at times quirky setting. Good lookouts on the way. Most places open more commonly on the weekend , to catch the traveling trade from the city.


Desert Menu Dessert Menu


KinkajouMed Kinkajou


Clever food biotechnology applications:

  • Rice with protein. Rice is one of the most important food crops in the world, feeding much of the Asian population. It is highly deficient in protein and many other nutrients. It is largely composed of carbohydrate. Engineering new rice strains with a percentage of protein and other nutrients would substantially change the health of people throughout the Asian world.

    I suspect that Asians within a generation would become 6 inches taller due to lifelong higher protein intakes. Avoiding molecules such as gluten is a consideration. Gluten allergy / sensitivity I fee has unintended consequences for health for many people.

  • Bananas with vitamins or protein. Similarly bananas are a major staple food crop in parts of the tropical world such as Papua New Guinea. To engineer variants with higher yield and improve nutritional value would substantially change health of people in the tropical world. Resistance to disease is always paramount, as is maintaining biodiversity .Braided World: Kay Kenyon paints a picture of a world where humanity faces its own extinction through a loss of genomic biodiversity.

  • “Meat” trees: just to give vegetarians a non-animal-based option. Grow your meat on trees. Who could complain?

  • Fertiliser plants. Being able to gene engineer plants which are able to concentrate nutrients such as nitrogen sulphur or phosphorus would be a step in the direction of sustainable agriculture. Variants of these plants could also be used to collect heavy metals or to purify soil pollutants.

  • New food plants. Unfortunately there are a lot of “old” food plants which are not currently used much in agriculture due to limited public acceptance.

  • Altering plant genetic variability. Too much agriculture in the Western world is based on Mono- crop agriculture. When a new pest arises  able to take advantage of deficiencies in the resistance of Broadacre crops, food production can be threatened for entire regions of the planet. Consider the effect of the potato famine in Ireland and the mass emigration from this country into the western world.

    Having plants with sufficient genetic variability to offer pests a number of resistance factors, while having similar production yield characteristics, would improve the reliability of food production. Such a consideration is important in Vernor Vinge’s description of civilisation as a series of increasing optimisations. Eventually, a failure of a single critical subsystem can create a series of catastrophic collapses affecting the entire structure. The potato famine would be appropriate an early example of just such an event.

  • Altering plant genetics to improve shelf life. If food can be stored, peaks and troughs in production and consumption can be evened out – ensuring year around food supply. In Australia oranges apples and bananas are stored for long periods in temperature controlled warehouses, and ripened with ethylene oxide when required. This ensures that these fruits are available year-round to the general population. But I think we can do more.