Today's crops crisscross the globe: Mexico's tomatoes end up on your plate, our wheat heads to Africa. As a result, the challenge of growing twice as much food by 2050 to feed nine billion people—with less and less land—is everyone's problem. But scientists are hard at work fomenting a second green revolution. Here's how nitrogen-spewing microbes, underground soil sensors and fruit-picking robots will help keep food on our tables.
1. Farm the Desert
70%: Amount of the world's freshwater used for agriculture
Solution Greenhouses built near coasts turn plentiful seawater into freshwater for crops, without expensive desalinization plants.
Potential Farmers could grow cash crops like lettuce and tomatoes in the desert.
ETA Three pilot projects are under way, and researchers are scouting sites for a larger full-scale project.
On frequent trips to Morocco, British lighting designer Charlie Paton was struck by the juxtaposition of sea and vast, sweeping desert. "You're on the edge of the Sahara but so close to the ocean," he says. After selling his lighting company, Paton set about designing something that brings the two together: the Seawater Greenhouse, a low-energy means of growing food in desert regions using abundant nearby saltwater. Three pilot greenhouses in Tenerife, the Canary Islands; Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates; and Oman use prevailing winds, fans and simple evaporators to convert seawater into fresh, and in the process create a humid environment in which just about any plant can grow.
The greenhouses, which will cost as little as $5 a square foot to build, get water from the sea, either by gravity or a pump. The water trickles down honeycomb-shaped lattices on the front wall and evaporates, cooling and humidifying the air inside. The air warms as it travels across the greenhouse—hotter air can hold more moisture—before reaching a second evaporator, which supersaturates it. From there, the air moves immediately into a condenser, which pulls out freshwater and sends it to an underground storage tank for watering the plants.
Paton is now scouting locations for the Sahara Forest Project, which will add a "concentrating solar power" plant to the greenhouse concept. Extra freshwater could then be used to run the facility (the sun heats water in pipes to make steam, which drives generators) and to clean the huge arrays of mirrors.
I have loved this site since it came out...
And i find i must make a comment i this food shortage problem..
Are you people nuts??
Yes would be nice to grow more food..but come on..
The main problem is over population...
As a race whe need to deal with that problem first...
You have people in some countrys who cant feed the kids they have now...
Yet they keep having more?
Sending food aid..is very good but wen will they be able to sustain themselfs??
These skeems are all nice if they work...but if they do the world will still be in the same boat..
More food equals more people...
Yes i know a few of you will say , who do whey start with first to reduce the population and am i willing to be the first..?
If it makes a difference then yes..
Were making this problem every minute..
Insted of trying to find ways to feed the masses, find a way to contol its growth..
By not eating meat we save:
* greenhouse emissions
* land use
* water use / water pollution
* rain forest destruction
* certainly the daily cruelty to the animals
all it takes is a matter of choice.
please see the three videos on this page....
Over population has many factors the most daring are the political background behind it, poor People are easy to manipulate by politicans, create through bad influence trouble which asks for a stronger military force and corrupt justice.
The simple solution is a social capitalistic governance which enriches all People, to send food to the poor People is the most stupid solution better would be to help them to become independent and work for them selves, many different solutions are possible and the future of Farming is one of them.
Improve your business, your life, your relationships, your finances and your health. When you do so the whole world improves.
first of all to the comment from arethinking your the nut"The main problem is over population" are you kidding me,if population is the problem then whats the point of life if not an overall increase and progession of a species not a race as you said because race is a invented idea it has no scientific basis you sound like a person from a brave new world were olny select people reproduce and the masses are given drugs to make them stupid the olny reason we don't have enough food is because of fat lazy wasteful American who practicaly throw out their food and produce it through a highly limited petroleum economy we don't need less people we need more 9 billion is nothing we need at least hundreds of trillions if we hope to become a dominant speicies there are some theories that other species in the universe send robots to devolp planents trillion of miles away the whole idea of limited population is just a political tool used by the elitist to some how make them think their unique and better but the truth is humanity has olny triumphed through the cooperation of the masses ,individualism is olny a luxury of the industrial age not a deep rooted trait we don't need a capilist socialst govement ethier what we need is a society that focuses on technology production and important things like feeding people AND HAVING SOULS
govement is a false instution just like nationalism and war its just a foolish waste of resouces just to please some egomaniancs little mind so get real and realize your super egotistic idelogy is RUINING HUMANITY and if not removed will eventualy be destroyed by extesions of this ideaoligie:nukes
OK, who let the nutjob in.
I agree completely with Areuthinking, at least one person is thinking around here. Less people to feed, then less food is needed.
Please Dont Eat Animals also has a point. It takes much more resources to produce food from meat than food from animals.
But for the apple loony. How is North American lifestyle affecting Africa or Asia?
"Please Dont Eat Animals".... HAHAHA. Seriously, have you ever taken a look at nature? It's filled with animals eating other animals and we've done it since the dawn of the human race so why should we change now? Sure, some of the ways we mass produce meat for consumption are a bit ridiculous but that doesn't mean we have to stop eating meat. Hunt it for yourslef, raise it yourself, fish it for yourself there's nothing wrong with that. It's natural.
I am pleased to read about people who are working on solutions instead of worrying about the end of days. Thank you for this article.
I don't know why liberal art majors and evolution "scientists" think that they are an intelligent life form. They believe in voodoo. The Chinese have had a solution for this "problem" for thousands of years. Their farming methods are 100 times more productive than western methods. Sorry, they don't ask evolution "scientists" how to get it done.
Not so sure that the soil practices in China are a great idea. They are running out of land because the rice paddies are destroying soil due to soil erosion. Check out this article for more info on soil, if you're interested in educating yourself rather than calling people names.
Our Good Earth by Charles C. Mann National Geographic
"Farm the Desert"....the first thing that comes to mind is the apparent water shortages in these areas, but there's a vertical farming project underway by a company called Valcent, it's called VertiCrop and their pilot system is being tested now at a UK zoo. The food in the VertiCrop system can be grown with 5% of the water that conventional crops use... Check out the Valcent website for more info www.valcent.net
Farm the desert is a great article.
I think the guys talking overpopulation should lead the way by committing suicide. Be satisfied that by your death you are saving the planet.
The reason that poverty and overpopulation go hand in hand is that when you're poor, you need more people (more human labor) to produce. That's why rich countries generally have lower populations.
Adding to the above, the poorer countries have higher mortality and lower longevity. If they reduced their birth rates they would cease to exist after the first swine flue or cholera epidemic.
We need both population control and a higher standard of living for all. The Muslims have trillions of petrodollars and the Muslims are slowly running out of oil to power desaltion plants. With a growing population Muslims are facing a crisis. The Muslims have few choices but to invest in solar desalting plants and build solar power plants.
Meh... nothing will ever save starving countries because most people only care about themselves and do one or two eco-friendly things during the day to make themselves feel better.
Where is the one rich man who will combine all these great farming ideas and selflessly go to the deserts, renew the land and build farms? Nowhere... because he doesn't exist and never will exist.
you call me a nutjob for thinking an orignal thouht your a pathetic fool and obviously a person of extremly limited intellect how.TO respond to "how is America affecting Africa and Asia ?" you see this world doens't exactly have the most evenly divided resources considering Africa has very little arable land Asia has more inhabitants by a considerable scale than the Americas it seems to me that as humans we all have the right to food water shelter ect. Americans are wasting Humanity's collective food but thats not my point if the economy and production are radicaly changed such as using nuclear and solar thermal and use alternive stuctural materials and to turn dessert into farm land and distill salt water for drinking and farm use or venture into the very possible feild of nuclear fusion ( of course nothing affordable will come allong until the oil barons and elist are gone) this would make production practicaly ulimited and to your comment about population control WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE telling the human race how to act ,you have no right to say that you scrawny liberal ratthink, my statement are about expanding liberty and justice not resriciting us to the current evoiment which is totaly unaceptable.ALso about eating meat pehaps you don't know this but meat allowed for our brains to grow and have expanded neuron density if it wasn't for meat we would all still be primitive upright walking monkeys also vegetanianism isn't practical because meat eating in reality is more efficient because of the protein amount and the vitamins and fat we need for storing vitamins.Simply put the whole idea of Vegetanarism is olny open to nutjob liberal elites like yourself
I agree with the comments from Michaela Davies.I too have been following Valcent,both for it's food growing potential,as well as biofuel production.I find it strange that this was not touched upon in the article.
Growing biofuel and crops with this method makes sense on so many levels.You have a sealed growing system immune to pests,which makes the most efficient use of resources.As well,these systems could be constructed in/near cities to eliminate transportation costs for food.
overpopulation is a stupid idea. we wnt be over populated till there is no room to expand.. thats overpopulation
The world could easily feed every hungry mouth if it wanted but too much money goes into selfish gains instead of moving forward as a race.
That 4.7 million dollars that bill gates gave is really a small number but i bet i will do wonders.
People need to stop thinking about there own lives for about a month and focus on trying to help others. I bet once children stop starving in africa alot of them will think of ideas that help all of humanity.
And i like apples comment
Ok, all of you who think that if you keep any money other than what you need for survival, and don't give it to people in need, you should read something called the communist manifesto by Mark. If you really think that you'll agree with him.
Secondly, by not eating meat we solve none of the problems that please don't eat claims it will.
* animals that we farm are a large contributor to greenhouse emissions from the methane they produce.
* Unless you plan to kill all herded animals after we stop farming them they will still be using the same amount of land and water use.
* If you believe and God and read the Bible you will note that God created all the animals of the Earth to do with as we please, I'm pretty sure that includes eating them.
So, wow, what does that leave us? Rainforest destruction? That's caused almost entirely by local natives who practice hack-and-slash farming techniques. They do it to provide for their families. Asking them to stop is like asking them to just kill themselves through starvation.
Thirdly, the reason why we have starvation in Africa is because it has a minimal amount of arable land and a large population. Yes, Africa has a larger population than China. Why? Because, which most people tend to forget, Africa is a CONTINENT. Not a country. Its the size of China and America put together. The ideas that this article puts forth are talking about creating a economically manageable way to make Africa's land more farmable.
Also, overpopulation is a problem. Not because there are too many people, but because we do not have the technological means to sustain our living. That's what this article is also trying to say. If we can implement these techniques into our daily lives we will be able to solve this problem.
And, do you really think that Saudi Arabia and other muslim countries really don't have any way to create freshwater other than expensive desalination? That is incorrect. They have already created a new technique of capturing fresh water directly from the air. It might not sound like it does a lot but it can produce enough water to serve millions. If you want to research this try Nat/Geo's website. That's where I read it for the first time. I believe it is under the television section however.
P.S. China's overpopulation "solution" is horrifying and a giant step back for the human species.
There is not a global food crisis at the moment, only a global food distrabution crisis. Why do you think that every time there is an international crisis, the first thing that the US Pres does is promise millions/billions in aid? He does not control the purse strings, Congress does. The short answer is that the US has food to spare. The donations of other contries are used to ship food we don't mind giving away for pennies on the dollar.
The US government, however, has been subsidizing farmers since the Great Depression to grow LESS. Growing less means increased value of what is grown, keeping farmers econimacally viable. Note that when Corn-Based Ethenol jacked up corn prices, the environmentalist whined about farmers plowing under more "marginal" land. That land was not old growth forest, it was GD era forest that sprouted when the farmland was no longer plowed.
While much of that land, particularly in the southeastern US, has grown subdivisions, there is a great deal of aggriculturally suitable land that has been used for farming in the past and could be reclaimed. The only prolem is that there is not demand for that food, because the people who need it can't afford the cost to produce it.
That is why so many of the solutions mentioned here were about creating food in places where the food is needed, not here in the US, where we can afford to burn it in our cars.
Farming the Deserts - A great idea. Low tech, low cost, and produces food in areas that need it. Problem. Plants need fresh air. Lots of it. For every pound of carbon you remove in food you need over a pound of carbon in CO2 being put into that facility. Much of the humidity is going to be lost into the dry desert air. Also, how much fresh water are you going to extract before flushing the rest back into the ocean? Take out too much fresh water through evap, and you are pumping toxic salinity back into a section of ocean, creating a dead space. The less you take out, the higher your overall pumping cost to move water.
Biochar - only works in areas with biological waste. That is why it worked in the Amazon - tons and tons of biological waste where forests were cleared for farmland. In many places, like Africa, plant waste is animal feed and animal waste is cooking fuel. Even most american farms already recycle there plant wastes in one form or another (compost, methane production, fertilizer, stock feed, etc).
Population control - I know this is from the posts, but deserves comment. Population control should be a function of Natural Selection. By removing, as much as possible, Natural Selection from himself, mankind has doomed himself to increasing population until Natural Selection becomes uncontrolable (starvation, plague, etc). Population control is necessary if mankind truely plans to take over stewardship of this planet. While I think restricting reproductivity is superior to euthanasia, some form of eugenic principal out to apply (though a lottery method of reproductivity would as well, just without the benefits of eugenics). Saying "go kill yourself first" hardly holds weight, since going and killing as many others as they can before being killed would fit their goals so much better, and nobody wants more of that in the world.
aycinic :"but because we do not have the technological means to sustain our living" of course we have the technological means to sustain our living it is just a problem of the elite in this country trying to limit econmic growth with the petroleum economy. We have the means to susatain our living a increase the standard of living.The olny reason elitist try to do this is of course for the illusion of social supeority and superoity in everthing however they are olny more sucessful because of the chains they impose on us by fooling us with a controlled media, goverment thats what most people don't realize all our problem would be solve without autocracy of international buisnessmen. My ideas aren't marxist rather a belife in small capitilism run by independent people not a conglomerate of state capitalism.
next to oak spars comment
"every pound of carbon you remove in food you need over a pound of carbon in CO2 being put into that facility" not if the facility runs on solar thermal power plant"Also, how much fresh water are you going to extract before flushing the rest back into the ocean" if you use the salt from the evaportated sea water in solar thermal power plant you could turn into molten form to store engergy and that solve the problem of over salination"the higher your overall pumping cost to move water" also what if the pumps were operated by soalr thermal that would solve the problem of cost.
"Population control should be a function of Natural Selection" that sounds horrible natural selection is for animals in the wild not a advanced species like ours that has morals "though a lottery method of reproductivity would as well, just without the benefits of eugenics" hah eguenics is either for bigots or for fiction since there will never be a way to truly measure the a persons value because every one deserves to live as the next person also don't fool yourself into thinking humanity will every acept lottery reprouduction, you libs really should read the brave new world since thats what your advocating
You forgot about vertical farming, possibly the best way to grow more food in less area. Growing up yields more crops then growing horizontally. Plus there would be no need for transporting (gas = pollution) the food if the building is in the city already.
PeteDSL Chula Vista
We do not have either a shortage of food or overpopulation.
We have large sections of our planet suffering from lack of infrastructure and money and education.
At one time in the geological history of our planet the Sahara desert was a lush growing area.
With the erection of properly engineered infastructure and the education of the regional population groups it can be again.
There are many projects on the drawing board that will bring food and wealth to the desert.
They are not going to happen as long as short sited corupt governments rule the lands.
The petro-dollar rich local governments of that area are not going to invest in these projects. Former governments who tried to educate and build in these areas were destroyed by religious bigots, so the current governments will spend their dollars on tanks, aircraft and police to keep themselves safely in power, not in educating and feeding their people. Some governments in the region even use starvation as a military weapon against their enemies.
Hurry! Hide in the closet! The paranoids are after you!
You scare me, fella... and if you knew how to write well enough to make your views understood, you'd no doubt scare all of us even more.
We need more food, fewer people, and less animal consumption, and the only way that's gonna happen is with better, more intelligent education. Just because there is currently lots of desert land is no reason to think it's all usable. Without enough nutrients, sun and water to sustain them, desert farms will go nowhere. We're more likely to be able to use the open oceans to sustain us if we are clever enough.
For those of you that think animal consumption is without its problems, consider that before Korea began to adopt a more Western diet with plenty of beef and pork, they had virtually no incidence of heart disease; but ever since then, Korea's had a growing problem with heart attacks, stroke, and other diet-related disease. Despite our financial wealth here in the US, there are many countries with lower rates of disease and higher life-expectancies-- countries with lower consumption of red meats. If you're going to eat animal products, you're much better off with seafood, poultry and insects. (Yup... gross as it sounds, termites, beetles, grasshoppers, cicadas and similar common critters are much better nutrition, and are consumed in many other countries whose people are healthier than we are.)
Cattle, swine and other livestock require lots of water and crops; each steer farmed for meat requires thousands of pounds of corn and other feed to raise it, crops that could otherwise be consumed by humans directly with much greater economy.
And even if eating dead pigs still doesn't scare you off, try taking a drive through the Carolinas or other areas that rely on hog farming-- the stench alone just might kill you. The farm runoff is poisoning rivers and lakes, eroding rich farmland, and ruining millions of acres for any conceivable use.
If we're not to collapse as a culture the way the Romans, Egyptians, Mayans, and Incas have before us, we need to anticipate the problems we'll have with exploding populations and deal with them-- not just food and water, but what, for instance, can we do if our populations are so dense that swine flu, avian flu, or other as-yet unnamed epidemics can spread from person to person and town to town unimpeded? When human populations stretch for hundreds of unbroken miles, controlling the spread of pandemics is far more complex and difficult. When populated areas are surrounded by open, unpopulated land, there is a natural means to slow or prevent the spread of infection.
Anyone who thinks we can continue to expand in population is probably too intellectually challenged to understand the problem.
The world is overpopulated by humans.
By the end of the century the population will crash to tens of millions
In vitro meat will be standard after the great destruction.
Canibalism will make a come back.
Some interesting ideas here. We do need to start thinking of how to produce food in a more efficient manner. Thinking that we don't need to start worrying about the problem of how to grow more food for more people until we have more people is like thinking you don't need to get fire insurance until your house is ablaze. It will be too late to be effective.
As for the whole meat argument, there are some points that need to be cleared up. Meat production uses a lot of grain. I forget the exact numbers, but it takes about 5 pounds of grain to get one pound of poultry, and it takes about 40 pounds of grain to get one pound of beef. I have no idea how much grain it takes to get a pound of pork, a dozen eggs, a gallon of milk, or any amount of cheese. It is inefficient, so the argument for being Vegan makes a lot of sense. Having said that, I'll admit: I love steak and bacon and cheese and all the rest. But I have cut back on how much I eat. Do you really need to eat meat or other animal-derived foods at every meal? It's a lot cheaper not to. And as for "in-vitro" meat? I've seen a picture of that stuff; no thanks.
Overpopulation? Simple fix: Soylent Green. No, not really, I'm just kidding. Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow would sell much better.
I have a concept of "warehouse crops" that utilizes renewable energy sources, hydroponics, aquaculture, controlled environments, and LED grow lights. The smart people here will easily figure out how it all works together if they think about it long enough; it's actually pretty simple. The warehouses could be built near metropolitan areas to reduce the distance the food has to travel to the market. They could provide vegetables that are always ripe year round. And they would provide jobs.
Oh yeah! I forgot to say that the www.valcent.net link doesn't seem to work. Try www.valcent.eu instead.
uhh there are so many un-educated fools like billdale who probaly listens to talk radio smokes and drinks miller light and is a backwash hick ,come on at least you could try you obviously don't know that you can create artificial evoirments to import nutreints and you can grow nitrogen rich crops and use stuff like fish meal ect. and the reason I don't write well is I DON'T CARE this is the internet you old geezer you not really supposed to put much effort in because the bizzillion morons like you who formulate ideas by listening to AP generated stories and you just spread your ideas to every other idiot in this echo chamber of a medium. Also you can't grasp the idea that calorie efficiecy isn't the most important thing. how bout protein cosumption? and nutrients? and neccessary fats? most people in Asia suffer from nutreincy-deficient diets and devolp horibble diseases like pelagra so before you start praising their diets perhaps you should look at the emacieted pictures of people who eat that diet. also the olny reason American have diabites and heart disease is because HFCS and artificial crap. meat eating is one of the best tools angainst nutrient deficeincy and keeping a healthy weight
and one more thing billdale your the most thick headed person ever, of course population can expand its because of
people like you that nothing is solved your augments are cynical and really show you don't know how to think independntly of your fellow peers why don't your read noam chomsky or perhaps listen to public radio or public television instead of listening to talking heads.
you talk about others not havin an ejacation yet you cant even punchuate rite or spel werds an run al yer sentensays together like a third grader watsmatter wit u fool was dat wen u stopt goin to skul ya gonna go bacta kinnagarten so we can unerstan huh
As soon as someone starts reading your rambling rhetoric, they immediately see your lack of discipline and inability to form lucid, discrete thoughts-- if you want to convince anyone of anything, you'll at least have to learn to communicate. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones... education?!? You?!? Really?!? Pffffftt...
i agree with reddragon44 billdale your an idiot, and most possibly a biggot. who cares if some one mis spells something. i hate people who always try to change the toppic or bellitle someones argument becuase of grammar usage or missusage get a life.
just cuz your a combination of english major, geek, and most likely self centered hippie vegitarian doesnt mean every one needs to live your lifestyle.
you talk about population contol but americans are scared of china's immense population and potential capabilities of defeating us if it ever came to war.
Meats are healthy for humans and an essential part of our diet. not to mention that its just a pain to eat things that are replacements for protien. its possible but much less enjoyable.
what the world needs is infastructure (and i dont care if i mis spelled that btw) if the human race would work together to find solutions insdead of against itself to make more problems then we wouldnt have most of the problems we have today. vertical farming is a great idea and efficient housing can make it possible to populate the world and leave a lot more space for farmland. if the human race is to ever get off this plannet and thrive it would be a very good idea to have a big piece of our inhabbitants to send to other plannets.
and if there is a horrible plague that wipes out much of hummanity then there will be safety in numbers becuase no matter what there will always be people that are immune to certain disseases or just have a naturally higer resistance to some of them. better farming technology is a great idea and no one in there right minds should strive towards elliminating population or controlling who gets to give birth and who doesnt.
many great scientists and inventors were thought to be nothings until they made breakthroughs and changed the way that we saw the world and greatly added to our understanding of it. motzart's mother gave birth to a couple mentally dissabled kids before she gave birth to one of the greatest compozers in history. if population control would have been implemmented and the supposed "elite" were the only ones who were able to reproduce then the world we have right now would be a much worse place.
so before you start advocating a barberic practice like population control i think you should do a little research and stop going with mainstream media beliefs and scare tactics. the world is not too small and there is still plenty of room to expand our population. The main problems lie in the way that our reasources are used...
ha! kindegarden education i may not care for spelling on the internet, but you have no idea how more i know than you.I looked at your other posts and it seems evident that your just some cynical fool thinking your important and will actualy have an impact by duplicating thoughts you hear from other people.Also you fail to even listen to my whole augurment because you would rather lodge ad hominen attacks against me instead of critiquing my agurments in an orderly fashion.As for discipline I am proud for not having it because discipline in this soceity means ingorance of moral truism(phrase I borrowed from Noam chomsky) and facts too clouded by main stream thougts.You don't even quote other sources and olny say what you please this shows your lack of flexibilty and exposes your ridged thinking you are a idealouge and nothing else.To show i'm not just blowing off steam i will give you some more advice please don't watch CNN ,FOX NEWS, MSNBC or any other cable show because their hurting your intellegence also don't go on the DAS KOS blogs liberal mainstream is really run by the elites read intellectuals like Howard Zinn: people history of America he will help you with your bigotry Read Essential Noam chomsky who will make you think twice about the supposedly hallowed ideals our goverment employs and make you understan our country is a large evil imperalist state and corporate run.These people aren't mainstream and although i don't agree with them all the time I applaud them for their intectual freedom they display, they are like a mirage in a dessert of intellectual supression.My point is bill dale you need to undestand whining about how unrealistic ideas are doesn't help your slowing Human progress there are millions of people with your problem and helping them overcome thier boxed in mind is very important and a commendable act.Also about my long winded agurments are a mark of a intellgent person ,people who stick to short burst show an intellectual laziness and do this because they know most people don't want to listen to complicated ideas it is so sad but that is a product of our age and a idea reinforced by the elites i really hope bill dale these words aren't in vain.