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.
is a very simple and inexpensive solution to the world's food and water shortage. Aquaponics is the synergistic combination of Aquaculture (fish farming) and Hydroponics (farming crops without traditional soil). The water in a fish tank is pumped once an hour or so on a time through the gravel grow beds or trays where vegetable and other crops are growing. The fish waste is filtered by the gravel and plant roots and converted to fertilizer by naturally occurring Nitrifying Bacteria which colonize the gravel and the clean water drains back into the fish tank. The only input required is inexpensive and potentially organic and vegetative fish food. A back yard system covering no more than 20'x20' can feed a family of six and can be constructed on site using indigenous materials and labor for about $100 to $200. The only power required is for the water pump and possibly an air pump, both of which can be powered by a small solar cell if power is not available and can be stored in a car battery for night time use if the fish density is high. Too simple, too easy, huh? I am doing a patio system and there are many prototype Aquaponics projects and businesses throughout the world, just Google "Aquaponics".
what happened to gardening? this would not solve all the world's hunger,but it could make a difference.we need to replace our huge lawns,with vegetables.
let us look at the advantages:
lawns take space and lots of it. space that is often sunny,and has fertile soil. lawns take mowing using gasoline,time,and mowing equipment;
giving us noise and pollution.
lawns are often wastefully watered.
most people use chemical herbicides,harmful to people and pets.
lawns are often not used, just there
However,when we replace our lawns with vegetable gardens:
we get very tasty vegetables,nothing like from stores.
we get a healthier america,when people grow vegetables
they eat them (obviously). gardening is relaxing,helping people reduce stress.
gardening is exercise,getting people outdoors.
growing food close reduces transportation costs,pollution,time.
and growing food close means that the vegetables can be harvested exactly when thier ripe (no need of preservatives)
growing vegetables is cheap,helping people in hard financial times (probably the first food they will cut out is vegetables)
all the water, herbicides,fertilizers,cost and time for lawns can be instead used on our "Victory" gardens! thank you!
This article fails to discuss hydroponics (as a solution), which already exists and is extreamly efficient. The suggustion of converting saltwater for farming would work best in an hydroponic garden. Conventional farming wastes 99% of the water used for irragation. Most of the water is washed away or goes into the subsoil, unused. Hydroponic gardens require only maintaining a water level. Furthurmore, robotic harvesting (another suggestion by the articles) would be ideally suited for hydroponic gardening. Hydroponic gardens would require no soil conditioning, only infastructure. Insect controll is also much easier; pesticides would usually not be required. Hydroponic farms are able to produce year round, and are far more productive (per acre) than conventional farms. Though building the infastructure for hydroponic farms in the desert may be significantly more complicated than conventional farms, the hydroponic farm would be a much more stable source of food.
Re: whining about what other countries people are doing or not doing.
As much as we may desire to see overpopulation and other things come under control, we are better off discussing what we can do about the problem at hand than discussing other's behavior. We are absolutely capable of creating a world food supply that is environmentally friendly. SO LET'S DO IT!
My title was meant to be Auld fermer, but I let the typo persist. I recall reading Gerald O'Neil's book "High Frontier" many years ago and it occurred to me then that the high productivity of the farms in the space habitats was down to good control of the environment. It also occurred to me that one need not go into space to acheive a similar result. If growth houses are hermetically sealed and the water that plants give of by evapotranspiration ( to cool themselves and transport nutrients )was condensed out of the internal atmosphere, and the crops were grown hydroponically, drastic cuts in the amount of water required for a given amount of crop could be acheived. Further, the physical barrier of the canopy would keep out pests and diseases if care was taken. Only about 45% of the solar spectrum is actually used by plants, so if the canopies had imbedded photovoltaic cells sensitive to the other light frequencies, energy could be produced without diminishing the food production. Much of the ocean is wet desert due to a lack of essential plant minerals, such as iron. Growing algae in tubes floating on the sea and suitably fertilised could be a good food source for fish farms producing those species we have come to like. Of course they would require strategies to deal with large waves, wind and marine predators. In this context wave energy generators would be of help and electrified nets should deter hungry predators.
As some commentators have mentioned population growth is strongly implicated. As far as I am aware the only peaceful way to limit population growth is to promote prosperity. Prosperous countries where women have equal rights have the lowest population growths. This will not be an easy solution as too many have their own prosperity founded on the exploitation of somebody else's weak bargaining position. THe money system of markets makes no distinction between profits gained by exploitation instead of by genuine productivity. Resources are effectively mined, and those who profit from the process are not obliged to ensure the continuity of supply for future generations. Whether we like it or not, our whole system of finance and trade is going to change. Those who have prospered well under the present clutch of arrangements will be tempted to keep "business as usual" going will have the biggest change of mindset forced upon them. It is not as if we could not do it, it is that our competitive selfish natures make rational collaboration difficult. We all despise the freeloaders and cheats, but the police we then employ suffer from the age old problem "who polices the police"
"The main problem is over population..."
The entire worlds human population could fit in brazil under first world standards- we are in no way overpopulating the planet. Efficient and clean power generation is all that is needed to reduce the costs of food and ALL building materials. Cheap, and clean energy is all that is needed to house millions of trillions of people on this planet and keep them well fed and sheltered while preserving a greater majority of the natural environment then we currently do.
The first step in effective problems solving is to understand that there are rarely single component problems. Most problems like our long term survival problems on this planet are actually groups of interrelated problems. Our survival problem for example is a combination of global warming, overpopulation, upcoming food shortages, peak oil etc., etc. and they are all interrelated. Unfortunately, as you can see from the comments on this article, people generally understand something about each of them, but are often misinformed about other parts. They rarely have the ability to either separate these problems and therefore can't understand how they relate or how to prioritize their solutions. I think this means our first problem is to better educate ourselves better in the sciences so we can better understand complex problem solving.
We should all be able to understand that all the problems mentioned above have one common element - the size of the human population on the planet - more people - more pollution, more - people more energy consumption, more people more food requirements. Understanding that we should be able to see that the severity of any of these problems only increases with the number of people present.
Most of us should be able to understand that the current population is near 7 billion because of one thing - cheap petro chemicals and the concentrated energy that they have provided us for the last century. Otherwise we would have remained near the late 1800 population levels. We can debate when petroleum will run out. Clearly, no one has done a great job at predicting that, but we really can't debate that it will happen sometime relatively soon because there is only so much oil - whatever the number is, and every year we use more energy per person on the planet, and every year there are more and more people on the planet.
Ok, so you might have to walk or bike to work until someone discovers how to make algae oil for under $20/a gallon - no biggy. What most people don't realize is that 95% of all human foods are produced with petro chemical fertilizers.
I have been designing and operating commercial food production systems for the past 40 years, and when I look at the problems that face us producing sufficient quantities of food in our life times, based on my experience - food shortages are the most realistic immediate problem facing us. We aren't likely to see dramatic affects of global warming, because food shortages will likely send us into a chaotic death spiral before the effects of global warming become self evident to everyone. When the oil runs out, so does the food for something like 70+% of the global population. This may be much lower depending on how we deal with insufficient food refrigeration, insufficient food distribution, etc., etc.
Starving to death isn't my fear though, it's the break down of the health system, the resulting diseases and the civil chaos that will surely follow. Think of what happens in big cities during blackouts, or in Florida or New Orleans during hurricane disasters - interesting models of human chaos. Hunger creates desperation, and desperation dramatically changes our risk/reward ratio analysis processes. Things we would never consider like stealing from a neighbor, now equate with feeding our children.
Hungry nations with nuclear weapons change the entire concept of the so called "balances of power." If you are starving what do you lose by a nuclear attack to extort food or other resources. We have 25-50 years of petroleum left by most estimates. What we need to realize now is that if we don't start now planning, adjusting and adapting to this future of less and less fossil fuels, the changes forced on us will only be that much harsher.
We have a representative government - and that means that our leaders aren't any better than the people are at understanding these complex problems. We see statements by some of leaders just as misinformed and scientifically illiterate as in this article. Somehow, we all have to come try to understand these issues in greater detail, using the least biased sources of scientific information, and push our leaders to make the decisions necessary now to be ready - for a non-fossil fuel future. Or, we can always go back to natural selection - which pretty much started ending for humans in the late 1800s. Based on some of the comments in the article, I would have to bet on natural selection as the most dominant force on the human population in the next 100 years. Maybe the survivors will get a second chance, maybe not.
Re: #6. Robot Labor
"the specialty-crop industry relies on a **declining number of available human hands** to harvest"
Really? Ideally speaking, why not employ a laborer-relocation program? Hungry people fed: check. Labor shortage solved: check. Probably wouldn't quite reach the hefty $55B price tag either.
your wrong on the idea prosperous societs have limited populations that exact opopsite is true the more prosperous the more populous your thinking about the current economy not a revised one of course our limited econmony stunts population growth people in a petroleum economy are extremly economicly limited but every time new technology comes out the food production goes up and the population increase wouldn't you say a prosperous soceity is one with a larger food supply or are you shallow and matain that material aqustion is the olny measure of prospertiy.Well i could go on about how cofused you are but i must respond to dugger fist saying issues aren't connected and people must priotize haaah you are clearly brainwashed and don't think origanly their all connected to energy and production methods the science is pretty basic we know how to create chepa energy (solar thermal) but no you must prioritize on your petroleum economy and petrofertilizers come from natural gas to make amonium nitrate the ammonium is made by converting natrual gas to hydrogen(cracking) and adding it to nitrogen oxide (we could substitute that by electrolyzing water with electricity from solar thermal)problem solved and your really thick headed thinking this will turn into a night mare wiht disease death bla bla bla and the idea that nuclear war will start over food is laughable you sound like some phony hollywood producer for b movies and your idea on natural selection as a future cocept is laughable ever since the invetion of the combine havester
reddraggon44 - I'm beginning to wonder if english is your first language or if you have other problems reading and commenting on other comments. I found dduggers comments entirely credible, if sadly pessimistic. I also suspect that both of us have a greater knowledge and practical experience than yourself on the chemistry and agronomy of fertilisers.
No I don't think material possessions is the only measure of prosperity and I think it childishly rude of you to presume so. Countries who are developing fast do experience population growth, but this tends to slow down once a general level of prosperity ( in the broader sense of feeling secure both with personal resources and access to good public services and low rates of violent crime)is attained. Countries like Italy and Germany have actually had some population decline. It is true that solar energy linked to energy storage has the potential to solve many of our problems, but the powers that be still dance to the tune of vested interests who put their own pre emminence above the long term interest of the population as a whole. In that they are not unlike the rest of us because too often humans have sought to cheat their way through, rather than co operate.
Bankers who preened themselves as the models of probity, expect to walk away from huge gambling losses with their pensions intact, and politicians claim items on expenses that have little or nothing to do with the function of their office.
I don't know what country you come from, or how old you are, or how historicaly literate you are, but there have been and are bitter conflicts somewhere in the World almost all of the last hundred years and what they have been fighting about in most cases is no more vital to the interests of the combatants than the shortages of key resources which will be a real threat to many. Remember too that the first nuclear attacks have already happened, and it would be foolish indeed to say that it could not happen again, whatever the justification
once again i must correct you lauld fermer you are overstating you expertise, because none of it is useful, you see even a simple child can undestand the basics of my argument.The olny necessary tool to this undestanding of food production is the internet, you can find it on wikipedia,yes that must hurt undestanding that your knowledge is acessable to anyone.Now to critique another point ,firstly to your comment about internet grammar usage you are mistaken in your belife that it needs to be perfect is incorrect because the internet is a differnet medium where it is permissible to have flaws in your writing,but I assume your from another era so you wouldn't understand.Also to the point that population growth slows down after prosperity is false ,yes perhaps in a petroleum economy that has a certain peak production becuase of minimum costs ,but not to a economy that uses renewable energy and diffent structural materials that are in nearly ulimited.Countries like Germany and Italy have decreasing populations because they have horrible economys not because they are sucessful.Also these countries have a culture that promotes secular materialism so it is no wonder that people focused olny on themselves would not have more children.Also to your point that such countries have low crime rates,and security is oblivous to the fact that population is not realted to these trends but cultural and geographical isssues.The idea that lack of change due to politicians and corporations is the problem is false, right now everyone has the opurtunity to overcome them through private industry and cooperation with other people, not by being reliant on current coporations or goverment,the problem is lack of motivation and independece that is why we are in the current situation not because we can't change it ,it is because of peoples misguided beilifes of reality .Lastly your comment about my knowledge of history is laughable I have more understanding of history in my pinky that you ever will.The threat of nuclear war is also patently false because of histroy fact you fail to metion:M.A.D (mutualy. assured .destruction),it doesn't olny apply to Russsia and the U.S.,but your probaly to inept to undestand that.
blaj345 - what comes across in your comments is the impression that not only to you disagree with some ( or most ) of my comments but that you are offended by them. That is curious. I don't care if you misspell or adopt your own spelling or grammer, so long as I can understand what it is you wish to communicate. I have no problem whatever with the internet and as many people as possible learning what they like from it. Some learning and skills require more than study on the internet both to do and get into some perspective. I would not wish to be a passenger on a plane piloted by someone who had only read about it on the internet. Farming is another skill that requires practice to acheive a consistent performance. Since your pinky is so knowledgible about history could you ask it why the Allies felt they had to drop a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki only a few days after Hiroshima? Your reply to that question will tell whether your history is superficial, or not
are you saying a textbook is better learning, a professors droning lecture is better for education, or online learning is foolish pah! information is information ,nothing else nothing less ,all it requires is perseverance not a formal education some of the most brilliant people are self taught formal education is a strangle hold and is only important in society relations and is considered by many onerous and not worth it. Maybe people flying a airplane should have a certificate but no other things like production of consumer products and energy.Farming is not a skill today its science pure and simple it can all be boiled down to that and to say anything else is ignorant, intelligence and knowledge can overcome most obstacles.And your comment about my history knowledge is laughable you question shows a hint of lack of knowledge I suppose you would want to give you an answer like:because it would of cost many American lives,well thats false because in a couple of months the government and the military would've collapsed and the Japanese were actually trying to surrender it is story of American terror and imperialism, straight up! and it was used to intimidate other countries,and the decision was made by fanatical men who clearly didn't have a conscience and couldn't care less how many people die to expand U.S. domination of the world I mean case and point:Dresden bombing,American Japanese internment,black listing people as communist ,tolerance of jim crow I mean how do you think that any U.S. president are really moral people ( there has been participation in armed conflict every year in the world by the U.S. since 1945) they are just a product of our perverted culture of destruction and war and misery.I'm offended because people think this way of life is acceptable.
blaj345 - thank you for your comments. Information is what it is, but in this imperfect world those who have to make decisions often have inadequate information at the time these decisions have to be made. Farmers the world over have to contend with imperfect weather forecasts, markets that are so volatile as to be unpredictable. Spring sown barley is an important crop in Scotland and no one can gaurantee if it will be profitable next year -for many it was a loss this year. How could you encode and accurately transfer all the information, much of it held at a subconscious level, that makes Roger Federer the champion he is? It would be difficult to know what seemingly trivial bit was not important in some situations. Some things you have to do and practice to become skilled and farming is one of them. On my question about the bombing of Nagasaki - you missed, or were unaware of the point. All of the points you raised were to do with the bombing of Hiroshima. Did it not occur to you that one of the reasons for bombing Nagasaki was to do with Stalin.At that time Stalin was in absolute command of the largest and strongest and best equiped army in the world, and had most of them poised in Europe. Allied analysts, based on his previous behaviour had good reason to believe that he might push on to conquer the rest of europe. The basic principles of the atomic bomb were known to soviet scientists and they, like the rest of the world's scientists knew that production of weapons grade material was difficult and expensive. One atomic bomb might have been all the allies had. Two bombs close together meant that it was difficult for Japan and a would be agressor to guess at the number of bombs the allies actually had. The other aspect was that Stalin was demonstrably ruthless and would not have been stopped unless he was sure the allies had the "bottle" to use this weapon repeatedly on live targets. Perhaps you knew all this, but it was not in your comments so how are we to know
Hydroponics anyone? You wouldn't have to worry about soil destruction, because it doesn't use soil. Hydroponics would be a very smart solution, and can be done indoors. Take a warehouse and grow plants using a layered grid layout, and ou could produce an overwhelmingly large amount of crops with no ethical dilemmas.
also, reddragon, you claim that you hate bigotry and that people should not attack others, yet every one of your comments feel full of hatred. I believe that that is described by a little word I like to call Hypocrisy
Sorry PopSci, I have to say this.
I have been coming to this website for years. The articles are interesting and well written and the photography is some of the best I've seen. That's why I shudder as soon as I scroll down the page. No good ideas (generally), just a bunch of namecalling hypocrits. To the readers: Please, Pleeeease, for the sake of popsci and general conversation everywhere, stop abusing the comments.
It is so telling that I am always the one attacked clearly because people don't like the idea of feeding more people and I do. there are 15 million children that die each year 2 billion people are underfed and manourished and every 3.6 second a person dies of hunger how can you possible oppose the expasion of agriculutre into the areas of desert farming to gabedrewjai why is it wrong to hate people who promote the sufering of others do you think its wrong to hate people who think their etitled to live more that others no thats not hypocrisy thats having a soul a conscience and if you try to protect people who are evil you are evil as well as to laud farmer pehaps you don't know your history but the soveit revoulution and goverment was funded by American bankers and buissnessmen I know its hard to understand but actualy its quite devious and a very effective strategem having to opposing enemies you control is very useful considering that it gives you a idelogical conflict(to confuse undeducated commeners) to conquer the rest of the world and drive arms devolpement while under the veil so I don't think they were worring about the russians they were secretly on the same side (its documented the bankers gave gold bars to fund the soviet revolution). But of course you'll refute this because most people can't imagine people being so immoral (killing millions and causing myriads of problems) but its real and the sooner you realise it is the common person against permanent aristorcracy and elite you be able to understand my views.
a correction I meant 15 million children die of starvation.
we don't need a capitalist socialist government either what we need is a society that focuses on technology production and important things like feeding people AND HAVING SOULS
a lot of these comments make sense but fail to take into account that we are talking about feeding 9 billion people here. Hydroponics is not the answer because although it is effecient the amount of area needed to grow plants hydroponically in the maasive amount we need to feed the world is too much space to be realistic.
For people that claim the population should not be increased due to disease this theory is rediculous. The greater amount of people in the world the greater amount of scientist and engineers available to perfect the food and disease control.
As for not eating meat this will only hurt our economy and take away many nutrients natural in meat. Meat is a key food for many people in this world as welll as a job for many, myself included.
The answer to food shortages is using technology to genetically modify organisms to grow in less then desirable conditions and to produce larger yields.
Whether we like it or not, we are a selfish species who puts our own and family's interests before that of other humans ,in other countries, and whom we are unlikely to meet. It is obviously a superior moral position to encourage people to work together to reduce and hopefully eliminate starvation,poverty, and political repression. Not everyone shares these ideals and see others as either a potential threat, or someone to exploit. Even in the most civilised societies there remains a percentage who will turn to crime, by inclination rather than desperation. Honouring the freedoms of others is always going to be difficult because we then have to live with the fact that some will abuse that freedom and injure others. On the painful fact that far too many children die of malnutrition and starvation, some at least of the responsibility must lie with the parents who conceived them with no clear idea if they could, or would provide for them. Yes, I know that many were not in a position to make rational choices at the time of conception, but they may have had choices later, and blaming fate, God,or everyone else does not change the fact that a choice was made. Much of the world surface area recieves far more solar energy than would be required to feed even 10 billion, using growth houses and hydroponics, both on land and at sea. The problem is the competitive nature of the money system tends to marginalise food production because it is slow in comparison with retailing and money transactions. Crops take months to grow, but items can change hands many times a day, so that even a tiny mark up accumulates to a large profit.
It's great that we have solutions for this problem but now e need to implement them and that takes money and time. Hurry up people, innocent children die every day from hunger http://www.hotel-bucuresti.com/hoteluri/hotel_razvan-113.html