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Perennial Agriculture
Meat Production

Humans require food, water, and living space in order to survive. These
things do not exist in endless abundance and are derived both from abiotic
and biotic sources, making humans inherently dependent upon the
optimization of land area and the preservation of biodiversity. The human
population is increasing, and is predicted to expand from 7.0 billion to 9.5
billion people within the next 40 years (Sahara Forest Project, 2009). A
parallel increase in the demand for food species is implied, and estimates
claim that food production will need to be doubled in order to compensate
(Sahara Forest Project, 2009). The trouble with this becomes evident upon
the consideration of the productivity of current systems of agriculture and
fresh water harvesting: despite our efforts, 1.0 billion people suffer from
hunger modernly, and 1.2 billion live in areas with water scarcity (Sahara
Forest Project, 2009).
To make matters worse, the affluence of the world is increasing, meaning
that more of the future's consumers will demand higherquality resources
(Charles and Godfray, 2011). The intensified harvesting of resources from the
environment affects biodiversity negatively, as it contributes to climate

change (through the burning of fossil fuels) and habitat fragmentation,

degradation, and reduction (as natural terrestrial environments are converted
into farmlands). Habitat loss is the leading cause of biodiversity loss, and
today, about 38 percent of global land is devoted to agriculture (Brudvig et al.,
2009; FAO, 2011). Without altering our current systems of development, this
percentage will only increase, as open-air soil-reliant crops cannot be stacked
into storied facilities.
In what follows, the construction of a series of hydroponic agriculture and
algaculture (multi-level) facilities and power plant/greenhouse desalination
facilities is proposed in an effort to:

limit terrestrial biodiversity loss through the reversion of large tracts of

current farmland into sustainable and fundamentally natural environments;
limit aquatic biodiversity loss through the development of more costeffective distillation processes;
produce algae for biofuels, limiting abrasive, environmentally damaging
fuel harvesting;
expand our capacity to supply fresh water, foods, and economic stability
to arid communities; AND
optimize space in current agricultural settings.

It is true that other technologies exist in order to address these problems

independently. More sustainable forms of irrigation, for example, reduce
strains on freshwater habitats, but also allow for the development of arid
regions with entirely different forms of biodiversity: modern agriculture
occupies far more than the 10.6 percent of global land that is arable (FAO,
2011). The above technologies are favored in this report because they seek to
mitigate a broad array of anthropogenic environmental problems

I. Traditional Agriculture
Traditional agriculture, in this report, refers to systems which are
characterized by expansive plots of extensively-tilled land. In many countries,
the crops of such systems are monocultures selectively bred for high fruit,
grain, or biomass yields: agricultural development promotes biological
uniformity in food species and in environments. Traditional systems use large
quantities of fresh water (for the purpose of irrigation) and fossil fuels (to
power machinery and for transportation purposes), with relatively marginal

returns (Pfeiffer, 2003). In the United States, approximately 10 kilocalories of

fossil fuel-derived energy are needed to produce 1 kilocalorie of food energy,
agriculture accounts for 17 percent of total energy expenditures, and 13
percent of agricultural energy consumption is attributable to irrigation (Pfeiffer,
2003). What is more, it is believed that current energy expenditures must be
increased in coming years in order to maintain current crop yields (Pfeiffer,
In short, massive portions of the world's land area and substantial
quantities of fresh water and fossil fuels are being devoted to the production of
food which fails to meet humanity's basic dietary needs. The continuation of
the current system of agriculture would mean the continuation of the
degradation and destruction of the habitats of innumerable species, both
aquatic and terrestrial, with insufficient returns. New procedures which limit
the further development of habitats (and provide the opportunity for the
reversion of already degraded farmlands) while still meeting humanity's food
and freshwater needs are needed.

II. Hydroponics
Hydroponics is a system of agriculture that utilizes nutrient-laden water
rather than soil for plant nourishment (Bridgewood, 2003). Because it does not
require natural precipitation or fertile land in order to be effective, it presents
people who are living in arid regions with a means to grow food for
themselves and for profit. The re-use of nutrient water supplies makes
process-induced eutrophication (excessive plant growth due to overabundant
nutrients) and general pollution of land and water unlikely, since runoff in
weather-independent facilities is not a concern. Aeroponic and hydroponic
systems do not require pesticides, require less water and space than
traditional agricultural systems, and may be stacked (if outfitted with led
lighting) in order to limit space use (vertical farming) (Growing Power, 2011;
Marginson, 2010). This makes them optimal for use in cities, where space is
particularly limited and populations are high-self-sustaining city-based food
systems mean a reduced strain on distant farms, the reduction of habitat
intrusions, fewer food miles, and fewer carbon emissions.

Typically, aeroponic and hydroponic systems have high energy costs
because they incorporate lighting, pumping, and air moderation systems.
Primary costs (aside from energy costs) include the purchase and purification
of fertilizers and water. Between 20,000 and 25,000 hectares of land are

currently under hydroponic development globally, supplying 6 to 8 billion

dollars' worth of produce (HydroGarden, n.d.).

1. Hydroponics, with its various forms of drip and flow style irrigation
(Figures 1 and 2), limits the threat of water waste via over- or poorlytimed irrigation (water loss due to evaporation), and therefore limits
freshwater habitat abuses.

Figure 1: illustration of a typical drip-style hydroponic system

(Simply Hydro, 2008)

Figure 2: illustration of a typical flow-style hydroponic system

(Simply Hydro, 2008)

2. Pollination can be achieved via machinery: because the plants are

grown in water, their root systems no longer function as supports-crops

are held in place individually by hanging wires, which may be shaken in

order to simulate air-based pollination or self-pollination with the
assistance of bees, flies, or bats (Williams and Bolton 1991). This, of
course, is not an ideal means of pollination, but allows for the growing of
plants in enclosed areas and in the absence of natural pollinators.
3. Crops can be grown in controlled environments with optimal "weather"
conditions. The limitation of transpiration stresses means enhanced
productivity (Sahara Forest Project, 2009). Productivity within a
hydroponic facility is productivity that does not detract from the fertility of
the soils of terrestrial habitats.
4. Manipulated, expansive monocultures can be raised (in order to feed
our immense population) without depleting soil or hindering the
developments of less-biologically-engineered specimens of the base
5. Crops can be grown in "stories" in order to maximize vertical space and
minimize land occupation (see alternative: vertical farming) (Growing
Power, 2011).

Figure 3: illustration of an aeroponic system

(Simply Hydro, 2008)

III. Algaculture and Biofuels

The following is an extension of item II.
The majority of mineralogical and subterranean resources have been
depleted in unprotected areas, and stores in protected areas now represent
the most cost-effective options in terms of fuel and materials refinement. The

raising of algae crops can reduce future habitat degradation: using hydroponic
systems, algae can be grown in vast quantities in order to supplement other
green energy sources through the development of high-quality non-toxic,
renewable, bio-degradable biofuels (Sahara Forest Project, 2009).

1. Algae have a higher growth rate than terrestrial crops and an incredibly
large per-unit-area yield (between 7 and 31 times as great as that of
palm oil, a biofuel whose development involves the clearing of land, the
degradation and destruction of habitats, in favor of the planting of palm
monocultures) (Wagner, 2007).
2. Some species are up to 40 percent lipids by dry mass (see Table 1),
and can therefore generate 30 times more oil per acre than alternative
biofuel crops (Wagner, 2007).
3. Some species can be harvested every day (Wagner, 2007).
4. Algae consume large amounts of carbon dioxide during development
and, when grown in proximity to troublesome industrial settings, can
mitigate contributions to atmospheric carbon; 61 percent of global
greenhouse gas emissions come from energy-derived carbon dioxide
(Sahara Forest Project 2009). They also produce oxygen through
photosynthesis (Wagner, 2007).




Scenedesmus obliquus



Scenedesmus quadricauda


Scenedesmus dimorphus



Chlamydomonas rheinhardii



Chlorella vulgaris



Chlorella pyrenoidosa



Spirogyra sp.



Dunaliella bioculata


Dunaliella salina



Euglena gracilis



Prymnesium parvum



Tetraselmis maculata



Porphyridium cruentum



Spirulina platensis



Spirulina maxima



Synechoccus sp.



Anabaena cylindrica



Table 4: the chemical composition of algae expressed on a dry matter basis (%) (sour

IV. Seawater Greenhouses

Joint power plant and greenhouse facilities already exist in a
number of arid locales, serving as sources of fresh water for the
purposes of irrigation and human consumption, as centers of food
development, and as repositories for solar energy (Seawater
Greenhouse Limited, 2010).
The companion technologies interact in order to create a selfsustaining operation. The focusing of sunlight on heat collectors (using
light-tracking reflectors) creates steam which turns a turbine to produce
the electricity needed to operate the greenhouses; evaporated seawater
cools and humidifies the air within the greenhouses; a portion of the
evaporated seawater is distilled to form fresh water (for the irrigation of
in-greenhouse and open-air crops, for drinking, and for the cleansing
and thermal moderation of the plant); and the resultant crops feed
humans and act as air filters, reducing power plant mirror deposits
(Clery, 2011). About one million tons of seawater can be evaporated per
day (in a 10,000 hectare facility) simply by taking advantage of
cogeneration: while independent solar thermal power plants lose 75
percent of collected energy as waste heat, joint greenhouse and power
plant facilities lose only about 15 percent of collected energy. The rest is
devoted to the heating of water for the purposes of desalination
(Seawater Greenhouse Limited 2010). Quantitatively, one terawatt-hour
of power results in the desalination of about 40 million cubic meters of
water (Seawater Greenhouse Limited, 2010). Sustained farming of highvalue crops year-round in arid regions could reduce the strain on current
food-producing locales, promote world health, and save freshwater
habitats by limiting irrigation.

Technological progress and cost reductions are necessary before
seawater greenhouse systems can be realized as a suitable means of
large-scale energy production. However, studies at pilot facilities are
being conducted now (Sahara Forest Project, 2009).


Figure 5: illustration of the Sahara Forest Project's greenhouse-power plant hybrid

(Sahara Forest Project, 2009)

Figure 6: illustration of a seawater greenhouse desalination fac

(Seawater Greenhouse Limited, 2010)

1. The fresh water produced via this system requires no chemical

treatment. As a result, the possibility of process-induced pollution
and eutrophication is eliminated (Seawater Greenhouse Limited,
2. Seawater evaporation membranes coated with biocidal
(organism-destroying) materials reduce the need for pesticides
(which can threaten predator species through biological
magnification) (Seawater Greenhouse Limited, 2010).
3. The salt and minerals gained through the distillation of seawater
can be used by local traditional farmers or sold for profit (Sundrop
Farms, 2011).
4. Arid and seemingly infertile lands are optimized, and 15 to 30
times more produce than in conventional agricultural systems can
be raised per unit area (Sundrop Farms, 2011).
5. Facility management and operation employs between 5 and 7
people per hectare of facility (Sundrop Farms, 2011).
6. Biomass can be used for food, fodder, fuel, or fertilizer (Sahara
Forest Project, 2009).

Current Seawater Greenhouse Systems

The technology was piloted in 1992 at Tenerife of the Canary

Islands; there, the degradation of habitats was the result of the depletion
of groundwater stores (Seawater Greenhouse Limited, 2010).
In 2000, a second facility was constructed on Al-Aryam Island, Abu
Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (Seawater Greenhouse Limited, 2010).
This greenhouse was noted for producing more fresh water than it
required for irrigation (Seawater Greenhouse Limited, 2010).
In 2004, a third, 1,000-square-meter facility was developed in
Oman (Seawater Greenhouse Limited, 2010). It is still in use, and
utilizes relatively less electrical power than ordinary greenhouse and
distillation systems to evaporate 5 tons of seawater daily: cooling and
distillation processes are powered by the sun and wind, making the selfsustaining system optimal for use in remote locations (Sahara Forest
Project, 2009).
The first commercial facility was developed in Port Augusta,
Australia, in 2009 (Cho, 2011). The cost of its construction was 2 million
dollars (Cho 2011). The 2,000-square-meter facility has the potential to
produce 100,000 kilograms of tomatoes annually, and was harvested for
the first time in December of 2011 (Cho, 2011).
In October of 2010, representatives of the Sahara Forest Project
(SFP) met with Jordanian authorities in order to discuss the possibility of
the full-scale implementation of advanced agricultural technologies in
the region. More recently, the governments of Jordan and Norway
declared their mutual devotion to a joint venture with the SFP to
construct a 20-hectare agricultural center (constituted by 4 hectares of
greenhouses and 16 hectares of open-air crops, solar mirrors, and
extraneous buildings and devices) at Aqaba, proximal to the Red Sea.
Operation of the center should begin in 2015. According to the
agreement reached, Jordan will supply the endeavor with a site and a
means of obtaining saltwater; Norway will devote 600,000 USD in order
to fund surveys determining the success of the site at Aqaba and
Jordan's potential as a site for further studies. The construction of the
center, however, will be privately funded. If the center's halophyte and
algae crops thrive, another 200 hectares of land in the region will be
committed to expansion of the system. (Clery, 2011)
Because evaporated water humidifies the air within and around the
seawater greenhouses, crops can be grown traditionally in the
surrounding, moistened environment (Sahara Forest Project, 2009).

While hydroponic systems can be utilized in nearly all regions
(providing adequate sunlight and heat supplies, or technologies capable
of replicating ideal growing environments), joint greenhouse and power
plant facilities are most profitable and beneficial in relatively flat, lowlying, and light-intense arid areas proximal to the sea and to potential
consumers of drinking water and produce (limiting food miles and,
therefore, carbon emissions) (Sahara Forest Project, 2009). According
to Seawater Greenhouse Limited (2010), these regions include:
Europe: Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Cyprus, Crete, France,
Gibraltar, Greece Mainland & Islands, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Sardinia,
and Spain;
North America: California, Cayman Islands, and Mexico;
The Middle East: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan,
Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the
United Arab Emirates, and Yemen;
Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru,
Uruguay, and Venezuela;
Asia: China, the Galapagos and other Pacific Islands, India,
Pakistan, Turkey, and Sri-Lanka;
Africa: Algeria, Angola, Cape Verde Islands, Djibouti, Eritrea,
Ethiopia, Gambia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Mauritania, Morocco and
the western Sahara, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Somalia, South
Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, and Tunisia;
Australia: South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory,
and Queensland.

Figure 7: optimal locations for joint greenhouse and power plant fa

Early development of hydroponic and seawater greenhouse

processes would ideally be restricted to areas which demonstrate stable
economics, heightened land degradation, a high density of species, and
a human need for non-traditional, self-sustaining means of fresh water
or food production. Areas below sea-level reduce energy inputs further,
since water pumping is facilitated (Sahara Forest Project, 2009). Nationby-nation consent or person-by-person donations would largely govern
the spread of the technologies. A new subsection of the United Nations
would manage the distribution of funds (gathered through the penalty of
signed nations or businesses which trespass against its policies) to
nations eager to implement the processes.


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