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Mini Agriculture Power Tools

Technology for permaculture
  [vote for,

Biodiversity, planting small areas, reusing resources, merging with nature, for example having insects, birds, wild animals and microorganisms all share and assist each other: These are the foundations of Permaculture.

Industrial, wide area plantations, using a single type of crop over a large area, removing all other plants and trees, flattening any hills, killing all insects and bio-organisms - that is the way the millions, no billions of people feed themselves today. If we stop this system, most of us will be without food.

In fact in the early 1980's I remember as a teenager reading that the world would over populate and there would be a food shortage by 1999. And they were not talking about radioactivity killing the Japanese fish or the Ukrainian grain (except Douglas Hofstadter, who specifically warned and still does, of that)

Permaculture is definitely something which would be beneficial to the world, for both humans and animals: - we the people, would be closer to nature, we would have more oxygen and cleaner air, more cooperative people, more robustness against sickness, less human killing off of species (and of each other), cleaner air, darker nights, everything more natural while more comfortable. Can it be attained? Can it supply the vast quantities of produce needed for thriving cities? The answer is probably "yes with technology" - specific technology for Permaculture.

Every field that is plowed today with a giant John-Deer, must be replaced by a group of small robots that will do the job, while allowing for trees to grow in the middle, and for a mole hill to exist.

It can be done. It IS done on a small scale. In home gardens, where nobody wants to see only one kind of grain for miles and miles. So we need to build an extensive system for the replacing of industrial agriculture with permaculture.

pashute, Mar 27 2011

Silent Running http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067756/
The irony is overwhelming. [8th of 7, Mar 27 2011]

Soyatein http://www.ishopind...arian-pr-24011.html
"containing nourishing protein food for the entire family." I eat a lot of it actually. [rcarty, Mar 27 2011]

The only way to go. Seven acres of produce from one acre of garden. http://www.montreal...he_7-Layered_Garden
[2 fries shy of a happy meal, Mar 27 2011]

small equipment http://www.ditchwitch.com/zahn/
[EdwinBakery, Mar 28 2011]

small equipment http://www.toro.com...ssional/sws/loader/
[EdwinBakery, Mar 28 2011]

small equipment http://www.amazon.c...=1301325269&sr=8-10
[EdwinBakery, Mar 28 2011]

small equipment http://www.messicks...ompactTractors.aspx
Even though it's small it still has a PTO [EdwinBakery, Mar 28 2011]

small equipment - trencher http://www.northern...200112524_200112524
trencher for only $1200 (US $) [EdwinBakery, Mar 28 2011]

perennial agriculture http://blogs.nation...al-grain-crops.html
silly idea; fool's errand. Will only amount to maybe cheaper animal feed [EdwinBakery, Mar 28 2011]

terra preta http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_preta
this has potential also [EdwinBakery, Mar 28 2011]

small scale grain harvest http://www.prairieh...ster_Hand_Held.html
still kind of expensive at around $1,000 [EdwinBakery, Mar 28 2011]

Appropriate technology http://en.wikipedia...ropriate_technology
[briancady413, Mar 29 2011]

Boiling water weed killer http://www.thedaily...eed-killer#fbIndex2
[pashute, Jul 26 2011]

Hot water as pesticide http://en.wikipedia...ticide#Alternatives
[pashute, Jul 26 2011]

About Organic Cotton website http://www.aboutorg...rg/woven-world.html
Turns out cotton growing is one of the largest consumers of pesticides [pashute, Jul 26 2011]


       Dear [pashute], I was once concerned about the environment, but now I look at futile attempts at the preservation / conservation of the Earth with a type of cynicism. I see statistics for global population growth as being more significant to social theory/ sociology than ecology. The best stewards for the planet are not robots, but humans which there is an overabundance of. If many people were given the opportunity to live simple lives without intensive technological education, such as that required to produce robots, they could work in local initiatives. However, the trajectory is towards a technological solution to an yet unknown, but perhaps speculatively predictable, future crisis caused by that same technological development.
rcarty, Mar 27 2011

       [rcarty] is psychic. That was largely the point I was going to make.   

       We can either solve a thousand problems temporarily, or one problem permanently.   

       We can either tackle CO2 emissions, soil erosion, food shortages, monocultures, habitat erosion, noise pollution, light pollution, landfills, energy generation and everything else, by reducing our lifestyles (or insisting that the rest of the world lives at a lower level than we do) and our ambitions and by developing a host of band-aid solutions.   

       OR we reduce our population back to something sensible - maybe the one or two billion that it was only few decades. If we do that, then we solve all of those problems in one go. We can all afford to live the high-tech, carbon-rich meat-based lifestyle which we all want (and will all get, by hook or by crook, in the long term), without having a terrible impact on the earth.   

       The earth is a big place, and it can handle a lot of crap. But when there are so damned many of us, even knitting our own wholegrain windmills is not going to save us or the planet in the long time.   

       It always makes me laugh when people tell me they want to save the planet for their children. It's their children (plural rather than singular) which are the damned problem.
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 27 2011



       <Obligatory Soylent Green reference>
8th of 7, Mar 27 2011

       Obligatory soylent green link. A product of populous India.
rcarty, Mar 27 2011

       You are using the word "technology" in a somewhat Clarkean sense.
mouseposture, Mar 27 2011

       // Clarkean //   

       Arthur C. Clarke, or Jeremy Clarkson ?   

       Either is satisfactory.
8th of 7, Mar 27 2011

       Sri Lankabhimanya Sir Arthur Charles Clarke   

mouseposture, Mar 27 2011

       Yes, but it's better to be clear about these things.
8th of 7, Mar 27 2011

       It seems the Iranian Shiite supported "protests" around the world are a first step in MB's 2nd proposal.
pashute, Mar 28 2011

       //Humans are not vermin//   

       You might need to re-define vermin.   

       Viewed objectively, Earth is overrun with human vermin.   

       Of course, we don't view Earth objectively.   

       I wonder what conditions would allow Earth to support 42 billion humans? How many species would become extinct as a result?
Twizz, Mar 28 2011

       Whoa whoa whoa! Just in case anyone misunderhended my intention - I believe there are too many of us, but I do not think anyone should leave. We (and I mean all of us) should simply shave a bit of our procreation rate from 1.03 (or whatever it is now) to 0.97 - just take it a bit slower, and the population will shrink gently instead of expanding. That's all. So please do not bandy words like "racist", "mass suicide" or "shiite" around, at least if you're referring to my non-suggestion.   

       As for how many people the earth can support - yes, probably several 10s of billions. I just think we can live happier and more comfortable lives without having to live on algae and eat the rain-forests if there aren't so many of us.
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 28 2011

       Just a point, but the inherent population growth rate in developed countries tends to slip negative. Immigration offsets this in many of them, but a stable, developed world would most likely have a stable population.
MechE, Mar 28 2011

       Technically vermin is not vermin. Humans designate whatever vermin is. There are seven billion people on Earth so the referent for anyone's usage of 'human' surely does not take into account everyone. Also there are people in the world who have their own name for who / what they are. You'll be surprised who's out there, and what goes on. I think we're all on the proverbial ship of fools. Nobody knows the ultimate destination. We're all aboard and taking on new crew for either Star Wars / Star Trek simulacra of simulacra, or the destruction of the Earth by a normal accident on the way there. You're right humans are not vermin, because we're actually not whatever we tell ourselves we are. We're not even human, that's just a really good idea for us to have. But we each have a 'carrying capacity' for being human too, and that's a certain amount of fear, hunger, hatred, blood alcohol, etc.
rcarty, Mar 28 2011

       any agriculture is going to involve killing off competitors (weeds) and predators (pests). Indeed it's part of the very definition of agriculture - once you're planting things you want to eat and ensuring that they grow, it necessarily involves getting rid of the native vegetation. There are only a few instances here and there of growing a few fruit trees in the woods and then harvesting from those - and it's only fruit trees, so it can't provide any significant food/calories for populations.   

       also, there are plenty of smaller-scale construction/agricultural equipment available. They weigh less than 1500 lbs, and you stand at the back, and they can even take different attachments. And then of course there are typical garden-scale machines - push-behind tillers, weed whackers, mini trenchers, etc. There's plenty of cheaper, small scale stuff.   

       Now, are we talking about perennial agriculture culture- that is the idea to replace all grains with perennial versions of grain to stop erosion and the work of replanting? Becasue that idea is nuts, that's never going to happen. The guy working on that found one nice grain from the midwest, that could be useful in producing feed, but that's about it. You're never going to replace corn, wheat, rice, etc. and we're nowhere near genetically engineering them to become perennial. It's a fool's errand.
EdwinBakery, Mar 28 2011

       after providing my link, I read a little bit of the article, and it says this guy found a wild relative of wheat that's perennial. If they do some genetic manipulation and breeding and make a tasty, bread-makeable (needs enough gluten) perennial version of wheat then it would indeed be a godsend. Would be even better if it's engineered with the roundup ready gene. Then all farming would involve would be planting once and from there on only spreading fertilizers, spraying weed-killer, then harvesting with combines every year. Drastic saving in cost by skipping the step in planting and taking care of sensitive seedlings.
EdwinBakery, Mar 28 2011

       the only equipment that's really hard to find is a small and cheap plow. The cheapest/smallest is using a sub-compact tractor.   

       sub-compact tractors from what I understand start at $8,000 new - probably will be more like $10,00 or more when all is said and done after you purchase it.
EdwinBakery, Mar 28 2011

       terra preta:   

       this was in fact so successful that there were huge civilizations in the amazon before the Spanish brought diseases. The first Spaniard writes accounts of seeing like 10,000 + people centralized cities deliberately planned and built circular with city walls. The remains of the city walls have been found by an archeologist. Most remains are gone however because wood was their only building material - there was no stone available.
EdwinBakery, Mar 28 2011

       Not much difference between a small plow and a roto-tiller with a single blade.
MechE, Mar 28 2011

       I envision specific technology for Permaculture. Not just small tractors. Examples to come when I get some time.
pashute, Mar 29 2011

       Has anyone calculated the amount of land that needs to be devoted to feeding an individual, either as part of an industrial agriculture, or as a sort of homestead operation?   

       The latter might well be better environmentally "per square metre". It might even be better environmentally "per person fed", but I'm not sure the second point has been proven.   

       In other words, is it better to feed a person by having 1 acre (or whatever it needs) under industrial agriculture, or by having 3 acres (or whatever it needs) under "small- scale" farming?   

       I'm not pre-judging, just asking.
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 29 2011

       [MB] to some extent it depends on what is being grown and how it is being grown. Truck gardens (vegetables, fruits) don't benefit from economies of scale as much as grain crops (for instance) do, and they're also more expensive to transport long distances.   

       In addition, it's practical to grow many of your own vegetable needs in a fairly small plot (a 2m square bed will provide more than enough tomatoes for immediate consumption and canning/freezing for 1-2 people). As a result it's possible to grow these in green space already associated with residential areas, and not require extensive land set aside for this purpose. (And this ignores the benefits of not spending fertilizer/mowing/lawn care on grass for purely decorative reasons).   

       In addition, the small areas required for this are much more practical for composting/vermiposting, companion planting, and intercropping, all techniques that increase the yield in a small area, but are not (yet) practical for the automation used on large farms.   

       As such, growing your own local tomatoes is probably going to be more efficient on a per person fed, growing your own wheat, probably not. And I'm afraid I don't have specific numbers to back this up, just a general sense of the effort and inputs involved.
MechE, Mar 29 2011

       Yes, but if you're hoping to benefit the environment, would you not do better to let a commercial grower produce your tomatoes in a quarter of the space, and turn your garden into a bramble or nettle thicket? You could also use the time and effort saved to build a bat-box or help wayward toads cross the road.   

       I'm not trying to be facetious, but I have this half-idea that intensive agriculture actually uses less of the environment than domestic agriculture. I mean, I could clear my woods and use them to become self-sufficient, but I wonder if they're not better remaining as woods?
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 29 2011

       A commercial grower is not going to produce tomatoes (or lettuce, or carrots, spinach, etc.) in a quarter of the space, especially if the home grower does use inter-cropping, and the commercial grower is going to use more fertilizer and insecticides since they use it as routine rather than as needed. The home grower can improve it even more by composting their own materials rather than petroleum based fertilizer and companion planting for pest control. Most vegetables have a maximum growth density that home growth will reach just as easily as the commercial grower.   

       Add in the cost of transporting vegetables cross- country, and the home grower is going to be far more efficient.   

       I agree that cutting down woods probably doesn't make sense (although planting nut or fruit trees in the woods might) as mature woodlands are great carbon sinks. Since you can produce dense vegetables in a small enough space that you can probably use lawn space that already exists, however, that's usually not a major issue.
MechE, Mar 30 2011

       Admittedly my favorite is edible landscaping. If you're going to have a hedge, plant blueberries instead of boxwoods. If you're going to have a fence, plant berry bushes along it. Instead of a decorative (non-fruiting) tree plant apples or cherries or peaches. If you have woods, plant chestnut or walnut (which can also be harvested for lumber in 50 years). If you have flower gardens, interplant greens with attractive leaves or stalks.   

       The point is that people can take care of their lawns and landscapes or they can grow food. Thus even it was less efficient than commercial agriculture, it's energy that would be spent anyway.   

       That being said, I am reasonably sure it's not less efficient for most vegetables to be home grown.
MechE, Mar 30 2011

       [MechE] and [MechE] - interesting points - thanks.
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 30 2011

       Add to that, that sustainable systems are just that: sustainable.   

       Ancient Babylon today is barren land, because of salting, after overuse for thousands of years (2 or 3 for the Babylonian system)   

       Growing things using biodiversity and sustainable methods is technologically plausible and would REDUCE the areas needed for growing, compacting them, and using them to the better. Today's industrial agriculture is simply not thinking in the long run, which is quickly becoming shorter and shorter.   

       It turns out that all cotton grown in Israel is done with organic methods (boiled water and salt)! And there are other examples of emerging techniques.   

       For large cities there are also agricultural towers being proposed.   

       But your correct, MB, it would be good and interesting to have some real numbers.   

       [RCarty] - I'm not talking about the "green" rhetoric and jargon. 100 years ago Europe and Australia lived in black smoke. Then it changed. Sidney is one of the most beautiful places to be at. The change was planned.   

       30 years ago, and I can attest to that, I was 17, Haifa was a beautiful city to look at, and Jerusalem had clear air, depicted in a famous song. Then came "the rock law" where all buildings must be covered with white stone. Within two years Jerusalem became one of the dustiest cities in the world. Road construction (in which I worked - computerizing it's financials) was increased, and with it a big black line drawn on the whole Israeli coast. Receding every Saturday, and Disappearing once a year on Yom Kippur.   

       So, my opinion is that we can and should change things. And the way to go is to introduce technology that will enable it. (Join GreenWorldGroup on Linkedin)   

       Hey [brian] thanks!! So it's baked. All the better.
pashute, Mar 30 2011

       //all cotton grown in Israel is done with organic methods (boiled water and salt)//   

       What? What do you mean by this?   

       do you mean the processing of the harvested cotton?
EdwinBakery, Mar 30 2011

       I mean without pesticides. There was a writeup about it in one of the major papers a few years back. I think Maariv. Once they changed over, it was worth it to change the processing too.   

       So now supposedly all Israeli cotton is all organic, from the growing to processing (I'm sure it's not 100%...)   

       Looked it up. First Hebrew link in google tells the tale. In the south of the country it turns out, the organic system was abandoned for various reasons, although costs for growing both ways are very similar (long explanation why). So only the northern Israeli cotton is organic.
pashute, Mar 31 2011

       boiled water and salt can act as pesticides?   

       I think maybe that refers to the processing - like they boil the ginned cotton in salty water as part of the processing
EdwinBakery, Apr 01 2011

       boiled water and salt can act as pesticides. See link. Sorry, link is about boiled water as herbicide.   

       I found that Prof. Oded Yekutieli got the Israel Prize for discovering a method of processing and disinfecting fruit and vegetables with boiling water instead of insecticides.   

       I still did not find anything about the boiling water sprayed from airplanes on cotton fields.   

       [Edit] Found: in Wikipedia:Pesticide: #Alternatives In the U.S., farmers have had success controlling insects by spraying with hot water at a cost that is about the same as pesticide spraying.[18] (Miller GT (2004), Sustaining the Earth, 6th edition. Thompson Learning, Inc. Pacific Grove, California. Chapter 9, Pages 211-216)
pashute, Jul 26 2011


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