towards a post-scarcity society

Irrigationless Urban Food Production

In Food Production on July 28, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Aquaponics, or the integration of water-based or hydroponic vegetable production and fish production, began its Occidental revival with the New Alchemy Institute in the 1970s. Their closed-system bioshelters were proto-aquaponic systems. These systems are especially valuable in the Anthropocene because they conserve water by recirculating it continuously between fish tanks and hydroponic growing pools. The fish provide the nutrients and the plants provide the filtration to reduce nitrogenous toxins to the fish. Climate change has increased the frequency and length of droughts throughout the world and this is one solution that can improve the resilience of food production in local communities. Click here to download a .pdf manual of how to build an aquaponics system at your house from a couple 55 gallon drums, a water pump, some hose and gravel.

The integration of aquaponics systems to urban waste streams, such as municipal compost, provides the opportunity for low-cost and high-efficiency urban food production. Aquaponics up-cycles organic waste through the introduction of an intermediary organism. This intermediary organism is most commonly a saprophage of some kind such as black soldier fly larvae, earthworms, or oyster mushrooms. The saprophage is then fed to the fish as a replacement for costly protein meals and provides the primary nutrient input for the aquaponics system.

Black soldier fly larvae are especially suited to this purpose because they can consume very large quantities of organic material and process it at a high efficiency without the need for sterilization that other saprophages, such as fungi, may require. Jerry from the Black Soldier Fly (BSF) Blog has provided an open source biocomposter for BSF and has this to say about them,

Since I started keeping a colony of BSFL there is no such thing as wasted food in my life. If something ceases to be food for me it just becomes food for my colony. With the exception of bones and eggshells, all food scraps go into the BSFL colony, and even a fairly small colony can process a lot of food. A 60cm/2 foot diameter bio-converter can hold enough larvae to process 2kg/5 pounds of table scraps every day. It’s consumed so quickly that it doesn’t have time to decompose to the point where it smells bad. I tested this by adding a whole fish to my colony on a hot day and the odor was not even noticeable a few feet from the composting unit. Keeping a BSF larvae colony is not a brave or a hard thing to do, it’s simple, fascinating and enjoyable.

A podcast from Agroinnovations on black soldier fly can be found here!


Hackspace Research Update

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Since 2007 there has been a radical growth in the application and reach of hacker culture. No longer limited to the computer underground, principles of the hacker ethic now pervade contemporary corporate software development and the backbone one of the world’s largest economic infrastucture, the internet. This comes as no surprise because many experts and leading professionals in the field of computer science are also leaders of the hacker subculture. What is surprising is how the beliefs and values of the hacker subculture are being appropriated and applied in fields wholely distinct from computer science including biology, manufacturing, and community development.

Frustrated by the forking of public domain germplasm by corporate interests, scientists extended a free software license, the GNU Public License (GPL), to cover material transfer agreements of plant germplasm, called the General Public License for Plant Germplasm (Hope, 2008). Looking for a way to create a commons-based peer production model for the design and manufacture of machines, small businesses, design and engineering professionals, and academics joined forces with Creative Commons to adapt the Open Source Definition for Open Source Software to an Open Source Hardware Definition as the basis of a new licensing mechanism (OSHW, 2010). Wanting to create spaces where people can come together to share their passion for technology and science, hackers worldwide opened up more than 220 community centers known as hackspaces or hackerspaces from 2007 to 2010. These three examples demonstrate that hacker culture is in the process of making a dramatic expansion from cyberspace into our physical environment.

My current research paper explores how the hacker ethic, a set of fluctuating and negotiated principles that underpins the behavior of the hacker subculture, is becoming substantiated. In particular, it surveys the emerging hackspace movement to better understand how the hacker ethic informs physical organizational culture and is changed by its application from virtual communities to physical organizations.

//// Hope, Janet. 2008. Biobazaar: The Open Source Revolution and Biotechnology. Harvard University Press.

//// 2010. Open Source Hardware (OSHW) Draft Definition version 0.3. Freedom Defined. Accessed 7/16/2010.

Marshall Forest Preserve & Soil Proteomics

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2010 at 6:43 pm

a cricket on an Amanita caesarea

Ryan, Nicole and I went on a trip to the Marshall Forest Preserve near Rome, GA. Lots of good mushrooms were growing. Next time we’ll attempt to bring them into sterile culture. This will allow us to cultivate and study a greater variety of mushrooms that there is available commercial mushroom spawn.

any ideas what this is? it smells beautiful

Both Ryan and I are interested in soil proteomics. Soil microbial communities are incredibly complex. They create habitats suitable for different plants and greatly effect growth and nutrition. Soil proteomics combines traditional approaches in soil microbiology and biochemistry with techniques in molecular microbial ecology. Soil proteomics is the study of the structures and functions of proteins in the metabolic pathways of soil. This is much more difficult than genomics because a cells proteins, or the cells proteome, changes over time and between cells. Soil proteomics are important because it can help us understand what cell pathways give rise to enzymes important in ecosystem processes. In turn, this knowledge could be used to engineer soils that can better bioremediate specific toxins like arsenic and petroleum oil hydrocarbons. Perhaps the nature preserve will allow us to set up a soil research station here? 🙂

a yeast proteome visualized using 2d gel electrophoresis which seperates proteins by isoelectric point and molecular weight, proteins were identified from reference maps