In 2011, the human population crossed over the seven billion mark. Demography experts claim that not only will there be an increased ratio between the number of the old and young, but the addition of two or three billion people by the year 2050. In order to produce enough food to sustain these many people, radical and revolutionary ideas must be attempted. Along with the idea of revitalizing the oceans through seasteading, which will allow humanity to solve agricultural problems, we must discover ways to revitalize agriculture on land. This will require ramping up yields on ever less space by developing more vertical farms, and the crops that will be grown in them. Although this would be expensive in the short-term, the growing season would be year-round and allow for higher yields and profits. Unfortunately, most crops that are grown on millions of acres worldwide such as corn, wheat, and soybeans are incompatible with vertical farming in their current form. The idea behind this document is to promote the increased use of genetic engineering techniques meant to manipulate common crops in order to make them compatible with vertical farms.
None of these crops I want to mention here have been genetically modified for the purpose of growing inside of a vertical farm. I don’t claim any possession of patents over such technologies, and I never plan to as I’m an advocate for open sourcing all developments I create. For the purposes of this document, I will limit the number of crops to describe those I have written about before though I never published any of it. This includes the following genetically modified crops: Cluster Corn, Wheaty, Bananavine, Applery, Peachy, Pearce, Vorange, and Valmond. To the best of my knowledge, I will attempt to individually describe each crop for everyone to understand what I’m proposing to be done to advance agriculture on land through the use of vertical farms. Many important details are missing, if not nonexistent, and this is because this document is purely theoretical. This document is not meant to act as a final product of published ideas that are fully realized or incepted.
When someone observes a cornfield in the American Midwest, they notice how the stalks morph into a sea of green. This greenery stands at approximately eight to nine feet tall, requires hundreds of gallons of water to reach maturity, and has managed to deplete the soil of essential nutrients such as Nitrogen and Phosphorus. In order to bring a heavy, nutrient hungry plant into the vertical farm, serious genetic modification will be required first. One, decrease the amount of water necessary to produce a maximum yield of corn per plant. Two, change the corn plant to grow as a vine rather than a stalk if preferred. Three, minimize the height of the corn plant to three feet if to be kept as a stalk plant. This should be done to focus the Cluster Corn plant upon producing grain rather than silage. Four, produce three or more corn cobs per plant. I realize this will require a massive undertaking in both money to finance research in order to engineer such a plant, but it can be done. However, if Cluster Corn can be successfully grown in the vertical farm, the potential yield could possibly be triple what the average corn plant produces today. Furthermore, as the growing season inside of a vertical farm is year round, the annual yield in comparison to field grown corn could reach a factor of ten. I don’t know about you, but Cluster Corn could potentially eliminate the need to use millions of acres across the Midwest if not America itself. This would allow for increased use of this traditional farmland for other purposes.
In comparison to Cluster Corn, Wheaty will require little to no genetic modification to become compatible with being grown inside of a vertical farm. Other than to eliminate the protein that causes non-gluten sensitivity issues, and to shorten the plant to one-half scale, Wheaty would be considered almost ready for the vertical farm. Wheaty would be grown similar to wheat today, in lengthy rows and harvested when the plants turn golden in color. One question remains: is there any way to increase yields in a single season without significantly altering the Wheaty plant? Whenever one places a large weight atop a thin tower, gravity tends to strain the tower to where the pressure would become a burden. Maybe it’s possible to cross the stalk of the corn plant, and then transform the cob portion of the plant into Wheaty seeds. In other words, grow Wheaty as in growing wheat as though the plants are Cluster Corn. No matter how the Wheaty plant will finally look, the increased yields and the year-round growing season could produce a maximum of six times more per year in comparison to current annual yields.
The banana plant would undergo radical genetic modification to be considered compatible with the vertical farm. One, the fruit would need to grow individually instead of in a cluster. This would allow each piece of Bananavine fruit to ripen without being harvested due to the other fruit having ripened faster if the fruit remained as a cluster. Two, the Bananavine plant would need to become similar in composition to the Cluster Corn plant as trees grown in the vertical farm would place considerable strain upon the building. Although Bananavine plants would change the way we view how this fruit appears, no longer would bananas need to be imported from countries in the tropics. Bananavine may not necessarily increase yields at first, but the concept would promote locally grown food, which saves time and money for consumers and businesses alike. However, Bananavine would grow year round and only have one harvest annually unless genetically modified to produce two harvests per year.
Applery, Peachy, and Pearce
The apple, peach, and pear trees of today would receive genetic modification for the purpose of bringing these three fruits into the vertical farm. The best way to grow Applery, Peachy, and Pearce plants in the vertical farm would be to transform them into plants that are bushes instead of trees. Genetic modification would include shortening the process to achieve fruit to three or four months, meaning there would be two harvests annually despite four to six months of rest for the plants. This would allow for the doubling of the current annual yield, and reduce transportation costs.
The Vorange plant will grow as a bush instead of a tree like Applery, Peachy, and Pearce plants. However, due to the fact oranges of today require about 300 days to grow before harvest is possible, only one crop per year will technically occur. Other than for harvest time to occur throughout the year, Voranges could only be harvested once a year. Except to genetically modify the Vorange plant to produce fruit in say, half the time, or about 150 days, there is no way to increase annual yields. In addition, the Vorange plant could receive genetic modification for the purpose of increased tolerance towards colder environments. This would allow for reduced heating costs where the Vorange plant is grown in vertical farms constructed in colder climates.
A similar approach used with the potential development of the Applery, Vorange, Peachy, and Pearce plants with Valmond plants and grow as a bush instead of a tree is desired for compatibility with the vertical farm. The Valmond plant could be optimized to have two harvests annually, and be genetically modified to grow inside of a vertical farm by limiting the height and weight of the plants. As of this writing, almonds are harvested once a year, requiring seven to eight months before harvest can occur. If the Valmond plant can double the current annual yield by extending the growing season all while reducing the amount of water used, the better the environment will be overall. Also, as almonds of today typically grow in climates associated with the Mediterranean, attempts should be made to increase tolerance towards colder climates for Valmond plants.
Upkeep of Vertical Farm
To maintain a large-scale production of agricultural goods grown in vertical farms, a significant amount of infrastructure must be available. Although humans will be involved in the upkeep process of the vertical farms, most of the work will be completed through automation. Automation, in this case, is a mixture of task-specific drones and fixed-position robots. Drones will complete tasks associated with planting, harvesting, and maintenance of the crops through cultivation and the removal of dead and diseased plants. The fixed position robots will complete tasks associated with processing the yields from the various crops within the vertical farm they are installed at.
This document is purely theoretical and should never be considered evidence for a call to rapidly develop these genetically modified crops on my part. If interested parties wish to use these open-source ideas and claim them for the purpose of further development starting with a detailed inception, no legal issues will exist between the author of this document and those interested parties. In fact, the author wouldn’t mind if anyone claimed ownership of these ideas unless the interested parties attempted to patent them. However, please notify the author before further development of the ideas described in this document as they would like to hear about your interest and progress.
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