Singularity University has come up with an interesting project:
So we decided as a team to focus on the centralized nature of current food production. Today, in good growing conditions, it takes an estimated 16 square feet of garden space to provide just a single person with vegetables — and that’s more than exists in most city environments. Drawing on the controlled-agriculture experience of our advisors, we determined that the best technique to personalize food production without the use of large tracts of farmland was aeroponics. Most people are familiar with hydroponics, where the roots of the plant rest in a liquid nutrient bath, but fewer have heard of aeroponics, where the nutrient solution is vaporized into a fine mist.
Aeroponic gardens can save 90% of the water used in a conventional garden, and the growth rate can be 25% higher than in soil gardens because the oxygen levels in air are so much higher than in soil. An additional 40% boost to growth rates can be obtained by growing the plants in enriched CO2 atmospheres. This increased CO2 concentration has the additional benefit of discouraging pest infestations and bacterial contamination.
In collaboration with NASA, we instrumented our prototype gardens with sensors to measure nutrient levels, temperature, humidity, and pH. The acidity of the nutrient solution is especially critical to optimizing the nutrient uptake of the plants, and gives an important first warning sign of the growth of algae, which steal nutrients away from the plants. With this practical demonstration in hand, we proceeded to the main work of the summer: synthesizing all these fields of technology to create a picture of where food production was going. Our challenge was to figure out what the roadblocks were to efficient, decentralized food production, and with our clear view of the forthcoming technologies, figure out how to avoid those roadblocks.
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