Consider the following model intended to sustainably eliminate human involvement in food production:
The following known problems exist:
- Friction. The amount of energy lost to friction would impart inefficiencies, barring superlubricity.
- Lighting. Converting electricity into plant biomass is costly, even with high-end grow lamps. Yet Haitz's Law forecasts major improvements in this area (such as a 303 lm/W LEDs or LEPs).
- Transmission. Numerous wall-plug conversion inefficiencies exist. These can be mitigated, in time, using superconductors (see here, here, and here) or compact nuclear fusion.
- Infrastructure. The construction costs to feed 1,000 people would exceed $20 million (see also my other question). This raises concerns over economic viability. Is it worthwhile to spend $20k to feed a person indefinitely?
- Nutrients. Some minerals, such as nickel and boron, cannot be obtained organically. Boron is a byproduct of geothermal power plants, but nickel would have to be mined. Automated mining is a difficult problem to solve.
- Processing. Many custom machines are built for processing different foods (e.g., rice, corn, cherries, etc.). Might not be possible to grow a sufficiently varied food supply. This could be addressed by building mono-crop vertical farms that distribute the harvests over a regional scale, rather than local scale (also using electric transportation).
- Meat. This model addresses vegetarian needs. Aquaponically grown fish could be eaten, but there would still be a need for laboratory grown shmeat to sustain meat-eaters.
- Aeroponics. Aeroponic systems can grow leafy greens and foods with high-water content (such as cucumbers, tomatoes, and microgreens), but other foods (such as fruit from dwarf trees) might prove extremely difficult.
What major insurmountable technological problem exists with this model that could not be overcome in any practical sense?
What does recycling mean in this context?
Organic waste from homes (inedibles and unused) is deposited into small compost containers. The waste is transported back to the farm facility to reclaim nutrients.
Assuming the costs are correct, where does scale come in? Could you not feed 10k people for less than 10 times the cost?
I haven't calculated costs of scale. As envisioned, once the first community is created, its members could devote their time to minimising costs for subsequent instances and iterations. Additionally, after the plans and implementation details for the first iteration are published, much of that effort would be reused, thereby lowering costs even further.
Why? Who builds the hardware, and why are they giving it to you for free? And even if it works, how does it improve on the old-fashioned "put seeds in the ground and wait for them to grow" methods?
This article lists improvements and efficiencies. Doesn't matter why it's free or who builds it (e.g., could be a philanthropic endeavour). The reasons for the project aren't pertinent to the question (and would take a book to explain).