Home > Authors, Joshua Snow, Politics, Technology > Tech Gestalts 5: Lettuce, Falling Skyward

Tech Gestalts 5: Lettuce, Falling Skyward

Not a lettuce. Courtesy of gizmag.com

Not a lettuce. Courtesy of gizmag.com

My writing schedule is increasingly erratic as I work on samples and pieces elsewhere; I’m still going to  be able to update every week from now on (thank you, public internet), but the “tech-articles-are-a-Friday-thing” is over. Which is good and bad, because I’ve got a long backlog to go through.

Like this little gem: Upwardly Falling Agriculture.

You see, DARPA recently tweeted about what they so elegantly call Upwardly Falling Payloads. Intrigued by this Cthulu-esque abuse of physics, I did some poking around, and here’s the gist. The ocean is a big place.  To put in perspective, a human body has the same ratio to the volume of our oceans as the Earth does to the Sun, which is we all know is a gigantic fire-god spewing death-rays for millions of mile. The United States Navy, for all its size (it’s the largest navy in the world) can never hope to cover all of that area. Enter DARPA, who has decided the best way to do this is to seed the ocean floor with murder-boxes. Okay, so they won’t all be full of robotic killing machines. But a few, maybe. “Nodes” placed on the ocean floor will contain advanced drone sensors, networking devices (cough*quantum internet*cough), electronic warfare suites, anti-submarines munitions, and re-supply caches for passing ships.  A wireless signal activates the box, which deploys its payload without any more interaction necessary from the mortals. Payloads then float to the surface, hence “falling upward”

I swear by all that is holy, they have to name the first one Cthulu. I’m starting a petition. Let’s do it.

We decided 115,000-ton aircraft carriers that qualify for their own ZIP codes are not large enough to hold our unholy military prowess, and will now confiscate the ocean floor for this purpose. Jeebus.

I'm sorry, you're just not enough for me. Courtesy of motoboard.gr

I’m sorry, you’re just not enough for me. Courtesy of motoboard.gr

The best part of this system is of course the stealth and its civilian applications for rescue and salvage. But what if we combined it with….agriculture.

Daiwa House Industries builds a handy-dandy building called the agricube. They’re about the size of a parking lot space (though no word if these are American spaces, handicapped van spaces, or those tiny Japanese rage-quit-your-car spaces. Seriously, I hate those things). They also produce about 10,000 edibles per year. They’re designed so basically any idiot can successfully use them (and many idiots will), and can grow up to 23 different kinds of vegetable off of the same hydroponic fertilizer. Using lettuce as an example, 16,000 heads of lettuce is your average growth per acre of land. This thing could do that with a container the size of a Suburban. For all you math-checking assholes, the lettuce link says 800 cartons per year, and a carton typically holds 20 heads.

Please tell me you see where I’m going with this.

You put agri-cubes in the Upwardly Falling Death Boxes. You equip them with scrubbers to remove the salt from the surrounding ocean water, eliminating a lot of your resupply needs for the hydroponics. Automate as much of the process as you can. Then find a bunch of big, burly sailor-men, like maybe the those arctic fisher-crab-hunter guys or whatever, who won’t mind telling people they’re new profession is “ocean farmer”. Ta-da!

Argh, I be a lettuce farmah. Courtesy of goodlookingmustaches

Argh, I be a lettuce farmah. Courtesy of goodlookingmustaches

I mean really, it’s seems a little simplistic, so I’m sure there’s additional hang-ups. But you could suddenly triple production of some of these foodstuffs by seeding these bastards all over the ocean floor near coastlines, and having boats go out and retrieve the food periodically before sending it back down to the dark scary depths. And in the process, you get salt, because those scrubbers are probably going to collect that shit and get all gunked up unless you add a salt reservoir. Additionally, you just created jobs! Lots of jobs. The guys who build the sneaky ocean farm-boxes, the guys on boats who retrieve them, the other guys on the same boat who repair them, the companies who own the boats, the guys who repair the boats, etcetera. You may run into processing and storage problems once aboard the boat, but really any company who’s willing to shell out over $100,000USD to build one of these things is probably not sending the Brave Little Tugboat.  These things will be probably be closer to cruise-liner size, which means refrigerated storage and possibly limited processing on board.

I’m not saying it’s a foolproof idea. It’s expensive to start up. Dangerous surface conditions would replace droughts as a reason to lose crops. Sharks will eat people (probably not, but I’m really terrified of the ocean.  Father Dagon will most certainly eat some people). Piracy (the original kind, on boats), international waters incidents, agri-cube breaches, and creepy-crawling living in your agri-cubes would all be hurdles to climb. As automated as much of the system would be, hacking would be a serious problem.  Come to think of it, the wireless automation would probably mean the cool, shiver-me-timbers pirates could probably use a few of the not-so-cool neckbeard I-stole-2-terabytes-of-porn pirates on board to just steal your crap when you’re not looking. But all in all it’s a solid plan, except for the Dagon bit. And next time I’ll have some good security measures to protect our futuristic ocean farms from pirates, sharks, and possibly horrible Elder Gods bent on world destruction.

Or not. Courtesy of villains.wikia

Or not. Courtesy of villains.wikia


Josh Snow is a skeptical transhumanist and some-time freelance writer. He can’t decide if he wants to cure world hunger, or just awaken Father Dagon to feed on the unworthy.  He’ll be making up his mind on Twitter @ArkangelWinter

  1. semaj2318
    06/03/2013 at 9:01 pm

    Only problem I can see is that Bio goods like fruits and vegetables need light to grow, which is in short supply on the ocean floor.

    • 12/03/2013 at 4:06 pm

      I can see using UV lamps. Or if you really want to keep it green, bio-luminescent plant life.

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