Thursday, September 8, 2016

H is for Hydroponics (and Food Production Technology)

"Soylent Green is people!" - Detective Frank Thorn

This post is a little bit of a cop-out. I intended to do this post on Hydroponics. After all, it starts with an 'H', it's practically a sci-fi trope equivalent to space food, and I had already drawn a Hydroponics Bay geomorph. Easy peasy, right?

But the truth is, I really don't know much about hydroponics. Or the future of food production. Or the past of food production.

Food for Thought
But luckily, I loves me some Google and have an affinity for all things Traveller. I looked to see what I could find in the published material and online forums and came up with surprisingly little. My research notes slowly turned into a Tech Level table, that frankly, I'm having a hard time completing. I figured Traveller Grognards are a pretty smart group in general, so I humbly throw my incomplete work at your feet. Tear it to shreds, fellas. Look into your crystal balls and let me know what you think about food in the far future.

I've still included the Hydroponics Bay geomorph, but suspect it will need revision after I've heard from others.

 Technology Levels and Food Production (click image to see larger version)
In the future, only the emotionally unstable eat real meat, just ask any K'Kree (from Star Wars #31)


  1. It looks pretty good. However, a TL 5 society with a relatively high degree of mechanization will end up with a majority of it's population in urban areas quite quickly (US 1920 Census). Also, you will start seeing early work on hybridization at that point, i.e. TL 5.

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  3. Where was this submitted for peer review?

  4. Hmm, you need a major adjustment in Tech Levels. I assume that Tech Level 0 is the Stone Age. By the time of the Copper/Bronze Age, you already had animal domestication, selective breeding of crops, canals dug for irrigation, and an understanding that manure meant better crops. The earliest plow images dates from somewhere before 3500 BC. It is of a wooden plow, basically a Y-shaped beam, fastened to the horns of two oxen.

    During the colonial period. there are quite reliable reports of yields of 300 bushels of potatoes (18,000 pounds), 100 bushels of corn (5600 pounds), and 25 to 40 bushels of wheat (1500 to 3400 pounds, wheat was not a good crop for New England), with what an English author viewed as horribly poor farming methods. For that, see a book online called American Husbandry, from 1772. Farmers were growing about 25 different varieties of corn by the 1830s here, for that see Agriculture in the Northern United States to 1860.

    Crop yield is much more dependent on soil fertility and moisture/irrigation than technology. Where technology comes in is the number of people required to produce a given amount of food. The Amish and Mennonites raise crops with yields in many cases superior to mechanical operations, but their methods are more labor intensive.

    As for meat salting, that also dates prior to the end of the Stone Age, along with sophisticated fish nets and traps.

    What I would suggest is tracking down a copy of Back to Basics via your local library, and get some idea from there what can be done.

  5. Speaking as an emotional unstable meat eater, I rather like this. Hell, I have both Hydroponics and Aeroponics in my various ships, the HERALD OF THE MARCHES has a hydroponic garden for both minor food production and for crew/pax morale.

  6. vertical farming in trays with roots sticking out the bottom of the tray and sprayed with nutrients directly

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