Desert Greenhouses and Climate Change


By Jozef de Beer,
Winnipeg, Canada.

Things are rapidly changing.  Technology, agriculture and climate are changing. There is both great peril and opportunity with these changes.  We know about the doom and gloom of climate change. We have an understanding of why climate change happens. We have a good heated contest over the cause of climate change. Most of us believe that going off of fossil fuels will stop it. I believe that will greatly help. I propose a different idea, which can be used alongside of quitting fossil fuels.
This will remove carbon from the air. It is this; we grow some of our most feasible crops in desert green houses. We use solar power for electricity.

Spain has an extensive system of greenhouses in the south.
 
Almería un mar de PLASTICO:

You can see many images in Google Images here:

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Image: Satellite view of Greenhouse in Spain
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Image: Greenhouse in South of Spain
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Image: Aerial view of Greenhouse in Spain
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Image: View from lower altitude of Greenhouse in Spain

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There must be feasibility to this, considering the area of greenhouses can be seen from space. 
Fruits and vegetables grown in greenhouses in the desert can be dried quickly too. The water evaporating from the crops are collected from drip collectors. Hemp can also be grown in greenhouses.  Hemp does well hydroponically too.

Cotton is another crop that hopefully we can adapt for this. Here is one example from Ethiopia we could consider scaling up:  

http://news.discovery.com/tech/alternative-power-sources/dew-collecting-greenhouse-grows-veggies-in-the-desert-150320.htm

It is intriguing to have plants partially buried in the sand to control temperature. The cooler earth will keep the plants from over-heating during the day. The below earth base and greenhouse dome will keep plants warm at night.

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A common question is, “How can we prevent these greenhouses from being buried by a sandstorm?” 

We can have several helical screw piles at the corners and appropriate intervals. These screw piles buried into the ground can provide a foundation. We could also couple the screw pile to a motor. As the sand builds up, the green house can raise itself, by climbing up a worm-gear shaped screw pile. 

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Metal-techno post has an example of a foundation screw pile system here.   http://www.technometalpost-wpg.com/ 

Using this to move buildings above the sand is my idea. We may have to make the “turbine” part larger for sand. As the green house climbs up the screw pile, soon we will run out of screw-pile. 
To prevent this a worker and affix another screw pile on top of the old one. The will give another five feet or more. We can have an alarm condition when the green house will soon run out of screw-pile. Then a worker can add another screw-pile to the existing one.

If wind removes the sand from under the green house, then the motors can drive the screw pile down into the ground. This will maintain stability. If the torque is too great then the green house can come back down on the screw-pile. 

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Instrumentation will be vital to this operation.There are a few ways we could measure the sand level.  We could use photo-eyes to measure light. Once there is no light, it is time for the motors to move the green house up. We would need decent photo-eyes to monitor light levels.  Then we could use a computer PLC program to analyze light levels. Light levels will tell us differences like, being buried and being in a sandstorm at night. We could use rose-bud, strain gauges to measure the pressure of the sand against the screw pile. With a computer (PLC) algorithm we can differentiate:

· A green house buried in the sand
· A green house in a sandstorm
· A strain gauge kicked by a camel

Power would obviously come from solar power. Solar makes sense for two reasons. First is the ample sunlight. Second, in remote locations solar power is much more practical. We would have to store power in batteries. Universities and businesses are improving solar panels and batteries. If this is not appealing to investors this year, the cost will decrease each year.

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Finally there is the question of how do we fund this? 

We break funding up into two parts, prototype development and scaling up. I propose that we crowd fund this.  Before we fund anything for a working prototype, we should know:

· What is the return on investment of these green houses in Spain
· How could these factors contributing to ROI be altered to benefit stake holders such as:

o Taxation
o Carbon credit
o Local wages and standard of living
o Using more or less automation
o Reduced shipping weight and volume of our product (drying)
o Diversifying crops (hemp, cotton)
o How do the Spanish deal with sandstorms for their green houses?

· Working with local indigenous people to have our greenhouses reduce impact on local ecology
· What is the human rights record of the country(ies) that we could do this in?
· Most importantly collect all of the best ideas from the crowd funding/open source community.

Then we can look at implementing the best models. We could have several possible ideas. We could form several factions around what we think are the best models. By sharing data, once we have the best desert green house we can scale it up and crowd fund the shit out of it.

It is exciting to consider, that we can reverse climate change, by expanding what the Spanish did. We can borrow ingenuity from Ethiopia and other parts of the world to improve this idea even more. We can use social media to connect, gather the best ideas and make both the world and our bank accounts better.

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The cucumber produced in Greenhouse

Desert Greenhouses – Pakistani Focus:

Now I will attempt to focus on a specific desert region – Karachi, Pakistan. Originally, the vision was for a sparse population. Now we get to think about a dense population.

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Karachi in the map of Pakistan

· Close to Sea – With existing shipping ports
· Easy access to local labour or even better, local entrepreneurs
· Immense base for local ideas
· Access to water – Malir river (might be seasonal) or river from Hub dam
· Transportation routes established (They might have traffic problems in town)
· Pakistan already uses solar power extensively
· For non-food crops (cotton and hemp) , sewage can be treated integrated into hydroponic systems
· This is an opportunity to make food more accessible to the local population.

It is important that this development opportunity is given to the people of Karachi. Once this model is proven, there will be a lot of big corporations who will want to exploit the people of Karachi.

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Karachi,Pakistan

Big corporations will push for the people of Karachi to become their wage slaves (as I am a wage slave for a corporation) and call it opportunity. Mainstream banks will push for their corporate buddies to get in. Please look for financing through credit unions, progressive banks, venture capital firms and crowd funding platforms that actually respect people as well as profits. One example of this is Grameen Bank out of Bangladesh. http://www.grameen-info.org/about-us/
This is a model that could be emulated in Pakistan.

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The desert areas of Karachi

I had made suggestions about greenhouses using helical screw piles, motors and sensors to compensate for shifting sand. If any of that idea is makes sense, then please use it. I am sure this idea will be drastically improved upon. The people of Karachi can replicate what the people of Almeria, Spain did, just in a Karachi way. It will be exciting to see what happens next.

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The coastal edge of Karachi to Arabian Ocean and Tropical of Cancer
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One Comment Add yours

  1. dianagz says:

    Awesome article!!! This seems like a great idea!!

    Like

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