Lunar Farm

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spacester

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Supposing some rich guy decided to spend his fortune on building a farm on the moon just to see if it would work. Let's say a facility big enough to house a dozen humans full time and provide 50% of their food with locally grown vegetables and meat (meat includes fish and fowl). The rest of the food would come from Earth in the form of commodities like wheat and corn and oats and ground beef etc.<br /><br />Which animals would be on the farm? How big would the facility be?<br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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CalliArcale

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I suspect that the first lunar farms would have to be vegetarian, since livestock will cut into the habitat's oxygen and waste treatment margins. But if that problem can be solved, then I guess I'd first put in fish. In addition to being nutritious, it is surprisingly soothing to watch fish, and it would provide valuable entertainment for the astronauts. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /> Plus, they're small and relatively easy to transport -- you could bring them up as fry. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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tap_sa

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Initially with limited resources I'd advice using the lunar farm to produce only plant food for direct human consumption. The reason for this is that producing a (mass) unit of meat requires multiple units of fodder fed to the livestock. Animal growers speak of fodder efficiency. In Scandinavia it's measured in fu/kg. Kg means growth of live animal and fu means fodder unit and measures the amount of energy available for growth. One fu is equal to the energy of of one kilogram of fodder barley. If other types of fodder are used then the correct mass is calculated using multipliers (for instance for hay it's 0.7-0.9 depending on hay quality, 0.7 means one kg of hay contains 0.7 fu). Low values of fu/kg are desirable, meaning less fodder is required to produce some amount of meat.<br /><br />Different species of animal have different fodder efficiencies. The rule of thumb is that more 'complex', bigger and older the animal the lower fodder efficiency it has (fu/kg grows). From ordinary meat sources the beef is probably the worst, pork average and chicken is the most efficient. Simpler animals like prawn/shrimp and snail have probably even better efficiency than chicken. Broiler fu/kg value is about 2, meaning it takes 2kg of barley fodder to grow 1kg of living broiler. When the bird meets it's destiny and nonedible stuff is removed the final yield is about 3kg of fodder per 1kg of chicken meat. With pork the final efficiency is about 4-5 and beef somewhere around 7+.<br /><br />What above rant means that it takes a lot more space and energy to produce meat than vegetables. This is obviously why even here on Earth a pound of steak costs more than a pound of carrots.<br /><br />The lunar farm will probably grow the plants in racks under artificial light, multiple racks stacked on top of each other to efficiently utilize the space. The regolith as such is inhospitable growth bed, it has to be conditioned to make pH/salinity/etc values proper for the plants. Fertilizers will be
 
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mooware

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Wouldn't animals, including fish, develop strangely in low gravity? Would it effect efficiency?<br /><br />
 
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spacester

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But the rich guy says that if we don't have animals we don't get the money. He wants to see a mini ecosystem with animals playing a part in the nutrient chain. He doesn't care so much about efficiency. He wants to pioneer the use of animals as an integral part of the ecosysytem. Not much meat will be produced locally, but that's not the point of having them there.<br /><br />Btw, he thinks that rabbits have to be there, simply cuz he wants to see rabbits moving in lunar gravity. <img src="/images/icons/laugh.gif" /> And fish are good, he definitely wants fish and understands that the bulk of the natural protein consumed will be fish and other seafood.<br /><br />So, which animals? <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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tap_sa

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<font color="yellow">"I'd first put in fish."</font><br /><br />AFAIK fish, being lower in the evolutionary ladder, has good fodder efficiency so it does make a good start. One thing to consider is that it would require a considerable amounts of water to fill the tanks. But once you have it the fish tank is also good place to grow the simpler stuff like shrimp, and <i>kelp</i> which is about the simplest form of multicell plant there is (meaning very good yields). Algaes is also a promising source for oils.
 
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dobbins

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The rich guy can start out now without going to the Moon. The first step is plants since the animals won't be able to live without plants unless he's planning on importing all of the fodder for the animals. The big problem with a system that has the plants is a Earth 24 hour day night cycle is it will be expensive to power and require considerable maintenance. GM plants that can grow in the natural lunar light cycle will simplify everything. This is something he can invest in right away without waiting for transportation to the Moon to become available.<br /><br />
 
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tap_sa

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<font color="yellow">"Wouldn't animals, including fish, develop strangely in low gravity? "</font><br /><br />Even terrestial fish (except sharks) live their whole life in near zero buoyancy ie. sort of zero gee conditions. Buoyancy force is related to gravity so on the moon things would sink in the water pretty much the same as here on Earth. Dunno how low gravity would affect other animals except that chickens would do longer flight and rabbits some cool jumps. And playful goats would have a field day bouncing on the walls and even roof.<br /><br /><br /><font color="yellow">"Would it effect efficiency? "</font><br /><br />Beats me, this is where it gets terra incognita. I don't know if NASA and Russians have studied in orbit anything more complex than banana flies and such.
 
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tomnackid

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"He wants to see a mini ecosystem with animals playing a part in the nutrient chain." <br />--------------------------------------<br /><br />I would think that the human settlers would provide more than enough...uh..."nutrient cycling" lets call it...for the initial phases of farming. <br /><br />One strategy for lunar farming that was proposed way back when was to plant crops that could mature in 2 weeks just before lunar dawn. Things like algae and fast growing cultivars of brassica (cabbages and mustard greens) were proposed. During the lunar night the farm would switch over to growing edible fungi using the waste material from the daylight crops for food. <br /><br />An Iowa corn farmer would probably feel out of place, but then again farming in say Egypt is very different than farming in the American midwest--you need to adapt to local conditions.
 
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tap_sa

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One other thing to boost the lunar farm's efficiency (I bet the rich guy is interested in efficiency, guys don't get rich if they aren't <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" />): triple or quadruble the CO2 level from Earth levels, up to 1500ppm. This can nearly triple the growth rate. The lunar fields would have to be sealed from rest of the habitat and farmers have to be careful not to spend too much time there.
 
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CalliArcale

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<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>Beats me, this is where it gets terra incognita. I don't know if NASA and Russians have studied in orbit anything more complex than banana flies and such.<p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br /><br />Animals more complex than flies have gone into space for study. There are of course the famous primates sent up by the US and the dogs sent up by Russia in preparation for human flights. I don't know what the Russians sent up on their space stations, but American flights have included studies of fish. Interestingly, they found that fish hatched on Earth couldn't orient themselves in microgravity, but fish hatched in space did fine (but became hopelessly disoriented when returned to Earth). I believe koi were used for this study.<br /><br />Spiders have also gone into space. A student experiment sent up on STS-107 included spiders. I do not recall if it was one of the experiments that was recovered from the debris.<br /><br />I also heard there was also an attempt to study frogs in space which was abandoned after a disastrous preliminary study on a KC-135. The frogs apparently became disoriented, which wasn't a surprise, but what *was* a surprise was that they reacted by leaping violently across the room, to go splat on the opposite wall.... (This story may or may not be true, by the way, and if it's true, I may have some key details wrong, so take it with a grain of salt.) <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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radarredux

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> <i><font color="yellow">Supposing some rich guy decided to spend his fortune on building a farm on the moon just to see if it would work.</font>/i><br /><br />He should tap some of those illegal pot growers who develop small farms in their basements -- similar to what a Lunar farm would look like. I am sure they could provide a few lessons learned on what did and didn't work for them.<br /><br />Seriously, I think NASA has studied this for years. There must be some papers or books on it somewhere.</i>
 
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nacnud

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Yep, check up on hydroponics. If you ever get tomatoes from Iceland they will have been grown this way.
 
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CalliArcale

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Oh, I'm sure there are such papers. NASA's got a whole group of people devoted to space farming research. They grow stuff in labs intended to test out techniques. Granted, they're testing in 1G, but it's a heckuva lot cheaper than testing in space (and you can test on a much bigger scale on the ground). And most of the basic problems have to do with living in an enclosed space, not living in microgravity. The microgravity problems are explored on smaller scales aboard the ISS. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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josh_simonson

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Fish may not be a good match because they require high-quality feed. Ideal animals would be able to eat the parts of plants that the astronauts couldn't eat, such as the greens and stalks. Perhaps rabbits (or garden snails) would be good then.
 
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craig42

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For an early farm I'd take along some Quorn, with eggs (from Lunar Chickens) and a few other additves, you can make a pretty good imitation of most meats. Tends to taste 'cheap' though. Saves space needed for herds of cows and their grazing.
 
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nacnud

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A lot of Hindus are vegetarian, just learn how to cook a good curry <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" />
 
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barrykirk

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A lot of people can't exist on a vegy diet. My wife has a genetic condition that she can't process plant protein. She needs to have animal protein in her diet or she dies.<br /><br />So if she were younger she'd be elgible for the second or third wave of colonists.
 
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nacnud

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Thats a new one on me. Plant and animal protiens are made of the same amino acids, any protease should do <img src="/images/icons/frown.gif" /> Still its a good reason for a nice fat steak <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" />
 
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scottb50

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I can see it now: The Lunar Motto<br /><br />Where men are men and sheep are scared.<br /><br />Though they do many useful things I see no future for ants in Space, if we let them in then we have to let the Cockroach in, it's only fair.<br /><br />If you are using hydroponics you could suppliment the hemp fiber with cotton, though it is pretty demanding on neutrients. <br /><br />I do like the frogs, I bet if the walls were padded they would figure it out pretty quickly, and if not frogs legs are pretty good actually. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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spacester

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OK, so we’ve got rabbits and goats and chickens and fish. That’s pretty much what I came up with. I checked with the rich guy and he said that would be fine for starters, but he wants cows if possible. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /> Snails sound promising; I’m hoping to get more animals on the list to consider. Great posts everyone and please forgive me if I don’t give specific credit all the time. (It’s an experiment.)<br /><br />Now we practical types <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /> need to figure out how to house them and keep them fed. I’m thinking we can safely assume hydroponics for our veggies. In fact I think that’s how our rich guy got that way wink nudge. <img src="/images/icons/laugh.gif" /> Cutting edge hydroponics, yeah that’s it. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /><br /><br />The obvious byproducts other than meat are eggs, milk and cheese. I don’t suppose the rabbits offer anything besides meat and fast reproduction – assuming that works in lunar gravity. IOW we cannot assume on eating rabbit meat on a regular basis because indeed things might develop funny. <br /><br />Are there other food byproducts I’m missing? Can we make butter from goat’s milk?<br /><br />I assume pigs and cows are not an option, even miniature breeds?<br /><br />It looks to me like the fish is going to be Tilapia and that will likely be the primary animal protein produced on site. Can we grow high quality enough fish food, or is that our major fodder import? Any other meat harvested will be a bonus. (?)<br /><br />The goats are selected because they will eat most anything, right? But we still need to give them a balanced diet I assume? I know that the taste of the milk depends a lot on what they’re eating, but is that important to us?<br /><br />What plants do we grow to make this all work? Fungi or barley or both or everything or what? <br /><br />What are the nutrient cycles? Is there a cycle between the fish and the chickens, for example? How do we turn chicken poop into fish flesh? Wha <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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scottb50

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NO COWS! Trust me. I'm not that sold on goats either and chickens? I still like the frogs though and I would much rather have the goats than chickens, it's a long story involving a goose.<br /><br />I can even see the pot-belly pigs and those little Dobermans that are so popular now, though not to eat.<br /><br />When I was very young my grandmother thought I was very undersized and I had to drink goats milk. I think it would be much better to take powdered milk and use the recycling water supply.<br /><br />Actually I like goat it tastes great, you know it's goat though. Rabbit is good too. I would think either would supplant frozen beef, pork and other high maintenance products. Recycling them then becomes a problem.<br /><br />Because we need a lot of water. Fish are a natural, with the mentioned aquatic plants, rice, wheat, barley and other crops would soak up the Carbon. Basically we have to reproduce the Earth environment in an enclosed environment, within reason. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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barrykirk

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set Sarcasm=on<br /><br />I'm looking at the Guinea pigs right now. But my wife keeps telling me.<br /><br />"They are not for eating...."<br /><br />But the cat found a bird in the backyard and<br /><br />"Meats back on the menu"<br /><br />set Sarcasm=off
 
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igorsboss

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Spirulina algae is an efficient producer of protein. It would make great fodder, as fish and rabbit pellet food. Mix spirulina it with lunar soil, add some earthworms... that is... moonworms, and you could have a pretty nice soil.<br /><br /><font color="yellow">lunar wool could even possibly become an export</font><br /><br />Cashmere comes from rabbits. Lunar cashmere sweaters for everyone...<br /><br />Might lunar rabbits evolve into Tribbles?
 
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nacnud

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I don't know <img src="/images/icons/crazy.gif" />. I remember seeing a program on them. Iceland is an odd place to grow tomatoes, untill you figure in the geothermal energy and the cost of importing fresh produce. I suspect that the only time you might find them will be during the northern winter.
 
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