Permaculture and New Technologies

internet-of-thingsBefore to develop the tight relationship between Permaculture and technology let’s consider what make the strength of Permaculture;

Permaculture is intricately related to a domain of science based on systemic approach. Systemic approach relies mainly in the control (modeling) and management (computing capabilities covering end to end processes) of information coming from complex system.

On the other hand what makes human specific ? may be it is not intelligence or consciences, we seem so close to our cousins the apes on this matter,  maybe it is a higher degree of conceptualization, emerging jointly with language and design formalization, which makes us so eager to learn, for our survival.

The capacity for conceptualization makes us intuitively aware that information processing is what differentiate us from the animal. If we appreciate advertisement as a mixture of information and human organic drives used by marketing, pushing for agro industrial products (humor and consumption of sugar, salt, drugs and sex…), we, as an enhanced animal, are still focused in looking for the right information, the one sticking to a realistic description of our ecosystem, making us able to better thrive or survive. Of course the modern world tends statistically (I personally think that there is no pilot in the plane) to change the context and create a reality where the marketing is fiercely informative; Knowing that the last Porsche XXX is able to reach the 100km/h in Y seconds becomes the right and useful information only because we are in a context where roads and traffic and the speed competition represent more than 50% of our reality. However with the constraints emerging from the fact that our planet is limited and the finance model is based on infinite growth (which is mathematically and physically absurd) some more pragmatic reality appears that compete with this artificial model and start to impose other perspectives.

2 factors become apparent;

  • a change in the way we process information, passing from an analytical reductionist way to a systemic approach and the identification of patterns and relationships. It is interesting to note that the expert in trans-humanism and artificial intelligence see the main threats not in the IA themselves becoming conscious but in the usage by corporations of these IA (which already start to think better than human on practical problems) using them in conjunction with the big data to develop competitive hegemony. If you have a critic mind you may as well wonder why Google and Facebook, the big data owner, manipulate the opinion and fuzz about IA.
  • a modification of our ecosystem where we cannot rely anymore on the externalization or resources (mainly air, water, biodiversity) by the economic sphere.

Permaculture benefits from these 2 factors and is not, as some may think a conservative way back to the old time, but more the embracing and fusion of technological progress into the biological  sphere. Technology may them be scrutinized, in the view and respect of ecology, in its real dimension as progress or digress.

Apart from the direct benefits of technologies designed for sustainability (solar panels, wind mill, …) here are some domains which could reveal useful in Permaculture farm design.

– 3D printing; Since Permaculture relies heavily on a library of established tools and functions, having a virtual library of Permaculture tools and their variations based on local context would be very useful. Metal 3D printing is now on the rise and some cooperatives could afford such tool in the close future. (read more about Permaculture and 3D printing)

– Sun light management; Nanotechnology allows now to be embedded in transparent panels in order
* to filter light polarity, intensity and frequency (/ light wave). It may permits for example to reduce infrared spectrum of light (thermochromic), meaning reducing heat in order to improve photosynthesis for most of temperate climate adapted plants
* to harvest light energy and use it later for increasing plant photosynthesis over longer period of time.

– Hologram; Many structural features (hedges, habitat, pathways) are design to help define animals schedules. By using holograms (maybe associated with sound, smells and hormones) we can imagine the digitization of the design setup. For example define boundaries on chicken path by preventing them on certain areas thanks to virtual predators (the same applies with chasing away unwanted predators).

– Issue with nanotechnology is the limited production capacity associated with high cost. However new materials appear which use small quantity of nano-structures for panel re-enforcement. The final products can be obtained at much lower costs. By having light, very strong and connectable panels we can imagine easy functions portability (animal habitat, fences, etc.) opening the possibility for flexible design.

– In case of large farms The Internet of Things (IoT) is a connectivity solution for sensors and data gathering for decision making (humidity, image recognition of animals and plants, temperature) and monitoring device for water and nutrients infrastructure, gates, etc. to pilot alarms and the automatic flows in the farm. IoT is already a reality in industrial farming (see external resource about John Deere). Extract from the press : Data help farmers discover when crops are reaching optimum moisture levels for timely irrigation decisions…

– In the future, ecosystem simulation software (see external resource : Moorea) will allow to optimize farm design (setup and evolution). The behavior of elements and their relationship with other elements (human, plants, animals, sectors and flow of resources and energy, terrain shape and constitution, water elements, …) will be weighted to help find the best combination/interactions within the ecosystem. These software will come with libraries of elements with dynamic description built over an open community sharing repository. These libraries will integrate as well designs of man-made functions to support the farm setup; e.g. green roof building (see external resource), dry toilets, dehydrators, chicken tractors, keyhole gardens, …

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