Low-cost, tropical, private food production system

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Following is information, avocation and examples on economical food production systems.


  • To eliminate GHG-emissions from food transport.
  • To decrease and nearly eliminate GHG-emissions with the production of food (trough carbon dioxide and methane emissions from respectively the use of polluting agricultural machinery and from biological processes occuring with normal agriculture)
  • To decrease the price poor people need to pay for their food and medicine, hereby improving their living conditions (as money can be spend on other necessities as better housing, ...)
  • To help the poor to avoid unhealthy food
  • To increased the poor's food security and self-sufficiency (hereby also decreasing their problems of becoming too dependant on aid programs)


To create kits with:

    • seeds of indigenous (or atleast better adapted) foodcrops
    • detailed documentation/plans on how to plant the seeds and on how to align the seedbeds to allow a permanent and self-regulatory food production system to be set up. This food production system would be designed so that it would be able to provide in their food requirements, both in energetic as well as in mineral/vitamin perspective.
  • To distribute these kits via governmental and non-governmental (NGO, ...) institutions.


In the developing world, people are usually charged high prices for the food they buy (when compared to their average wage). Having been studying this problem, I have come to the conclusion that this problem lies with the fact that even the poor buy their food from vendors, and do not grow it themselves (which would lower the price). Although the more wealthy may buy their food in this way, it is better that the poor do not and doing so anyway makes it harder for them to escape the circle of poverty.

Also, being apart of the Western “supermarket” food-economy brings extra disadvantages when it is used by the developing countries (rather than the developed ones), as allot of the food grown (e.g. corn, grains as wheat, barley, ...) is not native and also not adapted to the countries climate. Therefore, to grow it within the country, additional measures are required (e.g. increased irrigation, ...) or it has to be supplied from abroad. Both these solutions of course add to the price, hereby becoming even more expensive than in the North (something which is actually illogical as the North allows far less foodcrops to be grown).

If however the poor decide to grow their own food and choose local foodcrops to do so, the price of it could be decreased heavily and offer additional advantages (on behalf of health benefits, increased food security, increased self-sufficiency)

Also, besides the humanitarian aspect, the environmental advantage that can be attained is enormous. This as no polluting agricultural machinery will need to be used with this system of food production and as the foods to be grown can be (more or less) chosen by us. As such, we will be able to take out nearly all products from animal origin (which also produces the bulk of the methane emissions) and replace these with vegan/macrobiotic replacement foods. These latter can, in contrary to some popular beliefs, make the food much more healthy, tastier and more packagable in kit form (as all foods would of vegetable origin, thus seed-producing).

Although I concur that in the West (temperate climates) producing your own food (at low prices) might not be accomplished, in the developing world (subtropic and tropic climates), this is not the case. In these parts, survivalist farming as well as this variation thereof has been proven viable due to the good growing conditions (lots of heat and sun), unlike in the temperate zones. Added to these good growing conditions is the possibility of using subtropic and tropic foodcrops, which besides being adapted to the climate, might also offer better comparative productivity than their temperate counterparts (e.g. see the productivity of jackfruit). Another benefit is the low actual and comparative price of farmland. In many countries this is only around 100€/hectare (e.g. Senegal).

If besides using more local foodcrops, the reuse of nutrients is also introduced, as I mentioned, the very low prices given should be easily attained. The reuse of nutrients, already present in many foodproduction systems (permaculture, agro-ecosystems, closed loop systems as MELISSA, ...), can be introduced fairly easily into this inexpensive (low-tech) food production. An example to this is the reusing of human waste trough compostation and reintroduction into the farmland. This will decrease costs as no extra fertilizer will need to be bought.

To allow the food to provide in people's needs all year round, the natural conservation properties of the crops themselves can be used, combined with several food conservation techniques. Allot of food crops have high conserving properties (e.g. grains can last up to a year without any special conservation treatments, root vegetables as carrots, potatoes/yams, taro's, ... can last up to 2 years when left within the ground, and certain fruit trees as avocadoes can sustain their fruit for up to 30 days before falling of and starting to rot.

Also, for certain foodcrops (e.g. rice), alternative cultivation methods as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) can be used. This, as well as better plant cultivars of native foodcrops (e.g. the NERICA-rice variety, ...) can increase yields/decrease costs even further.

Besides this, there are several food preservation techniques as drying, pickling, canning/bottling, salting, preserving trough sugar application, ... These techniques could be used, not only to conserve the food, but also to enhance and flavour certain foodstuffs. This, so that the meals that can be prepared by them are also tasty and diverse.

This reduction in price of the food a swell as the self-sufficiency thereof can also be attained with home production of medicine. Again, rather than simply buying drugs from the pharmacist, the poor can grow a number of medicinal plants they can use with less-severe diseases. Again, if the plants are carefully chosen so they complement each other in dealing with the most common diseases (e.g. colds, headaches, flu, ...) the expenses given on doctor appointments/medicine can be decreased.

P.S.1.: if you are interested in executing these suggestions, please use infertile plants or plants that produce non-viable seed to minimize the danger of the spreading of these non-indigenous foodcrops/medicinal plants into the environment

P.S.2: the composition of the plant-kits can determined while taking permaculture/permaculture-techniques into account (e.g. with companion-planting, the plants can stimulate each other to give better results on quantity/quality of the edible parts and chance of success by disease resistance

P.S.3: please note that to make the meals that can be prepared by the vegetable/fruit/.. patch healthy, crops will need to be selected that complete each other in continence (e.g. on behalf of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fibres, ...).

P.S.4: for growing medicinal plants in the developing world, medicinal plants adapted to this kind of climate will need to be selected. Thus, the plants to be used will probably need to come from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda, aswell as other indigenous phytotherapies.

P.S.5: besides foodcrops and medicinal crops, crops exist to replace soap (hereby decreasing expenses on another key element for the developing world).

P.S.6: As kits for some ordinary foodcrops (e.g. lettuce, carrots, ...) are already being sold by companies as 'Secrets du Potager', the approach described has been proven and may now be used for (tropical) foodcrops/medicinal plants in the developing world as well..

More information[edit]

  • The Wikipedia's tropical agriculture-article, featuring the tropical crops that can be used and explaining some of the health benefits of these crops


  • Other protein-foods besides soy that can be used:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Textured_vegetable_protein http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imitation_meat

  • Tropical fruittrees that can be used


  • The Wikipedia's Permaculture-article


  • Survivalist (subsistence) farming


  • Closed Ecological System


  • Life Support Systems and Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_support_system http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Controlled_Ecological_Life_Support_System

  • The Wikipedia's System of Rice Intensification (SRI)-article


  • NERICA-rice variety


  • Food Preservation Techniques


  • Channel 4's documentary detailing malpractises of the pharmaceutical industry (e.g. overpricing)


  • Additional crops that can be used to substitite the diet


  • Plants that can be used as soap-substitutes


  • The Wikipedia's TCM and Ayurveda-articles

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_Chinese_medicine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayurveda

  • Save the Children's 'The Minimum Cost of a Healthy Diet'-report


  • Secrets du Potager offering kits to grow a combination of plants (see page 9, 15, 51, 52, 53 and 54)


The low-cost, private food production system for tropical/subtropical climates practical set-up[edit]

As stated, the system is highly adaptable and modular, allowing the primary and secondary crops (as well as machinery, ....) to be altered to personal preference and choice (thus allowing perfect customization to the user). These features which are primarily a good thing, however also make it hard to paint a main picture of the system itself.

However, as this is needed to understand the system fully, I made up a more or less representable image of the system. Still keep in mind however that (almost) everything is subject to change depending on the primary and secondary crops chosen.


First, an overview of the basic system set-up:


primary or staple crops: usually grains (preferably rice although wheat, barley, taro, yams, amaranth and pearl millet (perhaps even more interesting), millet, quinoa,... can also be used) secondary crops: fruits, vegetables, root vegetables, and spices/herbs (both culinary and medicinal) supplementary crops: yeast, sugar cane, ...


dehusking by rice huller

fermenting and distilling

scratting and pressing

fermenting and distilling drying

inoculation of yeast unto primary and secondary crops

pressing of sugarcane into juice (guarapa) and fermentation and distilling to pure ethanol


whole and processed grains

fermented grain products

dried fruits, fruit juice, herbs, oils from oil plants, fermented fruit products (e.g. vinegar), processed vegetables (canned, pickled, ...), combinations of oil with herbs to create medicine (salves/ointments) guarapa

pure ethanol combinations of herbs with pure ethanol to create medicine (tinctures)

Main buildings and division of workforce:

  • Information and processing building: this is where the main processing machinery is located. These machines include (depending on choices made): rice huller, sugar press, fruit scratter, still, petri-dishes with mold growth medium as sugarcane melasse, fruit press, ... People working here would be either engaged in the system by giving information to the people (on the food products and how they are eaten, the amount of daily intake per food product, ...) or they are engaged in the system by executing specialized processing (e.g. milling, distilling, ...)
  • Farm ground, orchards, herb/spice patches, ... : here, ordinary field work is done by farmers, orchardists, herb/spice growers, ...

Notes on the general system set-up: Although theoretically possible, alcoholic beverages are not to be made for drinking 'as is'. Instead, pure ethanol is made for conservation purposes and medicine making (for making tinctures) and alcoholic beverages may also be made, but then only for cooking purposes.

Please note that the devices described above would not make the system expensive. Instead, the devices used would be produced on-site by do-it-yourself (DIY) method or alternatively, inexpensively procured. DIY-production of these simple processing devices is possible, take a look at http://www.ukcider.co.uk/wiki/index.php/Homemade_Cider_Press and http://www.ukcider.co.uk/wiki/index.php/Homemade_Scratter. Also, besides the processing equipment, some of the field agricultural tools can also be made on-site by DIY-method; take a look at http://ciifad.cornell.edu/sri/extmats/engmanual.pdf where it is described that a rotating hoe can be simply made DIY (just for 5$).

Note on what's really new on the approach: Although the system primarily makes use of existing farming technology, ... the system as a whole is new and can decrease decrease GHG-emissions and the production cost of food enormously (as already previously stated). This as

  • practically all food produced is also actually eaten (hereby increasing productivity). This is possible due to the many food conservation methods used (e.g. natural conservation properties of food, preservation in ethanol, pickling, ...)
  • nutrient recycling can happen at full, thus any plant parts thrown away (e.g. peels, leaves, ...) as well as human excrement still continue to provide a function and decrease costs by lowering fertilization costs.
  • all agricultural machinery used is completely non-polluting (working solely on electricity). This use of non-polluting machinery is a unique feature of the system because, although the electric agricultural machinery already exists, their efficient use for farmers is almost impossible with the greater farmer fields (used in today's agriculture)
  • trough the decrease in main production crops that can occur, efficiency can be increased and trough the highly efficient combination of food products and plants that can occur (e.g. ethanol and herbs to create medicine) costs (e.g. on health, ...) can be lowered.
  • this system, unlike others, is very combine able with traditional “tribal” villages in the developing world and their culture
  • the system would normally be set-up with an inclusion of a private yeast-production centre. This yeast production centre again allows allot of different foods and condiments to be grown, not only because yeast (e.g. Aspergillus oryzae) can transform soy into several products as tofu, miso, ... but also because the centre allows a variety of molds to be grown, which again triggers an even bigger variation (natto, tempeh, red/black oncorn, ) and when other staple foods are used also food products as igu, ogiri, ...
  • some of the possible implementations that can be added to the system are almost unheard of and can increase efficiency (and decrease GHG-emissions) further. These include: integration of mushroom growing into the composting site, direct ethanol production (via guarapa), direct use of sugarcane melasse for yeast growing, use of the system of rice intensification, ...
  • The system does not foresee the use of cooking oils or fats. This not only makes the food healthier, but as oils are always have a limited storage/shelf life, it also makes the food production system to be more efficient. Instead of using oils/butter or fats to cook, techniques and cooking utensils that do not require oil are to be used. Examples for these are boing, steaming, ... (e.g. trough rice cooker or in a pot over a plain fire, steamer). Utensils as steamers finally also allow all nutrients to be consumed as they can catch all the water vapour that normally disappears.

Why the system would catch-on and be popular in the targeted ((sub)tropical) zones. Firstly, as the system would decrease costs and allows them to save more money, the system would surely attract intrest and catch-on.

Also, the system described allows many people in the developing world, and especially isolated communities to reduce their contact with their surrounding (and Westernizing) environment. As this is something many communities also desire, the system would catch on with these people as well.

Finally, in villages in the developing world, the main power still lies with the village elder(s). This custom can be clearly seen in many documentaries, including the ones listed below. As the village elders would be able to obtain their high position with this system (e.g. by becoming in charge of the herbal healing section of the system), they will approve the system and not counteract its implementation into the village. As the village elders have been responsible for the failure of many NGO-programs by preventing them of gaining foothold, this too is a great advantage.

Example of a possible system set-up


primary or staple crops: rice and soy secondary crops: ginger, onions, tea bushes, spring onions, shiitake mushrooms, lime supplementary crops: the yeast-mold Aspergillus oryzae, sugar cane, ...


rice dehusking by rice huller

fermenting of rice to create sake, mirin, miso, soybean fermenting to create soy milk, tofu, soy sauce, ...

lime pressing inoculation of Aspergillus oryzae unto rice and soy

pressing of sugarcane into juice (guarapa) and fermentation and distilling to pure ethanol


whole soybean and rice grains (brown rice) and dehulled rice grains (white rice)

fermented rice products: sake, mirin, miso soybean sprouts, and soy milk

fermented soy products: tofu, natto, tempeh, soy sauce, ...

combinations of soy oil with herbs to create medicine (salves/ointments)


combinations of guarapa with water and respectively lime and tea to make lemonade and kombucha pure ethanol combinations of herbs with pure ethanol to create medicine (tinctures)

Some examples of preparations that can be created with these (Japanese/macrobiotic) crops:

Meals (breakfast)

Congee: from white rice Natto: from soybeans Meals (lunch)
Fried rice or nasi: from rice onions, spring onions and soy oil Miso soup: from miso Meals (dinner)
Mochi: from brown rice Tempeh: from soy and rice vinegar


Tea: from leaves of tea bush (green, black, white tea) and from twigs of the tea bush (kukicha, sencha tea) Ice tea: from leaves of tea bush with guarapa and lime Orchata: from rice Kombucha: from sugarcane, tea bush and yeast-culture Ginger ale: from ginger, and sugar cane

Note on why this example focuses on Japanese ingredients/meals First of all, as the system is designed for (sub)tropical climates, different crops need to be used than those found in the West (temperate climate). As such, it is also better to focus on foreign cuisines from within this (sub)tropical region. These cuisines are already based on tropical staple and secondary crops and thus only need little modification (to reduce the amount of crops) than would otherwise be the case.

The Japanese cuisine, which is very basic and representative, has a number of special features that make it ideal to use with this private food production system.

These features include:

  • the Japanese cuisine's lack of much different primary crops, making their variety of condiments, ... from only 2 staple crops. These crops (rice and wheat) allow a variety of preparations to be made including: soy milk, tofu, soy sauce, miso, sake, congee, ...
  • by subtle differences in the processing of these few crop products, again allot more different meals can be produced. For example with rice: with this crop both brown rice and white rice can be made, with the only difference in processing being whether or not it is hulled (with a rice huller). With these subtle and easy processing differences atleast 2 more meals can be made; notably congee (from white rice) and mochi (from brown rice)

Finally, this cuisine is very pure and healthy (which reduces health expenditures) and allows easy conservation for many of its crops (e.g. rice can be stored without any treatment for at least 6 months) and for its preparations (e.g. miso, sake, mirin, ... can all be stored for extensive periods, due to their antibacterial nature)

P.S. In addition to switching to vegan/macrobiotic foods, the information building may also be used, on a voluntary basis, to promote having only a single (well-balanced/measured) solid meal a day (or perhaps better, only 2 meals/day). As the amount of solid food a person needs is actually very small anyhow this might be done easily. It should be looked at however, that the meals combined pack around 2000 kcal. The restriction can be enforced by food rationing (food packets can be divided at a monthly basis, similar as in Cuba). As a large part of the world population already only takes a single meal a day (so that this is no problem) and people who conduct caloric restriction (most of them also only take 1 or 2 meals) usually improve their health even further. Macrobiotics and caloric restriction have already been known to be combine able and is described in books by Roy and Lisa Walford (eg The Anti-Aging Plan: Strategies and Recipes for Extending Your Healthy Years). To make sure that the vegan/macrobiotic foods are sufficient to fulfill in a all of a persons necessary building blocks (while having only one or two solid meal(s) a day), extra food supplements may be integrated in fluid food supplements (drinks). This may be done by extracting vitamins, minerals, ... from specific, industrially grown crops trough the use of the described ethanol. This approach would again introduce increase the efficiency of food production (as less food would be lost due to not eating it in time), increase health benefits (as caloric restriction makes people healthier) and decrease costs to the society (as people become more food/efficient and more productive).

More information on this example's unique features[edit]

  • Rice huller (to make white rice)


  • Still (to make pure ethanol from guarapa)


  • The Aspergillus oryzae-bacteria that transforms many foodstuffs (e.g. soymilk to tofu, ...)


  • Production of the yeast mold by Petri-dish and growth media


  • Possibilities of the soybean to create a variety of produce


  • Sugarcane-juice production


  • Documentary showing that isolated communities want to reduce their contact with the outside world and showing the power of the village elder


  • Freestanding advise the information centre would provide to switch to one solid meal/day

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calorie_restriction http://www.amazon.com/Anti-Aging-Plan-Strategies-Recipes-Extending/dp/1568580495/ref=pd_sim_b_img_2 (book on combination calorie restriction and macrobiotics) "The Okinawa-program: Learn the secrets to healthy longevity by Willcox, Willcox and Suzuki" (in particular chapter 5 and 6 about special herbs and foods used in the orient/Okinawa) "Eat to live by Joel Fuhrman"


  • Other cost-decreasing solar techniques (diy heat store), portraied and build in practice by the New House Farm's "It's not easy being green"-team

This heat store can be used to heat the greenhouse-part of the food system (if this is to be used/possible), or (eg with the ships mentioned), heat other rooms used in the food production system and/or structures themselves http://www.itsnoteasybeinggreen.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=99374&sid=fe9009cedff17d83534b3d9d6dae4a29 http://www.growfruitandveg.co.uk/grapevine/general-chitchat/its-not-easy-being-green_5930.html http://forum.caithness.org/archive/index.php/t-22978.html http://www.growfruitandveg.co.uk/grapevine/general-chitchat/its-not-easy-being-green_5930.html#post83959 http://forum.caithness.org/archive/index.php/t-22978.html

  • Other recommended reading to understand some proposals
  • "Superfoods and/or superfoods healthstyle by Stephen G Pratt and Cathy Matthews" (for other general info on which the foods are to be chosen, depending on contents).
  • Perhaps that "The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health" by T. Colin Campbell and The Super Foods book by Kristin Gerstley may also be worthwhile to read, yet they may not be necessairy to understand how I would set-up the system.
  • My Extra info on food consumption-article

Finally, also note that David Wolfe's Fruit tree Planting Foundation, aswell as his company "Sunfoods" may help in making (certain) low-cost food production systems (see http://www.davidwolfe.com/ )