“Innovative greenhouses to minimise the environmental impact of food production”
Traditional greenhouses have very poor thermal performance and so the heating cost is high. The heating cost represents about 30% or more of the overall operating costs in the greenhouse industry. Heat is lost through air leakage and conduction through the structure. To reduce air leakage and heat losses, modern greenhouses have been built air tight, leading to high humidity inside the building and condensation on the glass cover. In summer, overheating is a problem in greenhouses and ventilation is the only way known to reduce the indoor air temperature and humidity. For this reason there is no effective use of CO2 enriched atmosphere growing. Shading or using novel film plastics such as light reflecting films is another means to reduce solar transmission and overheating, and while reducing the PAR light available (shading) there is an increase in the thermal radiant environment with negative plant response. These techniques do not form an integrated strategy to reduce heat losses in winter and prevent overheating in summer. The aim of the proposed project is to develop innovative PyraPOD greenhouses to reduce energy consumption and so minimise the environmental impact of food production. The PyraPOD makes use of the SolaRoof technology platform to provide a transparent envelope with a dynamic, super-insulation to replace current poorly insulated glazing systems.
Description of technology and novelty
The proposed PyraPOD products will be built on the SolaRoof platform to create a vertical farm structure, making use of Liquid Bubbles to provide a thick blanket of insulation to reduce heat losses. The bubbles are contained within two layers of plastic transparent or translucent covering materials, which form the “skin” covering the PyraPOD. This “envelope” of interior and exterior skins are spaced about 75cm apart to create a roof/wall “cavity space” in contrast to the single glass glazing of traditional Dutch greenhouses. The PyraPOD system applies the Liquid Solar process to capture thermal gain during the day, store it in the Liquid Thermal Mass, and then distribute this low temperature energy throughout the building envelope to eliminate the need for conventional heating of the interior space. Because of the excellent insulation and the operation of the Liquid Solar process condensation on the interior of the envelope surface is controlled (and collected), eliminating the ventilation requirement and the unintended heat, CO2 and water loss due to conventional ventilation requirements. Bubbles are opaque to thermal radiation and Solar IR and the liquid bubbles can provide shading in summer to reduce overheating. Hence, the novel technology can provide insulation and shading as required to serve any extreme environment and provides a way to cope with dangerous Climate Change. These aforesaid technology innovations enable a “closed ecological environment” to be sustained with very low energy and consequently there is within the PyraPOD a hyper-intensive photosynthesis and transpiration energy conversion of solar radiation to nutritious food and pure water, with abundant resulting biomass – further amplified by Mass Algae Culture – which feeds the PyraPOD capacity to produce abundant BioFuels, including BioGas and BioDiesel. Thus, PyraPOD answers the nexus of the Food + Energy + Water crisis resulting in FEW4All.
Cost-benefits for growers
The insulation level of the proposed greenhouses is twenty times higher than standard double polyethylene covered greenhouses and about 30 times improvement over a single glass covered greenhouse. Therefore, the conduction heat loss and heating cost can be reduced by orders of magnitude – this is a revolutionary result that makes all other greenhouse systems obsolete.
The PyraPOD greenhouse projects will produce energy from waste biomass as well as the intensive production of surplus, exportable quantities of biofuel which can increase the profitability of these operations. A by-product of operations is the purification of water resources and the conservation of fresh water used for crop production. This capability to answer the nexus of challenges of Food/Energy/Water, which is called the FEW4All solution is what makes PyraPOD a world transforming, game changer, with power to lift people everywhere out of poverty and hunger while healing the earth’s ecosystems by the restoration of balance and harmony between humans and the whole of life on earth.
The PyraPOD is conceived as a DIY Kit, very simple and low-cost to set up. The machines to produce bubbles are also easy and cheap to manufacture; they are purpose built bubble generators that are optimized in design for this application. Therefore our intention is to offer a POD Kit for assembly by the current POD Pioneers and future POD Preneurs.
The Plan: collaborative development & cooperative commercialization
The Public/Private Partners in collaborative development shall carry out preliminary testing and computer modeling of the proposed technology. The thermal performance will be tested to demonstrate the excellent performance of the SolaRoof platform under controlled study conditions.
However, further research needs to be done in the following two areas:
1. Computer modeling of fluid flow and heat transfer: Movement of bubbles are extremely complicated. There are so many assumptions of existing simple thermal models that they are not accurate enough for design and performance assessment. More sophisticated techniques such as computational fluid dynamics need to be used to have a thorough understanding of the liquid heat transfer in the proposed greenhouses and to optimise the design of bubble technology.
2. Optimising bubble technology: Bubbles interact with solar radiation and other heat transfer mechanisms, depending on the type, size and quantity of bubbles. These parameters can be constantly monitored to provide automated response to the changes in the outside weather conditions to provide thermal insulation or shading as required. All these require experimental determination of physical and thermal properties of bubbles and bubble movement as well as the thermal performance of the greenhouses integrated with bubble technology and the liquid cooling, closed atmosphere controlled environment process.
Exploitation of the results will be carried out by PGI, a global cooperative community, commercializing PyraPOD that is to be headquartered in Canada. It is the intention of the collaborative partners to abide by the Share-Alike obligations related to the application of SolaRoof as the technical platform for the PyraPOD. Therefore the Consortia members shall protect any commercially exploitable innovations by patents and or publication that shall be dedicated to the SolaRoof CCPL (Creative Commons Public License) if and when they are granted in any countries. An “OpenSource” license will be extended to all commercial end users and to the registered commercial suppliers of products and materials produced for distribution by the POD Enterprise Network (PGI). The SolaRoof “Brand” shall be given Attribution, and will include other complementary technology, which can be packaged together with know-how. In particular, personal and non-profit use including adoption by the Developing Nations shall be free and will be supported by 1% PayItForward contributions by the members of the PGI Community. Research results will also be disseminated via papers in journals and presentations will be made at appropriate conferences and public events – the principle of “working openly” and the OpenSource sharing of our results and designs will be guaranteed by all members of this Consortium.
Members of the PyraPOD Consortium shall have the opportunity to cooperatively commercialize the PyraPOD product with the PGI community, which is also in startup phase. PGI is a global organization that is formed by Nelson and Aubrey as an exemplar project and social enterprise initiative that has the intention to bring SolaRoof to the people, creating a movement for local, regenerative food, while answering energy, water, shelter, and climate care challenges with solutions that are accessible (Open Source Knowledge), affordable (Open Manufacturing) and adaptable to any culture and climate through membership in our Open Organization, PGI.
The all season, all climate PyraPOD vertical growing method is an emerging science and technology that has the potential to remove all constraints to humanity’s capability to provide nutritious food in abundance (see the White Paper, “closing the hunger gap”). There is increasing concern about global population growth, ecological and environmental degradation and the threat that climate change may pose to conventional agriculture, however, these problems have solutions and the means are at hand to avert potential future crisis. SolaRoof technology will be in the forefront of the high technology agriculture sector in offering the solutions needed for mankind to move forward successfully into the 21st Century.
PGI proposes the development of our Controlled Environment Application, called “PyraPOD”, which builds on the SolaRoof platform to create a capability for growing food crops on a continuous basis and to obtain from these crops their maximum potential in quality and quantity of the harvest. Growing and harvesting is managed concurrently to obtain a steady and reliable supply of produce without regard to the location of these operations or the changing climatic conditions. This is possible by means of establishing a closed atmosphere, controlled environment that is ideal for plant production.
Within agriculture the greenhouse industry is recognized to be a vital and dynamic business sector. This industry has progressed in step with advancements in building technology that have provided improved construction methods and materials for glazing systems that provide the transmission of light through the building cover. Experience with glass goes back more than two centuries and, in modern times, plastics have gained wide acceptance as a glazing material. Within the last two decades new, high technology transparent materials have become available which can enable the creation of a new generation of greenhouse construction, referred to as SolaRoof, which is fundamentally different and advanced over the glass and plastic glazed greenhouses we know today.
SolaRoof is not a passive process, but is thermally active, and can capture, convert and store solar energy for utilization in a controlled environment process, referred to as Liquid Solar Technology, which maintains a natural thermal equilibrium in the building. By the operation of this process the building environment is characterized as having a steady temperature and humidity that is modulated gradually from day to night like a biorhythm. Moderating the interior environment is a liquid reservoir, which may be thermally linked to a larger water thermal mass within the building. The Liquid Cooling process operates by pumping a liquid into the roof cavity space. The liquid is distributed as a thin film over the interior skin where it absorbs solar energy gain from within the structure. (While reading the technical description below, please refer to the PGI Slideshow Presentation)
The Liquid Solar Technology process actively controls the internal building environment. Mixing a surfactant concentrate into solution with water provides the means to work with Liquid Bubble Technology as a means of cooling/shading and insulating/heating. The Liquid Solution, interacting in thermal exchange with the liquid thermal mass, is pumped to the envelope of the building where, in the cavity space, it is used to generate high-expansion bubbles that completely fills the roof and wall cavity. Thus, the glazing envelope is not a single thin sheet material, poorly shielding the interior from extreme outside climates, but rather is a thick envelope having a cavity space at times filled soap bubbles, like cells, hundreds of layers deep thereby providing cooling or warmth as may be required. During the day, insulating and shading may be obtained by generating bubbles that fill the roof cavity, while this same process used over-night has an insulation and (low-temperature thermal energy) “heat” distribution function that utilizes the stored energy in our Liquid Thermal Mass System.
PyraPOD utilizes the new SolaRoof envelope, climate control and energy systems to dynamically respond to the exterior climatic conditions by modulating the values of the building envelope’s temperature, thermal conductivity, light transmission and radiative characteristics. The Cooling Liquid can flow as a thin film over the interior sheet of the modular PyraPOD panels and thereby will maintain the temperature of the inner skin at the dew point temperature for the purpose of regulating the temperature and relative humidity within the controlled environment. The Liquid Cooling & Chilling process can prevent the over heating and high humidity that is usually associated with glazing systems, and is effectively a low energy air-conditioning system that eliminates the need for high ventilation rates.
Introduction to the PyraPOD Concept
Before going into the details of our product design, which has many unconventional features, it will help to understand the fundamentally new technical concepts that are shaping this unique product into a form that is certainly unlike any known greenhouse.
First of all, we have not set out to use any previous greenhouse as starting point for our design. Development started with setting aside the existing concepts of greenhouse structures that have evolved over time as methods to utilize glass and rigid plastic panels or polyethylene film. We have started with a clean sheet of paper and have developed – PyraPOD – a totally new approach to structure and glazing and mechanical processes that exploit advanced manufacturing methods to produce:
• Structure – strong, light, roll formed steel or extruded aluminium
• Glazing – high strength, high transparency laminates
• SolaRoof Technology – for Controlled Environment Applications
The goal is a lightweight structure is so efficient in design that, though it is built to twice the specifications of a standard or typical polyethylene or glass covered greenhouse, it remains very competitively priced. We believe that the PyraPOD design offers a higher quality structure at a price that is competitive with the Venlo glass structure (from Holland) and is so greatly more profitable than the common polyethylene covered tunnels or raised tunnels, called “gutter connected” in America, that it obsolesces the current greenhouse industry.
Secondly, the PyraPOD is a vertical, high profile structure with integral extrusion profiles for securing the modular SolaFabric panels, and the entire envelope is post-tensioned. The PyraPOD is covered with our unique “PolyFabric”, which is a modular, double-layer-building envelope that is standardized for high volume manufacturing. It has many important advantages over conventional glazing systems, should prove to be the highest net-present-value glazing investment on the market.
The higher cost of the higher specification “SolaFabric” for human occupancy structures is expected to be more than offset by energy cost reductions and yield and revenue increases. The SolaFabric would be available in various high technology compositions from highly transparent too translucent. The standard composition has a light transmission of 95 to 92 percent, which is superior to glass. Due to the very low index of refraction (which reduces reflection) a double-glazed SolaFabric cover is expected provide about the same light as found in a single-glass-covered structure. Our building envelope is fabricated using the highest quality materials that are several times stronger and more durable and significantly safer than the week polyethylene film or thin plate glass materials currently covering most greenhouses.
All PyraPOD components will be completely pre-engineered and prefabricated. Thus construction of projects is anticipated to be fast, accurate and foolproof. The entire structural system is to be fabricated from aluminum extrusions and is assembled using galvanized steel or stainless steel bolts and would easily be dismantled for relocation at any time. We will design the high technology PolyFabric or SolaFabric envelope for installation in modular sections using a continuous locking mechanism to attach the modular panels to the arch-sections of our aluminium structure components, and therefore the glazing material would also be easily removable without any damage.
PyraPOD is an efficient and sustainable technology for producing renewable resources through biotechnology; especially:
PyraPOD is a closed, enriched CO2 atmosphere, controlled environment crop production system. As such, our process utilizes proven but not mainstreamed innovations to establish an energy efficient process for maintaining the temperature, humidity and other factors for optimum crop production within the required specification.
Existing greenhouse technology operations suffer from an extreme tendency to overheat in the hot climates or summer season due to a lack of radiative energy control over the glazing and conversely in cold climates and during the extreme winter conditions the prior technology has very limited capability to provide sufficient insulation to prevent extreme heat loss and therefore production may be required to shut down during mid winter or, if not, then the result is a very high heating cost.
Our solution to this recognized problem is the provision of low cost and efficient climate control process, which uses the Liquid Solar Controlled Environment process, which includes dynamic Liquid Bubble Technology for heating and cooling of buildings constructed with a highly transparent multiple skin envelopes. These methods, which have been invented by Mr. Nelson and proven by the SolaRoof community in various field test projects in the USA and Canada and the Far East, have not yet been commercialized in the EU or in America. The enhanced and open source SolaRoof Foundation methods are based upon the Creative Commons knowhow, which is an order of magnitude improvement (ten times reduction in heating and cooling loads) over any state of the art methods for greenhouse heating and cooling in Holland or any other advanced countries.
However, not only is our technology a minimal consumer of energy for heating and cooling, but the PyraPOD process is a significant net producer of renewable energy in the form of Biofuel, which includes the following possible sustainable energy products: Methane from biomass and BioDiesel produced from vegetable oil from Mass Algae Culture. The operations require less than 10% of the energy produced, which is expected to be as high as 100 Kw per M2 per annum in the high sunlight regions (say: 6 Kw/day/M2), that includes the Polar Regions. While the sunlight in Iceland is very concentrated in the summer season, we can produce the energy in the form of biomass during the summer and this renewable resource is availabe in the form of Biofuel for use during the winter. In all nordic lands the PyraPOD continues to produce through the short winter days with the generation of electricity from microturbines that are powered by the Biofuel produced during the summer. Not all nordic lands have the geothermal resources of Iceland and therefore it is important that the PyraPOD applies Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems to provide electricity for lighting and utilizes the waste heat of this system as backup heat for the solar thermal energy capture.
The PyraPOD process can produce multiple fuels and crops while also housing fish farming and livestock, which means that one project can generate several income streams while the incremental cost of each process is reduced due to the integration of the optional systems. Thus the overall investment will achieve a remarkably high profitability.
The PyraPOD process is the first in the world to utilize the phytomechanisms of plants for the purpose of producing “Freshwater from Seawater”. In our non ventilated, controlled atmosphere growing environment none of the transpiration moisture is lost, since our closed system uses the liquid cooling/chiller process to maintain the inner skin of the building envelope at the necessary dew point temperature to condense all the transpired moisture that is generated by the crop leaf canopy system. Therefore production of pure water is a direct consequence of our climate control method which removes the solar thermal gain by removal of transpired moisture from the closed environment. The water production is a by-product of our crop production method and such production has almost no incremental cost yet is a high value result.
In our “Freshwater from Seawater” projects the PyraPOD process will use halophytes (such as salt tolerant hyacinth) which can be grown for biomass to be used as livestock or fish feed and will produce pure water from the uptake and transpiration of brackish water and other crops grown to provide a stage in the treatment of waste water. The PyraPOD process, which in operates continuously (producing a suitable crop), is capable of producing 5 Kg of water per square meter per day, or 1 cubic meter of water per 200 M2 daily. All the energy not used for photosynthesis is transformed into pure condensation, which is typically about 1,000 Kw of thermal energy utilization per square meter per annum.
In addition it should be emphasized that the plant production itself will not waste any water resources since the deep or shallow pond growing method (which is typical) will retain 100 percent of the crop production water (the nutrient water) because this is a totally enclosed Hydroponic system – and with the capture of all the transpired moisture there is actually no loss whatever – except for the export of the wet weight of the crop. Since the crop biomass is also recycled then only the export of a wet biomass is due to the harvest and export of the fruit of a crop to be consumed outside the local community that can return their food waste and human waste back to the source. The PyraPOD is equiped with anaerobic digesters and aerobic composting that can safely handle and reder harmless any organic waste (that is itself free from contamination by heavy metals and other toxins).
Conventional, intensive greenhouse crop production operations, such as the Dutch “grow bag” methods that drip irrigate rockwool or other synthetic or organic media such as peat, makes great demands on resources, including energy, water, fertilisers and require consumption and disposal of large quantities of growing media. Our goal is to make the PyraPOD method of Biomass Crop Production largely independent of such consumables that generate non-recyclable bi-products. This will base our technology on renewable resources and provide the foundation for building a truly sustainable industry which achieve extreme efficiency but also moves beyond this goal to achieve a vast rate of production resulting in a surplus of exportable renewable resources while minimizing any dependency on the consumption of non-renewables or of slow-to-renew organics, for example, peat based composts or synthetic growing media that cause land fill disposal problems.
Our solution, the floatation growing systems that are not yet common in Europe but are in use in large, commercial lettuce production operations in Canada and China, where individual projects of up to ten hectares have been operating successfully for a number of years. Our proprietary version of these systems is an advanced concept that is well adapted to Biomass Crop production, which can use natural floating crops or the flotation raft method for non aquatic plant production. The great advantage of the flotation crop production is realized by the fact that the shallow or deep pond is an ideal “liquid thermal mass” – where, in the PyraPOD process the flotation pond is integrated with the Liquid Solar Controlled Environment system that is mentioned above.
NOVEL AND MORE EFFICIENT PRODUCTION
Most of the downstream biotechnology industry is dependent on finding sufficient supplies of natural source feedstock as an input to the various high value extraction industries. Currently, most have difficulty sourcing sufficient steady supply natural plant material of high quality and purity. In every category the industry demand exceeds the supply of natural source products. Thus our controlled environment technology system, PyraPOD, is the answer to the present supply shortfall. With production that is year around and yield that can exceed field production or current greenhouse production by an order of magnitude (in some cases producing more than 50 times the yield as is possible with field crops) we have the key to the development of the entire biotechnology sector.
For example, large scale shallow pond hydroponic growing has produced a consistent yield of 500 heads of lettuce per square meter per year. Hydroponic production of potatoes has produced 200 metric tonnes per hectare per year. The PyraPOD methods have the potential to increase the yield of various crops by 2 to 5 times over the best results that are achieved today. This can be done even while reducing the capital cost for most systems. Only our costs for computer monitoring and automation are higher than typical, while other capital costs are in line with the most competitive greenhouse structures.
The necessary breakthrough is provided by our OpenSource, low energy, low cost PyraPOD product, which has the capacity to produce biomass in the form of whole plant harvesting; flowers, fruit, seed, leaf and root (tuber) harvesting; including methods that do not destroy the plant but allow a fast regeneration and multiple harvests from successive regrowth. The PyraPOD process will also support production of mass cell cultures, tissue culture and micro-propagation, “plug production” and transplant production for the horticultural and nursery industries. Also, reflecting our commitment to sustainability, every PyraPOD installation would normally be equipped with Mass Algae Culture production as the production of BioFuel is an integral aspect of the standard design and mode of operation.
PyraPOD harvesting systems includes both novel crops and methods, with particular emphasis on labour-saving techniques (e.g. automated systems, robotic harvesting and handling, biological and physical sensors for timing operations) – our facilities fulfill the expectations of the “Intelligent Buildings” of the future. The more so, because the PyraPOD product is more a crop production machine than it is a building and in such case we can optimize the entire automation processes around the maximum productivity of the crop(s) that are cultured. This approach will also ensure that our workforce is skilled and occupied with management of the production process and not burdened with requirements to perform mechanical and repetitive labour. We also place an emphasis on creating a comfortable work environment that provides all the necessary health and safety conditions for our production team.
The further advantage of the flotation crop production method is the use of robotic harvesting of the biomass. The aquatic plants (grown as biomass for feed, biotechnology extracts and energy production) are harvested by roaming robots, while the high value food crops are moved with conveyor mechanisms to the point of harvest and replanting. All of our proprietary crop production systems are continuous operations with no down time and a constant rate of harvest and replanting.
This continuous, all season production is the most important factor for successful marketing since we can contract for a constant supply of produce for any market or customer, where our volume and quality of supply is assured and is not interrupted due to seasonal heat or cold. This also produces the highest rates of utilization of investment and increases the profitability over other suppliers that have shut down periods. Such continuous production is also a key to developing a stable and skilled work force for the biotechnology sector.
PyraPOD provides many production options for growing food, cut flowers, feed, fibre, plant biomass, mass cell cultures, mass algae culture, micro propagation, plugs and transplants and potted plants for the horticulture industry. The automated hydroponic systems can be set up for deep and shallow ponds as well as ebb and flow and aeroponic growing.
EFFICIENT, ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY AND SUSTAINABLE:
Land quality and soil conditions do not limit the selection of sites for PyraPOD projects. We can operate on saline sites and use brackish water. We can operate directly from seawater and produce freshwater. Since there is a zero consumption of fresh water the systems operating on seawater and brackish water (or waste water) will supply the freshwater requirements and once these are met then there is a continuous surplus of pure water, which is produced continuously and can be exported at a rate of 5 liters per square meter per day in regions with bright sunshine. Systems can be optimally designed for production of freshwater from seawater or they may treat the pure water production as a bi-product of operations that are focused on plant biomass and Oil from Algae biomass. Additionally, plant biomass can be optimized for specific crops, which are not easily grown in that particular location or time and therefore have a high value. Targeting specific high value food or biochemical, biomedical or other biotechnology crops will sometimes reduce other side benefits of the PyraPOD process.
The vast areas of arid land and land depleted or lost to salination due to conventional agricultural practices that also has high sunlight value and proximity to ocean cold water resources in many regions, such as the Gulf States, South Africa, North Africa and southern California are examples of opportunities for large scale PyraPOD projects. The SolaRoof Foundation programme will include the rehabilitation and restoration of land to prior fertile and healthy condition. There are no negative environmental consequences of using the PyraPOD technology and the operations are sustainable for the foreseeable future. The net present value of the energy system is many multiples of the embodied energy, which is breakeven within one year on a BioFuel production basis but is much sooner when considering total energy utilization, including freshwater production.
All the materials used in the construction of the PyraPOD plant are recyclable and the subsequent generation of product in a “cradle to cradle” analysis shows that the embodied energy cost is dramatically reduced. Thus the renewal of a plastic roof cover using recycled material is a very important factor. At some point in the future conversion of hydrocarbons to polymers, will more resemble the paper industry where the great majority of the feedstock for new material is derived from existing paper that is in circulation. An additional consideration is that the hydrocarbon resources created by the PyraPOD process that are subsequently used to synthesize polymers and other long used and ultimately biodegradable (or consumed but not combusted) hydrocarbon stocks have thereby sequestered atmospheric CO2. Further our energy production subsequently consumed for production of aluminum components of the structure is CO2 neutral; and again the “cradle to cradle” reuse of aluminum once created is the most positive of any recyclable material.
Our building system is so lightweight, relocatable, reusable and recyclable that, in itself this represents a breakthrough in the building sector, whose environmental impact now accounts for about half of all CO2 creation, and the majority of landfill contributions. The weight reduction, which is from 10 to 100 times lighter than other roof and building envelope systems, can enable users to meet goals for reduction of Global Warming by reduction of CO2 creation connected with the embodied energy of buildings. Also, since our technology is carbon based but CO2 neutral we offer an easy transition from fossil oil to renewable oil (from algae) that is produced by the PyraPOD process. Therefore it is possible to have sustainable expansion of energy use in economies where populations are growing and standards of living are also improving. In fact our operations are environmentally beneficial; so that our technology has a negative environmental footprint and the more area of projects we create the greater is the benefit to the planetary ecology.
PEST AND DISEASE CONTROL
The capability of a totally enclosed and controlled environment system enables the avoidance of naturally occuring pests and disease vectors. PyraPOD is additionally secure from air and water (and rain) borne Atomic, Biological and Chemical (ABC) toxic contamination that may occur by man-made disasters. No other large scale system exists that can operate with this advantage due to the fact that PyraPOD is the only widely available building incorporating the SolaRoof solution that permits the very low energy control of climate within the growing space without any need for ventilation. Therefore the interior atmosphere is completely controlled and managed to promote completely pest and disease free conditions. This is achieved through the action of UV, which is able to enter the growing space, and the circulation and filtration of water and air on a continuous basis. Entrance into the facility is managed carefully and entering some areas would require sterile procedures and clothing. Robotic automation is another strategy to maintain pure cultures. Hepa filters can be used because there is no external ventilation required and therefore there will be no gross particulates in the controlled atmosphere. Air change can be as low as one volume per day.
INTEGRATED CROP MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS (ICMS)
Prevention of biological vectors from entering the system is the first priority, however to the extent that problems may still arise we are able to introduce natural biological controls and intentional use of beneficial insects (for pollination) and other agents are more easily managed since they will not be able to exit the greenhouse environment. The atmosphere in the crop growing space is maintained at a regulated temperature and humidity and the avoidance of elevated humidity conditions is another advantage of the PyraPOD process.
An additional degree of protection from harmful vectors is obtained by using sterile feedstock and using plantlets that we will produce in-house using sterile, disease free micro propagation techniques. The work and production space will be arranged in zones of increasing isolation so that the most sensitive stages of production are protected whereas the last stages of growing that take a larger area and are connected with the harvesting, packaging and shipping zones are permitted more access.
PyraPOD pest and disease control systems, which integrate the use of a range of advanced technologies, are designed to optimise inputs in order to maintain product quality and enhance the environment. These technologies include selective breeding and micro propagation to increase plant resistance, the use of biological control agents, behaviour- and physiology- modifying natural agents (such as scents), bio-pesticides with novel modes of action and novel application methods, diagnostic kits for virus diseases, and key quality factors in pre- and post- harvest produce, sensitive monitoring and forecasting systems for insect pests and diseases, and methods for determining and predicting plant requirements.
TECHNOLOGIES TO ENSURE THE AVAILABILITY OF QUALITY PRODUCE AT TIMES REQUIRED BY THE MARKET
The reliable availability of produce is very important to the large supermarkets that now dominate the retail market. The great majority of the ever-increasing year-round demand for both edible and ornamental produce of a high quality is satisfied by imports, since the local producers are shut down for part of the year.
Studies will include methods for increasing the market share include:
• understanding the causes of seasonal and other variation in product quality
• modeling the supply chain
• understanding weather and climatic patterns on supply and distribution planning
PyraPOD technology will enable extension of the seasonal supply of high quality produce by:
◦ manipulating factors, such as plant acclimatisation to our controlled environment,
◦ quality and duration of light,
◦ day to night temperature and humidity control
◦ ambient gaseous mixtures
• improving harvest, storage and shipping and point of sale technology
• selecting for the best quality traits of varieties which perform well under local conditions
CROPS TARGETED TO PROVIDE NOVEL OR IMPROVED FOODS (INCLUDING PROTECTIVE AND BENEFICIAL COMPONENTS OF DIET)
Plant culture will be studied for the identification of features at the cellular or molecular levels, which determine qualities of horticultural produce required by the processor and consumer – and strategies for the enhancement of these features. Our processes include the mass cell culture of specific plant cell types that are responsible for producing desired secondary metabolites, including flavours and scents, colour and texture, pharmaceutical and nutritional, health and wellness food and drink additives and supplements.
REDUCTION AND MANAGEMENT OF WASTE IN PRODUCTION AND DELIVERY FROM VERTICAL FARM TO TABLE
This includes the reduction of waste during processing (higher quality raw materials, more efficient cleaning/processing equipment) technologies to use what waste is produced (e.g. composting for growing media – see above), and the optimisation of biochemical inputs (biofertilisers, biopesticides) to reduce environmentally damaging outputs (e.g. integrated pest and disease control systems – see above, closed recirculation systems for protected crops) and to assure that food and other products are safe and free of any toxic substance. Since PyraPOD products are not produced in the natural soil we would be required to obtain an “organic” certificate, but we would work towards a new standard for “permaculture” food production which is free from GMO and chemical biocides commonly used during production or storage by the current agriculture and food industry. PyraPOD growers will most often sell their produce in their neighbourhood to families that are living an easy walking distance from their local POD Preneur. POD Fresh Food will set a new standard for natural, tasty, freshness with little to no time or distance between harvest and table.
EXPLOITING GENOMICS FOR IMPROVING HORTICULTURAL CROP QUALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY
Genomics based technologies and the data arising from the genome sequencing will facilitate the definition of quality traits and crop improvement. The PyraPOD program would encourage applications that exploit advances in these areas (such as the development of marker genes or quantitative selection criteria) in horticultural production. This priority also clearly impacts on a number of those others listed above. PyraPOD programs and production operations follow the cautionary principle and will never utilize or work with Genetically Modified forms of life or “engineered organisims” since they are not proven safe and risk the corruption of the DNA of the food chain and wider hazards to the earth’s ecosystems. All of our goals for excellence in growing and serving humanity can be achieved without engaging in potentially dangerous practices.
The PyraPOD near-term objectives will be fully demonstrated by multiple POD Pioneer projects, that:
• Produce freshwater from seawater, brackish or waste water, using Solar Energy
• Produce Biomass for conversion to BioFuel, including Oil From Algae
• Offer improved Controlled Environment technology of PyraPOD for the sustainability of food abundance for all
• Improve knowledge and understanding of processes and factors which determine the performance of the horticulture in alignment with permaculture principles
• Enable access by the horticulture industry to innovative ideas and technology by teaming our business consortia with a global group of research institutes and university departments
• Through the SolaRoof Foundation we will promote wider awareness of the benefits of advanced horticultural techniques & methods especially to SME’s.
• Empower the resurgence of the local Family Farm with engagement of people everywhere with PGI, enlisting the support of “PODners”
• Engage communities everywhere by attracting and enlisting “CoMissioners” as investors and mentors/leaders to start up PODworks and to form our COOP, PODworks Global.
PROBLEM STATEMENT AND TECHNICAL APPROACH
Field agriculture practices are not sustainable and they are not kind to the natural ecology. This statement is easily verifiable – since in all parts of the world the area of land that is used for productive agriculture is decreasing rapidly. Soil is depleted and eroded and nutrients are lost and everywhere the water table is falling, while deserts expand and old growth forests disappear. Consider the USA, as an example:
The United States has a total land area of nearly 2.3 billion acres. Major uses in 2002 were forest-use land, 651 million acres (28.8 percent); grassland pasture and range land, 587 million acres (25.9 percent); cropland, 442 million acres (19.5 percent); special uses (primarily parks and wildlife areas), 297 million acres (13.1 percent); miscellaneous other uses, 228 million acres (10.1 percent); and urban land, 60 million acres (2.6 percent).
Agriculture practices are inefficient and exploitive; for example, the land use for agriculture and grazing together results in about 3.2 acres per capita (without considering the import/export of food). Extensive agriculture is also dangerous; it succeeds by using billions of tons of toxic synthetics and is dependent on petrochemical inputs that have a very negative impact on the planetary ecology and biodiversity. Our ability to continue to produce a sufficient supply of food in an era of depletion of fossil fuel resources is definitely at risk. (see the White Paper, “closing the hunger gap”)
Intensive permaculture is an alternate, sustainable system for provision of abundant life support resources that would at the same time reduce our total land to less then the current urban land (for example, about 60 million acres in the USA); a reduction of more than 10 times. This projected sustainable urban land use will be about one acre per household, but even so the permaculture solution will continuously supply sufficient energy and resources to assure every family a better quality of life than currently attained by the USA and this standard of living will be accessible to everyone. Thus the era of permaculture is not simply a new technical capability – it is a new lifestyle that is founded on a sustainable, ethical enterprise which is not exploitive and can indefinitely support growth and prosperity.
We cannot lean on nature any more because ruthless exploitation has brought ecosystems to a breaking point. Because of the paradigm of fighting nature has diminished and depleted the carrying capacity of the earth, and with our human (and domestic livestock) population growth, we surpassed mother nature’s limits a few billion persons ago. SolaRoof Foundation is fully committed to delivering knowledge-based products and process by which we can multiply the productivity of nature, not as a hollow promise for a better future ahead, but as doable today by all – a deeper understanding of how we can “do better than nature can do” will save the planet from exhaustion and ultimate collapse of planetary life support systems. The scenario of “overshoot and collapse” is evident now and lack of action threatens irreversible damage. Therefore, our very survival hangs in the balance. Ecological collapse is on the horizon and population collapse would result from polluted and depleted soil and water, climate change disruption, energy scarcity, social and political disturbance and conflict, and the shut down of the world economy, but for our vision of an alternative future. We are constructively working for a future, where even though world population grows, we are able to build a sustainable and successful future for all – and avert a nightmare future that would cuminate in a horrendous “die-off” of the poorest of humanity.
The truth about Agriculture: it is petrochemical dependent!
Food and feed crops are already exhausting the land and converting much of it into desert worldwide. For the sake of the “economics of greed” we no longer use crop rotations and have reduced perennial pastures worldwide to concentrate on the commodity of grain. Year after year chemical fertilizers are used to supply the nitrogen that the higher plants cannot make for themselves. Organic mater in the soil is “burned out” and the soil structure is destroyed.
The “natural” limits to the growth of the grain feed/food system were exceeded at the beginning of the last century when western European countries first began to mine and import vast quantities of fertilizers from deposits of bat dung that was found in the Americas. These resources replaced the normal 4 year crop rotation that is called for by traditional agriculture. Together with the non-sustainable exploitation of the “new world’s” soils we survived the first world population explosion that preceded the First World War. Thereafter, we were saved once more by the new Chemical Industry who brought into production processes for the massive conversion of petroleum resources into ammonia based fertilizers. This carried us through to the 60’s when crop science brought us new varieties of our staple food and feed anual, monocrops that are especially responsive to fertilizer use. The rulers of the world economy then converted the world agricultural production to these types of plant varieties (monopolized by the seed industry) and now the entire world is “hooked” on petrochemical fertilizer use and biodiversity is lost. Now the soils around the world are burned out and contain little organic mater – resulting in terrible erosion. The agriculture sector receives 300 Billion in direct subsidies worldwide as well as huge indirect energy subsidies to support these non-sustainable practices.
One can see from the Biomass Crops data, that biomass is already the largest renewable solar derived energy source in the USA. All of these energy crops, including forestry, compete for land. Some of them are not net energy producers (like Corn-to-Ethanol) but they are supported by government subsidies. None of them even approach the conversion efficiency attained by the PyraPOD advanced Mass Algae Culture and Controlled Environment crop production. None of the existing sources can co-exist with urban expansion (which is unavoidable due to population growth) and urban demand for water resources. Only our PyraPOD solution has the potential to harness the photosynthesis process without land-use limitation since these systems are easily integrated with buildings and within a new urban permaculture vision called EcoLiving. PyraPOD is a very high producer of Food + Energy + Water (#FEW4All) and will result in energy conservation and efficient, distributed production and use of these resources.
THE SOLUTION: CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT AGRICULTURE
The Protected Agriculture market is very significant and growing sector of the agricultural industry. Currently, there is limited capability of the shelter systems that are available to offer adequate shelter from extreme climatic conditions, and therefore they do not provide complete protection or year around climate control. One large application is concerned with shading and protection from extreme heat — for which purpose shade cloths and nets are utilized. Another large sector is concerned with frost protection and extended out of season production in the cold season — for which purpose crops are produced under light plastic greenhouses or movable membrane curtains that close over the crop at night. Moveable curtain systems are used so that the cover may be gathered horizontally in order to open the covering material during the day; avoiding overheating and permitting more sunlight to reach the crop below. All of these technologies allow protected crop production to continue when conventional field production must cease due to the severity of the climate. Such out of season production allow the grower to supply a locally produced crop delivered early or late season crop that will fetch a premium price.
Sheltered agriculture presents multiple opportunities:
1. Protected Agriculture, including shade and net structures and moveable curtain systems for ornamental nurseries, fruit orchards, high value field crops and forestry nurseries
2. Plastic Greenhouse applications, including low-cost enclosures enable enhanced productivity growing high value food and horticultural products during extended seasons, at locations that are close to the consumer.
3. Retrofit Applications including renewal of existing greenhouses and opportunities to adapt warehouse roofs or other large roof areas with “urban agriculture” that reduces city “heat island effect” while upgrading the effective insulation and heating efficiency of the buildings thus retrofitted.
The above markets will be serviced by our technology; however, the next BIG opportunity for sheltered agriculture is the supply of PyraPOD, an advanced technology for Controlled Environment Agriculture (“CEA”), which will be the most significant development of the 21st Century. CEA will enable massive expansion of the permaculture EcoLiving lifestyle. Our PyraPOD process is an OpenSource CEA technology, based on the SolaRoof platform, where plants are grown in closed atmosphere conditions that enable an order of magnitude increase in yield and productivity as compared to existing greenhouse technology; and as much as 100 times the yield of field crop production.
The PyraPOD strategic goal is to focus on the opportunity to lead the permaculture lifestyle and provide the ULTIMATE growing technology for key vertical farming applications. This means that our technology will produce pure cultures and top quality plants and plant products (extracts) as are demanded by the super-foods, health supplements, natural cosmetic and organic food and drink markets that seek to supply products that are based on natural ingredients for health and wellness. These markets need a large volume of supply of pure, high quality plant products that are locally produced with continuous and cost-effective methods that can only be acomplished by PyraPOD. Such conditions and requirements cannot be met by field production or existing greenhouse methods.
More specifically, the SolaRoof Foundation consortia will target the use of our CEA production systems for two important operational by-products of our food supply, which are the production of pure WATER and clean BIOFUEL. Both of these processes are integrated with our PyraPOD facilities and they will, in themselves, generate a strong return on investment and so off-set the investment cost of a completely enclosed, closed atmosphere growing system. PyraPOD technology has some similarity to prior greenhouse technology and our facilities can grow food and horticulture crops that are currently produced by the greenhouse sector. However no greenhouse products, even the best equipped from leaders like Holland, can serve the needs of the emerging permaculture society as can the PyraPOD product.
Since the permaculture lifestyle is the important KEY to our future prosperity it is absolutely necessary that the means be accessible to everyone, everywhere and families and communities are empowered with practical solutions with a sustainable technology approach. The PyraPOD product provides that leap in concept and technology that will build an industry that is self-sufficient and will not suffer from the effects of the depletion of non renewable resources. Thereby the permaculture lifestyle will be enabled a can propagate virally, without limits and without negative environmental or ecological impact based on its capacity to produce large surpluses of renewable resources – both water, BioFuel and BioSynthetics (polymers from renewable hydrocarbon resources) – and where BioFuel is used, whether combusted for transportation or, ideally, converted to electricity by fuel cell, such consumption is completely CO2 neutral.
PyraPOD TECHNOLOY: How does it work?
The PyraPOD product is a CEA “vertical farm” covered with a “stressed skin” which forms the “building envelope”. This building envelope is transparent and it is made from thin flexible sheeting material applied to the structure as modular, pre-engineered and prefabricated panels that assemble together to form large roof areas.
The PyraPOD is an advanced and innovative design requiring development work and pioneering by early adopters. This is a OpenSource product that offers significant cost savings and engineering advantage over the state-of-the-art arched frames and tunnel type structures that are typically used to carry the plastic film crop covers. Our structure makes good use of the tensile strength of films and laminated or coated fabrics. They are used in short unsupported free spans. The plastic therefore does not rest on or contact any structural support members. The life of the plastic material is extended because it does not rest on metal supports, which is a problem because the metal becomes quite hot due to solar heat absorption.
Previous technologies for Protected Agriculture like shade structures and movable frost protection covers have a very seasonal use. At other seasons the shade curtains and/or covers must usually be removed. There is a significant labor associated with removal and re-covering and there is no return on investment associated with the structural system during seasonal shut down. Therefore there is an opportunity to greatly improve on the year-round effectiveness of such Protected Agriculture investments. Our goal would be to deliver a year-round effectiveness in respect to both shading (for hot climates) and temperature protection (for cold climates) that will greatly boost crop yields and income. The PyraPOD crop cover system will outperform previous systems and provide an alternative to conventional greenhouses. Multiple crops and year around harvest in any season are possible due to the advanced “liquid solar controlled environment” processes incorporated into the PyraPOD system.
The Retrofit Applications Essentially, the PyraPOD system is installed over the conventional roof system. Since the PyraPOD system and the liquid bubble insulation both have such very low dead weight this system can be used without increasing the engineering specifications for the dead weight of the roof system. The retrofit also provides a shading system. Using the liquid bubble shading system also provides cooling and reduces the rate of ventilation required to prevent over heating of the substructures.
PyraPOD for New Construction is proposed for development and investigation to take place at several POD Pioneer sites across America and around the world during 2015. Our common design is a reliable specification for initial investigations where we would like to minimize unknown factors so that the fundamental innovative concepts can be demonstrated and proven in various climates. The cover material would comprise a set of prefabricated, modular roof panel sections that lay flat and are delivered as small volume packages.
The PyraPOD product will use a woven polyethylene fabric or polymer coated scrim fabric (referred to as “PolyFabric” or a higher spec SolaFabric), which are manufactured using multi-layer extrusion lamination and proprietary PGI coating processes. These flexible, thin sheet materials are referred to in this technical disclosure as a “skin” or “covering material” used to form the double skin covered PyraPOD structures and the entire covering system is referred to as a building envelope. The building envelopes that we are mostly concerned with are highly translucent or transparent. Both of these types may have high light transmission through the building envelope but the translucent skins will scatter the light and create diffuse lighting, while the more transparent skins will transmit “beam radiation” which creates shadows. In this document we refer to both types as being transparent in relation to opaque skins which will not transmit light by virtue of the mechanisms of absorption or reflection. It has been found that maximum productivity of plants is produced by diffuse lighting, which produces no shadows.
Using this approach the PyraPOD structure can carry considerable live loads including snow and rain water, with snow melting systems that are integral with the PyraPOD. Whenever our lightweight structure is used in regions with high snow fall, a snow melting process is utilized to melt snow as it falls on the roof system the slope of the PyraPOD cover prevents accumulation of snow on the membrane roof cover.
The interior skin extends from the peak connection to the interior base member. Cooling water may also be sprayed and distributed within the cavity space onto the interior skin and must drain from the cavity space along the base member to the lowest elevation. These drainage mechanisms let the cooling water and/or rain water to drain to where collector pipes will catch the liquids coming down from each stressed skin panel module and brings the rainwater to a cistern and the soap liquid or cooling/chilling liquid to the liquid thermal mass reservoir.
The PyraPOD envelope will be filled with bubbles when shading or insulating is required, or is simply filled with air for transmission of maximum sunlight through the SolaRoof. The option of providing the complete SolaRoof system performance is obtained by installing the inner liner sheet for separation of the water cooling and bubble systems.
The PyraPOD system can be utilized to create low-cost large area controlled environments as an alternative to conventional greenhouse construction. The interior stressed skin is not carrying any significant live load, while a robust interior structure is provided for supporting any dead load as for example hanging potted plants, lighting, piping etc. A grid of post and beam system can support interior fixtures and systems for vertical farming beneath the SolaRoof. The building interior is at normal air pressure and air locks are not required because the interior skin is supported by the action of normal air pressure.
The bubble generators create and direct the flow of bubbles to fill each PyraPOD roof and wall cavity space. A significant aspect of the development of this product will be to determine the construction of the bubble generator of appropriate design for the PyraPOD system. The bubble generators, the supporting structural frame and configuration of the cavity space are included among the significant development issues that must be reviewed and optimized based on engineering data acquired during the operation of the Pilot Project.
We can however anticipate that the development of the PyraPOD will itself be a task that should quickly move ahead toward a successful conclusion. Indeed, the PyraPOD are suited to very large volume production and our OpenSource supply chain constitutes the key to the success and wide adoption of this product system. Additionally, other structural issues and attachment methods appear also to be straightforward and we may have a good level of confidence in regard to solving these details rapidly and effectively.
PyraPOD TECHNOLOGY: What are the Benefits?
The “Green” movement created an important focus on the human impact on nature and the imperative of conserving natural biodiversity and to working towards zero pollution. However, our 7 billion, soon to be 9 billion population, must place a burden on the planet’s natural, life sustaining resources and the question is now asked by the “deep green” people: has the current population and consumption rate already surpassed the ecological “carrying capacity”, which may lead to irreversible collapse of global “life support” – a question that is calling individuals and societies to account for their “human footprint”. Analysis shows that our billions of footprints add up to a crisis, since we need the equivalent of several planets to support our current level of consumption and depletion of natural resources and “carrying capacity”. A naturally renewable can be depleted to extinction and therefore our approach to renewables and “sustainability” has been largely a “green wash”. We are living on borrowed time and exhausting the natural capital of the future generations because the growth of our economy is based on exploiting to exhaustion the renewable resources of freshwater, soils, forests and ocean habitat with the result of a collapse of biodiversity. A life extinction event is already upon us all, we must act to save our earth and thus assure our human world will thrive with adoption of permaculture principles that include PyraPOD.
Therefore it is certain that air, water and food resources are in a state of crisis. And while GHG and the Global Warming crisis (discussed below) – is perhaps the greatest challenge of the future – it is clear that access to clean freshwater is already the greatest global disaster. This statement is supported by the evidence that bad water (and lack of water to grow food) is largely responsible of 20,000 deaths per day – mostly children. What is more remarkable is that our state of art engineering solutions for delivery of clean water is likely to fail and not meet acceptable standards even in our developed nations – where the physical and chemical means of treatment and the aging city infrastructure of supply and distribution are perceived as creating a serious risk to health and are likely to be faulty now (but largely undetected) and/or will become dangerous in just a few years.
In the light of the failure of Green and Deep Green thinking to go beyond the problem analysis, SolaRoof Foundation calls for a new paradigm shift: the “BlueGreen” solution. These solutions form the basis of the SolaRoof platform, as a new eco architecture paradigm, and one of the root concepts is to build “living structures” which means that our primary processes are biological and the structural and mechanical systems use a “biomimicry” approach to their design. BlueGreen will become a symbol for EcoLiving and all that implies as “Green” is now a recognized symbol for environmental issues and those products and technology that are “environmentally friendly”. People are said to be “green” and the Green Political Party is a world movement, however at its core the environmental movement has floundered and lost direction because it holds to a separation of people from nature (in order to “preserve nature”). BlueGreen is a dynamic and hopeful vision for a sustainable future where permaculture and prosperity are possible because EcoLiving will not deplete or exploit natural capital, which is finite. The BlueGreen solution works with the water of life & living plants and algae as natural capital for abundant living and can keep pace with our human needs because this resource is amplified by our collective intelligence and heart coherence. Natural REGENERATION gives an appearance of a cup that is always full and running over with abundance and when people experience this reality, then they will bring an end to poverty, “closing the hunger gap” and eliminating scarcities, which is the foundation of real freedoms, security and peace that, WE the long subjugated people of the world must now claim as a legacy for our children.
Please consider that if our dilemma is with “limits to growth” then it is reasonable to learn from the exuberant growth of nature and realize that regenerative ecosystems are fundamentally different than any worldly, man-made resource technology. It is necessary to comprehend that agriculture as we practice it now is only understood and practiced as a mechanical and chemical technology – in deed modern farms are sometimes referred to as “food factories” and the harvest is the product to which all efforts are directed. The paradigm shift that we propose is one where the care for life and the nurture of living ecosystems is of greater importance than a product, which is a dead thing, or “commodity”. This situation has come to pass because both human beings and animals, and the lands and waters have been claimed as property, by powerful kings in the past and now by Corporations acting for the legacy of 1% who only care for the concentration of commodity wealth and the exploitation of people and planet without limitation. This is no longer sustainable because, while people seem to be resilient to endless pain and oppression the earth itself has reached a breaking point.
By turning away from the man-made, mechanized and engineered crops and renewing a focus on living systems we can learn how to work with the powerful phytomechanisms of plants, we can harvest from living plants continuously without destroying them and we can perfect our knowledge of permaculture rather then the mechanized agribusiness that is killing people and planet. We can reject the concept of introducing toxic, poisonous and destructive inputs into our PyraPOD growing. Our knowledge of building closed, controlled environments enables the creation and maintenance of ideal conditions for growth that is elevated to a HyperNatural degree of bio-conversion of sunlight to food, while an abundance of renewable life support resources of energy, water, nutrients and intelligence/complexity is the by-product.
Our mission is to deliver permaculture solutions – not the misunderstood popular concepts of primitive or traditional living (while these have our respect) – but the serious and practical capacity of life to support life – to thereby multiply natures’ abundance through our knowledge and the application of 21st Century technology in the way that supports life, a class of technology that R.B. Fuller called “livingry”. The benefits of our PyraPOD solutions are presented in the sections below in relation to five global crisis situations: freshwater, energy, global warming, sustainable economy and shelter.
Freshwater Crisis: Plants to the Rescue – Abundant Pure Water
Living plants have a wonder phytomechanism called transpiration that assures that plants will not overheat in the sun. The plant leaf canopy as a living system has the power to remain at a steady cool temperature of about 22 to 24 C even in bright sunlight and no mater how hot the surrounding air and environment. This capacity of a living leaf canopy to reject solar thermal energy is based on two conditions: a supply of water to the plants and an atmosphere that is not saturated with humidity.
This is a remarkable capacity to absorb directly the entire solar spectrum; use the Photosynthetic Active Radiation (the “PAR”) and transform substantially all the other radiative energy that is absorbed but not used for photosynthesis into transpired water vapour. This cooling process maintains the leaf temperature while throwing off a cubic meter of water into the air as vapour per day per 200 square meters of leaf canopy area. The “thermal energy” of the sun is therefore absorbed and “hidden” in the form of non-sensible latent heat – a cooling process that is unmatched by any manmade mechanical cooling system.
This power of plants to produce water vapor from solar energy was not truly appreciated until it became clear that the condensation of water from the air in PyraPOD provides the ideal biomimicry solution to operate a closed atmosphere, Controlled Environment Agriculture system. Therefore, in our PyraPOD process we rely on the transpiration process to provide the cooling mechanism for the removal of solar thermal gain from our plant growing environment. This is accomplished by the SolaRoof liquid cooling process which maintains the inner skin of the PyraPOD at the desired dew point temperature, which is about 10C degrees below the goal air temperature. Therefore the typical skin temperature is in the range of 14C to 24C. This transpiration of the leaf canopy and equal rate of condensation caused by the liquid cooled skin process removes the moisture produced by plants from the surrounding air by attraction to the cold inner skin, where the vapour condenses on the inner surface, forming a film of water which flows by gravity to a condensation collection gutter and is thus collected for use as pure, freshwater. Since the PyraPOD is a closed atmosphere system we need to remove moisture continuously from the controlled environment at a rate that is in balance with the rate of transpiration generated by the plant leaf canopy, which is proportionate to the insolation.
The condensation is produced directly in proportion to the solar radiation and in extremely sunny locations 100 square meters of PyraPOD process can produce up to 1 cubic meter of pure water per day. Some locations may produce about half as much water – but this is more than sufficient to meet household needs for an extended family. Plants can be grown in water quality that humans cannot consume without health risk – however the transpired moisture the plants produce in a PyraPOD process will be pure and provide more than sufficient renewable resources of safe drinking, cooking and general needs that is produced sustainably forever. The plants can use recycled wastewater, greywater, saline and saltwater (for growing halophyte crops) and so the crisis of depletion of water is finished because we have a sustainable, regenerative method to make Freshwater from Seawater – therefore the supply of pure water is unlimited.
To put that in some perspective, let us say that current urban land use in the USA is about 400 billion square meters (3% of the land area) for about 100 million households, and if we allocate 100 square meters per household then we have need of only 10 billion square meters of PyraPOD process to produce all the pure water needed for all families, either in the their own homes or in local PyraPOD projects. This means that the production is widely distributed and there is little or no utility cost. If the PyraPOD process is integrated into our built environment as a general practice then the incremental capital cost is very low and the operating cost will consume less that 10% of the PyraPOD BioFuel production. Water is a necessity of life and if our “living structures” operate to continually produce sustainable supplies of abundant water as a by-product of growing our food, then by following this pattern the global water crisis is solved.
In large scale PyraPOD projects for Freshwater from Seawater (see slide presentation) there is vast, closed atmosphere culture of halophyte plants that are floating aquatic plants – or seawater tolerant land plants that are grown on a flotation system. These projects produce freshwater that is used to grow freshwater plants with flotation growing systems and other hydroponic systems including aeroponic growing systems and these crops also produce more pure water. Thus there is a large through put of water production from the condensation of transpired moisture. Additionally the total drinking water supply will also include the recycling of treated waste water, which is one of the main feeds of water into the system. Total seawater intake will be a fraction of the grey water inflow of typical systems unless they are specifically designed for production of Freshwater from Seawater.
The closed atmosphere growing of plants can produce the benefits of up to 1 cubic meter of condensation per day per 100 meters, or 100 cubic meters of freshwater per Hectare per day, which represents the conversion of the IR solar spectrum of about 60,000 Kilowatts of solar radiation. The integral BioFuel production systems will convert from 10% to 25% of this available solar energy into stored carbohydrate energy such as ethanol from harvesting starch rich tubers, methane from harvesting whole plants as biomass and BioDiesel produced from extracting Oil from the Algae harvested every day. About 10% of this photosynthesis produced energy will be needed to power pump operations to circulate cooling water and operate blowers connected with the liquid chilling system which provides the cooling energy to the inner skin. Approximately 5 Kilowatts per day per square meter of “heat of condensation” (the phase change energy of vapor condensing to water) will be rejected by pumping one cubic meter of cold seawater per day.
In summary, for a very small energy cost connected with chilling the inner skin of the PyraPOD using cold water resources, which include ground water and deep lake or seawater, or closed system chilled water, the PyraPOD process is enabled to grow plants for energy biomass and/or operate a mass algae culture process which is integral with the operation of the PyraPOD. This system continuously produces 10 times the energy consumed in operations and produces a large volume of pure freshwater by transpiration, which is a by-product of the cooling the closed atmosphere liquid cooling. 100 square meters of PyraPOD process will produce 1 cubic meter of drinking water quality from various water quality inputs, which is more than sufficient supply and recycling capacity per household. Crops with leaf canopies for optimum transpiration can also produce biomass for carbohydrate energy and/or for a combination of energy, food, feed, fibre, biochemical, biosynthetic, biopharmaceutical or cosmetic, food and drink additive and nutritional, health and wellbeing supplement. Many extracts can be produced from whole plant, seed, flower, fruit harvest or mass cell culture of selected cell lines. Pure cultures are easily grown and optimum conditions, including CO2 enriched leaf canopy atmosphere and O2 enriched root zone growing systems are used to produce a yield that will exceed that of field culture by as much as 100 times and greenhouse or protected agriculture by a factor of 10 times.
All of these results are sustainable and do not rely on non renewable resources. Nor do they require the use of additional land resources since the PyraPOD process can be integrated with urban land use and will result in a reduction of total urban land use while bringing a quality of life and standard of living that is advanced over today’s most prosperous societies. The permaculture breakthrough envisioned for our PyraPOD solution will usher in a 21st Century of prosperity for all of humanity and put an end to the concept of the scarcity of basic resources for life support.
Energy Crisis: Photosynthesis of PLANTS & ALGAE is the Solution
Micro algae present the best option for producing Bio Fuel such as BioDiesel in quantities sufficient to completely replace fossil energy. While traditional crops have yields of around 50-150 gallons of BioDiesel per acre per year, palm oil plantations can produce 10,000 gallons per acre per year and algae can yield 40,000 gallons per acre per year from open pond culture. The controlled environment culture of Algae can more than double this rate of production reaching to 100 kg / M2 /Yr. Up to half of this wet weight can be oil. The Vegetable Oil from algae can be converted to Bio Diesel, which is a renewable energy fuel that can be produced from a number of sources including animal fats, algae-sourced oil and vegetable oils by lipid transesterification. It has very similar properties to petroleum-based diesel but is naturally “cleaner”, and can be used as a complete replacement or as a mixture of petroleum and BioDiesel.
The PyraPOD (Controlled Environment Vertical Farm) have a multipurpose use; for food, feed, algae and plant biomass, livestock and aquaculture farming, and combinations of any of these operations. We call these operations CEApps (Controlled Environment Applications) that apply SolaRoof technology to equip the farmer to produce high quality organic produce and biomass from input streams of organic wastes.
When an PyraPOD is associated with local (neighbourhood) organic waste recycling/treatment centres where food waste, clean sewage and green waste (plant and algae residues) are supplied to the PyraPOD growers, then both the community and the vertical farmer gain significant social and commercial benefits. Depending on the quality of the input stream (if it is not contaminated) we can produce zero or negative carbon food+energy.
To the extent that contaminated organic waste is used as a waste stream into a treatment process using BioDigesters, where anaerobic digestion is the primary treatment, then the liquids and solids output should be used for growing non-food biomass – for fuel and for fibre. The subject of this present R&D program is to establish the CEApp for BioFuels. We will use on-site waste streams that can be approved for food biomass and outputs of the treatment process will be efficiently used for conversion to BioFuel as an clean and zero carbon energy source. The output energy is electricity (from BioMethane) and BioDiesel (from Oil from Algae) and all GHG, liquid and solid organic wastes are contained and used to achieve zero emissions from the PyraPOD project.
PyraPOD will demonstrate the synergy between the POD Pioneers and the residents of the local community, who will have the role of supplying the organic wastes which “feed” the production of “energy crops”. The local operational process energy demand will be met by localised CHP (Combined Heat and Power) that is fuelled by BioGas, which is the output from the integrated BioDigester component of any PyraPOD. The PyraPOD projects will first export clean Green Electricity generated from BioMethane from AD (Anaerobic Digestion) and in a second phase of development we will export Oil from Algae in the form of BioDiesel.
MASS ALGAE CULTURE (MAC)
Any PyraPOD with the CEAlgae system can adopt the Mass Algae Culture (MAC) system that will be demonstrated first in the Icelandic Project. Each day there will be an algal harvest. Lamp energy for artificial light will grow plant crops for food by night and and duing short winter days. We use the Bio-Methane from our AD waste treatment BioDigesters to generate electrical power for intensive production of food that results in green waste Biomass that feeds back into the AD system. At the same time aquatic plant energy crops will be produced so that substantially all the photosynthetic radiation from sunshine or lamps is efficiently utilised to grow a biomass for conversion to BioFuels. The algae crop is produced from sunlight, and we select out of the harvest the lightest cells that are skimmed from the liquid nutrient medium by using a centrifugal separator. The cells are transferred to the de-watering tank. At this point the water that is removed is then recycled back into the water storage tanks for reintroducing to the MAC, which is an advanced “photobioreactor” type of culture system that is integrated with the inner skin of the PyraPOD.
After de-watering the algal mass, it can be processed in various ways, with the purpose of separation of the principle components of the pulp, the intercellular fluids and the lipid fraction. One method is to crush the algae and send the resulting fluid to a settlement tank where the light oil (also called lipid) will rise to the top, floating over the intercellular liquid and the pulp will settle to the bottom. The fractions can then be extracted continuously or intermittently and further processed: the oil may be made into BioDiesel; the watery fraction can be blended with the liquid effluent of the AD process and the pulp can be dried to a specific moisture content and used by blending with the solids from the AD in producing a soil conditioner product.
The algae biomass can go for a number of uses:
◦ The pulp to conversion to Bio-Methane
◦ Conversion to Ethanol or / and Methanol
◦ Pharmaceutical or Nutriceutical use
◦ For use as a high protein Animal Feeds additive
◦ Production of 1-3 propandiol from glycerine
◦ For use to make compost for building natural soil
The Algae oil, when being converted to BioDiesel produces a substance called glycerine as a by-product. This product in its pure form can be sold as an output with a high value but we have a particular interest in this material as we have discovered that glycerine when added to the contents of an Anaerobic Digester boosts the Methane volume anything from 20 to 35%.
The BioDiesel produced shall be sold as Sustainable Renewable fuel to the most effective outlet or consumed by the POD Preneurs and their customers.
We also have the option to produce Clean Electrical Power from BioDiesel powered generation sets which shall also be connected to the national grid.
Mass Algae Culture, is a key technology within the SolaRoof process:
◦ On board CHP produces heat that is recycled for the AD.
◦ CO2 is totally recycled to become a nutrient source for MAC
◦ MAC allows total recycling of nutrient inputs and outputs.
◦ We will have as a product of the process totally clean GREENtricity by which we will run the entire system
◦ All in-house AD waste treatment captures all recycled biomass for Bio-Methane production and essentially free energy inputs to our intensive food producing vertical farm
MAC has three essential components,
1. The Reserve Culture – maintenance of parent cell lines
2. The Flash Modules – light energy capture process
3. The Mass Culture – the growth, harvest and re-culture process
The Algae Reserve is basically where the original culture or seed culture is stored and maintained. This is a laboratory area of the PyraPOD.This seed cultures will be site specific to each individual site as different types and species of algae suit better in different geographical locations. So a reserve is critical as replacing a culture is not a simple process.
Another critical use of the Algae Reserve is to enable us to restock in the event of a major crisis whereby the culture in the photobioreactor might be contaminated or lost via some research activity.
The second section of the algae farm is the Algae Flash Culture or the actual “photobioreactor” which is integrated by PyraPOD with the SolaRoof technology. This section is where the cell mass is exposed to Photosynthesis Active Radiation (“PAR”), which takes place over an extensive area from the highest level of the structure to the bottom of the glazing – integrated with the inside of the SolaRoof. As stated above a certain volume of seed culture shall be fed into the Flash Modules which are exposed to full sunlight penetrating the transparent roof, which is similar in purpose to known algae culture equipment called “photobioreactors” since in this area the algae cells are saturated with PAR photons from sunlight. From this area the algae nutrient medium drains down to the Mass Algae Culture reservoirs.
When the culture medium drains down from the Flash Modules, which are above in the roof area, the algae enters the MAC reservoirs where the culture shall be mixed with the measured amounts of liquid nutrient required for the current rate of production, so as to constantly restore the nutrients that will be depleted because of the rapid algal mass growth, called the “bloom” is harvested continuously and thus removes nutrients and water. All inputs, including water, nutrient solution or new Culture, must be brought to the ambient temperature of the actual mass culture reservoirs before being introduced. This section is where the cell mass multiplication can take place out of the light and is the actual main component of the entire concept.
As stated above, a certain volume of seed culture shall be constantly fed into the Flash Modules. A constant monitoring of the MAC reservoirs’ base liquid PH will also be carried out for managment of the nurtient medium. In addition the algae must be kept in a very controlled environment as regards maintaining a cool temperature.
This PyraPOD is used to enclose the entire process. The PAR light will be provided from both solar daily radiation and artificial lighting by efficient LED Lamps so that the system can be kept in production as much as 24 hours per day. The heat, when needed shall come from the captured solar thermal energy and with CHP plant and lamp “waste heat” used as backup during the cold season.
In addition third party suppliers of liquified CO2 shall be providing a CO2 capture service to establish Carbon Capture and Reuse (CCR) as a practical advancement over typical CCS strategies. In addition the PyraPOD conserves the CO2 produced from the CHP to be used for the enriched atmosphere of the PyraPOD. In the commercialization stage of this business development PGI shall facilitate CCR (Carbon Capture and Reuse) with local and regional industry who will be “scrubbing” the CO2 from their emissions. This allows those industries to demonstrate CO2 reduction practices and enables them to honour their legislatively imposed CO2 reduction obligations, or alternatively to avoid paying for ROCS ( Renewable Obligation Certificates). This is an alternative to the present concepts of CCS (Carbon Capture & Sequestration) and our approach is to recongnize that the CO2 is an essential Bio-Resource for the production of BioFuels.
ROCS are a method by which Government makes Industry, who for one reason or another cannot implement CO2 reduction practices, pay a tax as a penalty which the Government uses on CO2 abatement programmes. The Certificates are created in the first place by private enterprise such as PGI being able to demonstrate a positive CO2 balance thus being awarded an appropriate number of ROCS which have a numerical value for the company.
However PGI can provide non conforming industry with either a CO2 capture service or they can purchase PyraPOD for lease through PGI or they can blend a mixture of both. PGI will put to good use the captured CO2 as it is a valuable and essential ingredient required for the PyraPOD renewable energy process thus demonstrating once again the true recycling nature of the PGI process.
This is another unique environmental benefit for our Government bodies and a financial benefit for PGI, as it will attract Carbon Credit and ROCS payments in due course. We will also have a higher yield and profit as compared to conventional greenhouses due to an effective use of enriched CO2 atmosphere growing within our PyraPOD.
The CHP plant does exactly that, it produces clean Electricity energy and Heat. This heat has historically been, in some cases, problematic for some installations as it is critical that one has a viable use for the heat. It has been used for district heating programmes in the past but these are often located at a distance and are difficult to manage thus rendering this part of the process inefficient.
The PGI process maximises these attributes to the full as it requires clean electric power throughout its production processes but it also has a need for the Green Heat as the PyraPOD must maintain the optimum warmth for efficient production by the Mass Algae Culture system and the Energy Crops and many of the most productive varieties of these crops originate in the warm tropical and sub-tropical zones. These varieties must be kept at a steady, constant temperature to maximize plant growth.
In addition there is estimated to be substantial surpluses of Clean Electricity generated and these shall be plugged into the national grid as a further source of income receipts for Electric and ROCS payments.
One can begin to see the intricate ecologically correct characteristics of this concept as each component and process provides the fuel, nutrient and heat needs of the next element of the process. There is no wastage or emissions, everything is recycled and utilised to the full with zero environmental impacts but significant CO2 and Methane (GHG) emission reduction and there is an effective sequestration result, which comes from a substitution of BioFuel for fossil source energy.
LIQUID LEACHATE UTILIZATION
Going back to the organic solid wastes, they are fed into the Anaerobic Digester but not before having the nutritional and moisture content blended to an optimal mix for digestion, which would also be another process carried out at the communal reception centre.
Anaerobic Digester (the AD) is as a waste processing technology, used for achieving a great reduction in the volume of the solids, which are mostly converted to gases: typically 40% CO2 and 60% methane gas and to a liquid leachate.
Traditionally the down side of Anaerobic Digestion was the production of CO2 and a liquid leachate plus an organic sludge that would require disposal. The PyraPOD process uses all of these outputs and considers them to be bio-resources.
The PyraPOD process utilises the liquid leachate is added to the liquid nutrient storage tanks, as mentioned above, as a further source of nutrient for the algae, and the CO2 is also captured as it is an essential nutrient needed for the successful cultivation of algal mass. Indeed we will actually be intentionally promoting the enhancement of the production of these gases and nutrients.
Once more a demonstration of how the PGI system can help local Municipalities and Industry to Reduce Landfill thus Reduce Landfill taxes, Reduce GHG emissions (both from the reduction of GHG coming from the landfill and the fact that PGI will be capturing these gases and recycling them), and claim a Carbon Neutral process in the doing, all of which helps realise successful implementation of current Carbon laws and the meeting of current targets for abatement of Global Warming.
The removal of the high BOD liquid leachate, from agricultural slurries, Municipal Sewage and residential septage is yet another natural capability of the PyraPOD process.
Untreated manure from the farm sector are responsible for the carrying of nutrient riched mediums as well as bacteria and viruses back to the land when spread as an untreated slurry as a means of disposal. Another source of nutrient pollution is now created by the release of liquids from Waste Water Treatment plants and leachate from Landfill sites. These methods of farm slurry and municipal effluent disposal have caused serious waterway, river and lake utrification problems, and is one of the main drivers for the implementation of the Nitrates Directive and the Nutrient Management Programmes.
Thus our claim is to be able to help our farmers and our Governments meet newly imposed stringent EU Legislation on waste water and slurries management. The unwanted Algae Blooms on the beaches in lakes, rivers and ocean shores is an example of the environment problems that can be avoided.
So yet again we demonstrate another couple of Ecological, Environmental and Economical aspects of benefit to our government and industry formerly unidentified with conventional practice.
As we process these problematic waste streams and provide much needed solutions for the local authorities we also harvest essential components for algal production, plus attain a gate fee from the local authorities.
The BioMethane is produced from the Anaerobic Digestion (AD); it is scrubbed and purified to a state suitable for compressing for use in vehicles, otherwise we simply supply the raw BioGas for combustion in the CHP plant.
Once again a traditional source of CO2 emission is the CO2 produced as a by-product of internal or external combustion from any form of combustion engine. The PyraPOD system utilises this CO2 by feeding it from the exhaust stacks of the engines of the CHP plant to directly into the PyraPOD where we maintain a CO2 enriched atmosphere for the feeding of the plants and algae thus recycling that CO2 into oil and organic nutrients.
The first step is the induction of waste from a variety of sources:
◦ agricultural wastes (the whole plant)
◦ green wastes (spoilt and non-consumed food waste)
◦ farm manure waste
◦ our own biomass (algae and energy crop pulp)
◦ Municipal waste, and
◦ Sewage waste
We perceive here that PyraPOD enterprise could form small collectives or co-ops that we call PODworks as a hub in a general region to provide the Waste Reception Segregation and Processing Facility for all the required waste streams from that local region on behalf of a group of POD Preneurs. The wastes will be further processed into more appropriate forms suitable for the specific needs of the individual POD Preneurs and with individual culture and growing systems and then moved to the respective PyraPODs in that form.
These materials will be first separated and then conditioned and blended into a specific mix suitable for the Anaerobic Digester. The agricultural and municipal sewage wastes shall be put through a press type separator to extract the liquid nutrient from the dry matter before going to the AD system.
The solids shall be stored as feedstock for Anaerobic Digestion and the liquid fraction shall be conveyed into a liquid aerobic treatment that removes pathogens while also producing energy crops. This specially prepared organic liquid nutrient shall be analysed for its exact Ph and Nutritional content. It will then be corrected and adjusted to the required balance of mineral, trace element and ph. Once the optimum nutritional balance has been achieved the liquid blend shall be delivered to the respective farms as a specific balanced nutrient for food crops.
This liquid nutrient will also feed our algae and energy crop systems. The energy crop used in combination with the MAC system is a highly advantageous technology that is uniquely compatable to the PyraPOD process. The aerobic crop culture is typically producing natural aquatic species or plants that are not naturally aquatic but which we grow using “raft” or “floatation” culture methods. The crops that we select for this purpose are naturally among the most productive of biomass per day of any plants and due to our culture techniques we can obtain even greater rates of growth.
The Algae Flash Culture system enables PyraPOD to utilise the maximum bright daylight and the PAR that is not captured by the Algae will be absorbed by the food crops leaf canopy with the remaining light plus LED lighting maximizing the floatation energy crop below. The plants will also handle the thermal radiation by transformation to latent energy of vapour by means of the plant “transpiration” process. This combined photosynthetic process with plants and algae produces more biomass per area than the best of results to date by others who are seeking algae production alone. We also process water and produce vast amounts of pure condensate water as a by-product of our operations. The multiple intensive results from the PyraPOD solution will place our technology at the forefront for sustainable resource management practices of the future.
All the pre-processing can be done at the POD Works cooperative BioRegional Waste Reception Facility, called the “EcoPlex”, or alternatively the individual processes could be split up and allocated individually to a number of POD Preneurs and providing further diversification options and a wider diffusion of new enterprise into the rural community.
OIL FROM ALGAE – the abundant clean BioFuel of the 21st Century
Because BioDiesel is a renewable fuel, can replace petroleum diesel in current engines, and can be transported and sold using the current infrastructure, it is one of the most realistic candidates to replace fossil fuel as the world’s primary transportation energy source.
In addition, Bio Diesel is non-flammable and non-explosive (flash point 150°C for BioDiesel as compared to 64°C for petroleum diesel). It is also biodegradable, non-toxic, and significantly reduces toxic and other emissions when burned as a fuel. There are many advantages to Vegetable Oil as compared to diesel refined from non renewable petroleum for conversion to Bio Diesel, as follows:
• BioDiesel reduces emissions carbon monoxide (CO) by approximately 50% and carbon dioxide by 78.45%.
• BioDiesel contains less aromatic hydrocarbons: benzofluoranthene: 56%; Benzopyrenes: 71%.
• It also eliminates sulfur emissions (SO 2), because BioDiesel doesn’t include sulfur.
• Reduces by as much as 65% the emission of particulates (small particles). BioDiesel does produce more N Ox emissions than petroleum diesel, but these emissions can be reduced through the use of catalytic converters. Petroleum diesel vehicles have generally not included catalytic converters because the sulfur content in that fuel destroys the devices, but BioDiesel does not contain sulfur.
• It has a higher cetane rating (less knocking) than petroleum diesel
Chemically, it is a fuel comprised of mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids. The transesterification production process removes glycerol from the oil.
Pure BioDiesel (BD100 or B100) can be used in any petroleum diesel engine, though it is more commonly used in lower concentrations. Some areas that have mandated ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) petroleum, which changes the natural viscosity of the fuel because certain materials have been removed. Additives are required to make it properly flow in engines, and BioDiesel is one popular alternative. It has been observed that ranges of BioDiesel additive as low as 2% (BD 2 or B2) have been shown to restore lubricity. Also, many municipalities have started using 5% BioDiesel (BD 5 or B5) in snow-removal equipment and other systems.
The Nexus of Global Challenges: Food + Energy + Water = FEW4All
In all areas of the world, greenhouse production is a very important factor in the primary food sector. But this form of protected agriculture has major climate challenges. The idea of regenerative systems is to combine the methods and skills from this industry with SolaRoof innovation plus the expertise and resources from the waste industry to develop an emission-free cycle. Controlled Environment Agriculture is combined with Vertical Farming to create area efficient ways to utilise nutrients. Conventional greenhouses optimise growth conditions by means of controlled temperature, increased CO2 level, artificial lighting and liquid nutrient solutions, leading to very high yields per area and year. However, the same factors increase the carbon footprint of the products considerably (Lerbak 2008), since fossil fuels are behind these factors. Greenhouse farmers now look at alternative energy sources (Norsk Gartnerforbund 2010).
In the PyraPOD project we will demonstrate and introduce in the market an economic viable combination of processes and technologies that accomplish the integration of anaerobic digestion, and controlled environment agriculture with the SolaRoof platform. PyraPOD will lower the impact on the environment of organic household waste treatment and food production locally in all seasons by integrating state-of-the-art production processes that use recourses more optimal and in a life cycle of related activities.
Each PyraPOD project that is implemented will contribute to:
◦ elimination of air pollution in connection with our localisation of food and energy production in closed-cycle, regenerative systems of production
◦ elimination of water pollution in connection with organic waste treatment, which typically is a source of Nitrate and Phosphate pollution of ground and surface water, which now is a cause of “dead zones” in many EU coastal waters
◦ elimination of consumption of water for crop production by intensive greenhouse use, which now is a drain on the water table in regions like Almeria, Spain
◦ demonstration of water cleaning and pure condensate production that reduces competition for available fresh water and makes available a new source of high quality water for human consumption
◦ localisation of essential food, energy and water supply builds resilient communities
◦ proliferation of new clean/green skills and technology builds economy through creation of millions of new jobs and enterprise opportunity as the PGI business community expands
While it is known that untreated organic wastes are often released, both from rural livestock and farm operation and from urban organic waste and sewage sources, it is also true that treated waste remain a disposal problem due to the concentration of nutrients in the effluents, which are also released to the environment. Organic waste treatment by Biodigester systems result in a maximum concentration of soluble organic nutrients in the liquid leachate, which is normally an effluent and so, the treatment while important for many other benefits is not specifically an answer to the heavy overloading of ground and surface waters with these highly active discharges that are causing “utrification” of lakes and coastal waters. Our intensive biomass production, with both plant and algae cultures will put a complete stop to this damage by retention of the nutrients within our closed-cycle regeneration of biomass, and retention of the nutrients, which are not released but remain concentrated – for regenerative biomass production – and additionally, can be processed to create marketable soil conditioner products that can restore nutrient depleted soils. Our answers to these critical issues, forming a body of OpenSource technical know-how, will be well received due to the profitable operations of POD Pioneers as we establish a vast network of community based social enterprise.
• Increase the use of organic waste as valuable raw material for producing a closed-loop process in which we to produce quality foods suitable for human consumption
• Successful use of digester waste products based on organic household waste to produce organically certified food crops. Substituting the use of raw material (peat) for mushroom production, by using the solid digestate as alternative for peat in mushroom production
• Use the BioFuel/BioGas from the digester for feeding the CHP, which provides waste heat for backup heat to the greenhouse in extreme cold. The energy excess to these needs can be used for city transport and district heating
• Fully stop the greenhouse gas emissions from the food production in greenhouses by using the CO2 coming out of the waste treatment and or the CHP as CO2-fertiliser in plant production in a closed greenhouse
• Create an energy neutral or negative facility, by using the solar heat captured by the SolaRoof to heat up the PyraPOD, and therefore having the most BioFuel/BioGas from the digester for electicity that can be sold to the Grid.
• Limit the water use by 100% by creating a closed regenerative situation
• Limit the use of pesticides completely by creating a closed atmosphere system
• Gain more experience with the alternative treatment and uses of digestate, separation technologies for water, nutrients and heavy metals, as well as alternative markets
• Demonstrate the new generation of SolaRoof buildings
• Demonstrate a new valuable option in the portfolio of waste handling operators.
• Demonstrate new growing methods for mushrooms.
RESULTS – IMPACTS OF THE ACTION
Some concrete advantages are:
• More sustainable greenhouse production. Use of the solutions developed in project will reduce the use of resources when adopted by existing greenhouse operations
• Better utilization of nutrient substances from the biogas plant. The solution avoids leaching and loss of nutrients, which normally provides eutrophication
• Less emissions from primary production
• A reduced burden of the utilities network
• Our solution is very area-efficient and does not claim new agricultural areas
• Reduced expenditure on transport for the digestate and the liquid fraction
• Ability to get direct revenues from the digestate and the liquid fraction
• Odourless bio-waste handling (closed production)
• More sales opportunities locally (mushrooms, fresh vegetables, energy, products for the greenhouse industry)
• Valuable competences that can be applied internationally
Global Warming: Plants to the Rescue – CO2 is “Plant Food”
BlueGreen algae manifest an altered metabolism at high CO 2 concentration in the growing media (dissolved in the sea water). In this case the lipids go from the normal level of under 10% and increase to 60% while the protein component that is normally about 60% fall to 10%. In those days (the 1950s) the mass culture of algae was going to “feed the world” and end the specter of mass starvation due to population growth. The great thing about the algae is that it needs no petrochemical fertilizers to grow. It can synthesize proteins by pulling N2 from the air (micro bubbles that are in the water) and cracking the bond to build all the essential protiens.
That is why turbulent flow is so good for rapid growth. It gives access to light, CO 2 and N2 – which is all that is needed for growth (necessary minerals are in the sea water). The entire biomass is edible or can be converted to other products. Land area is not needed – every home and community could be self sufficient in energy and organic nitrogen (that can be fed as a “green manure” to the higher plants). One of the comments at the time was that people would not eat so many algae – but the answer is to use the algae as nutrient to grow other plants. This gets us off the petrochemical dependency of “modern” agriculture on petroleum derived nitrogen fertilizers. Please let me remind the reader that today’s agriculture accounts for about 16% of our petroleum consumption (tractors, fertilizer, chemicals, and refrigeration and transportation to market) not including the cooking of food (which is some countries is a big item of concern).
The energy suppliers and industries that are generators of GHG will be required to “capture CO2” and deliver it to sequestration processes. Our proposal to enrich the air in CEA biomass and mass algae culture for the production of energy either through production of renewable oil or BioDigestion that will produce methane or by fermentation of starch to produce Methanol.
In the case of algae culture the purpose of the CO2 is not just to enhance the growth rate, but in this case to dramatically increase the proportion of oil produced, so that it is not necessary to pyrolyze the dry algae to obtain it. An alga culture in an enriched CO2 environment is unusually high in percentage of lipid (vegetable oil), which can be as high as 60 percent. Most algae production has been done in open air ponds and “race way” production systems which will not contain and use the CO2 efficiently. However our CEA approach will not let any of the CO2 escape into the atmosphere since our algae culture is isolated within the PyraPOD cavity space. Composting the crop residues will return CO2 into our CEA system. The overall cost/benefit of this process is improved by having number of different ways to get CO2 from the air, from aerobic digestion of compost and from combustion of any of the organic byproducts for local power generation. CO2 supply is not a concern but getting a high enough yield of oil per square foot of algae tank, and establishing a more or less continuous process, that the first and biggest challenge.
Sutainable Economy: Plants + Algae = FEW4All
The future that we envision is a thriving and prosperous world with FEW4All; where needs for food, energy and water for all the population are met from renewable resources that are regenerated within our built environment; a permaculture lifestyle called EcoLiving. In this economy is no problem obtaining enough CO2 to run a CO2 enhanced PyraPOD process since there will be a healthy, expanding BioFuel economy. In this economy BioFuels are the energy storage medium and the use of the renewable BioFuel products are clean and we will capture CO2 as “food” for producing renewable oil from algae – sufficient in quantity to displace fossil fuel combustion completely. As we convert to the BioFuel economy there will be very little difficulty with establishing the infrastructure that will optimize the benefits of a system, which is easy to access and non-polluting. The transition stage challenges relate to the vast scale of the implementation of this new paradigm – since Carbon Capture is now so large, we have the vision of the PyraPOD rapidly being built out on such an enormous scale of use as to contain and utilize all captured CO2. The PyraPOD development is cooperative, where our industry will use the waste of another and new construction can be matched with the quick adoption of the PyraPOD process.
We envision new eco communities with a dynamic PGI component that would enable building new clusters of self sustaining permaculture and other hightech industries. In the future we will also integrate the PyraPOD process into all kinds of urban roofs to build EcoLiving communities – and we will call this our PGI product line – but our idea of a small community is several thousand families, and tens of thousands of individuals living in communities that establish a new synthesis of architecture and ecology. The PGI program would start small (for example building Proof of Concept projects) and demonstrate that it works well before we commit to the design of a larger community.
SolaRoof Foundation technology then can be implemented as distributed, community integrated systems comprising both PyraPOD projects for CEA and the urban PGI integrated projects; “for a new urbanism” that is sustainable and humane. Sustainable village patterns of a couple hundred people would be developed and each of the village units would have their own Micro Turbine combined heat and power (electrical generator) systems that are producing CO2.
Additionally, the large producers of CO2 are going to be required by the Carbon Credits program to capture and liquefy their CO2 and these large scale produces will pay others to take the CO2 off their hands and sequester it back into the biosphere. Currently there is more practical progress and knowledge of how to separate and collect the CO2 than there is about practical solutions to sequester it again. The biosphere of forests etc cannot be isolated to uptake the CO2 without large losses and in any case the rates of sequestration by the photosynthesis of the higher plants in nature, including trees (even so call fast growing tree plantations) are no where near to being able to metabolize the CO2 that is coming down the pipe so to speak. Only intensive algae culture can keep pace, with the benefit that the closed, enriched atmosphere PyraPOD cultivation achieves a greatly enhanced rate of growth and conversion that could match pace with our growth of population and growth in prosperity.
Shelter Crisis: Plants are essential to secure prosperity for all, with no family left behind – a global convergence on permaculture solutions
If we look at the roof area of our homes and communities we can see that a very large potential for closed cycle regenerative food+energy+water systems to become our primary life support source, which will easily pay for the embodied energy of our human footprint and cover our “living cost” and even pay for our shelter. It is projected that more homes will be built in the next 20 years than have been built since the beginning of history – therefore it will be a great advantage if the bulk of these new homes incorporate our EcoLiving solutions. Even if a fraction of this growth could be in the form of permaculture lifestyle developments then we would reduce the rate of resource depletion while reigning in Global Warming and provide a “soft landing” for the world economy as consumers withdraw from addiction and enslavement to fossil energy and synthetic food. Vast numbers of communities will know the freedom and secuity of regenerative wealth that is a real and never ending prosperity, and they will break out of the System of token wealth of played out with money and commodities and consumerism/addictions that have been designed to concentrate materialistic power in the hands of the few, while contriving a life of scarcity and hardship for the great majority.
Not only is our concern and involvement with the constructive building of prosperous and expanding regenerative economies able to separate and divorse themselves from the current enslavement “System” but also we intend to take collective action to propagate PGI to all parts of the world, planting the seed of change among the excluded and marginalized communities and populations that have been left “out of the game” and who live in a world of abject poverty. There are now 400 million homeless in the world and the rate of homelessness is growing – such that the number of homeless will double to 800 million in the next 20 years – and so, just to stand still we need to build 100 million homes or 10 million per year to eliminate this problem. This is the largest market in the world and requires production of some 30,000 units per day. What makes it feasible is the human potential, since each family can bootstrap themselves into prosperity by using the PyraPOD products and joining in EcoVillage enterprise. EcoTourism is also an important component of the development plan for expanding the POD Enterprise Network.
In the tropical regions and in the developing world we can apply the PyraPOD construction. A PolyFabric skin costs about one Euro per square meter and the structure framing is based on high efficiency PyraPOD design, which enables human habitat to be nested into an PyraPOD. These efficient structure concepts can be built with many types of materials. We can build “tree-free” from recycled metal framing or use bamboo or modern high tech composite fiber materials. Therefore our program will collaborate with many community development and urban renewal projects because PyraPOD will be chosen as the lowest cost and highest value new pattern of OpenSource design that provides a realistic opportunity for communities to rise up out of poverty. It would be shameful if the wealthy communities are not motivated to build the pioneering projects that would become patterns for EcoVillages, which are equally accessible to rich and poor communities and that will close the gap between communities through a convergence on the EcoLiving lifestyle.
PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT MILESTONES
Full-scale Proof of Concept Project (POC)
A POC project is a small PyraPOD that will prove the concepts of the SolaRoof technology for producing a vertical farm. This step in our product development program should include construction of a POC PyraPOD at the POC21 – and replicated in LA in cooperation with e7architecture studios, and at the University of Iceland, enabling all sites to simultaneously investigate how the closed atmosphere can be chilled and dehumidified with a water film plus liquid bubbles within the cavity space so that the sheltered space below has a cool and comfortable environment even on bright hot days. These POC projects will also verify the insulation properties for both hot and cold climates and the benefits to locations with cold winters. The goal is to complete this study by the yearend of 20015
Field Test Projects
An PyraPOD structure with no footing can provide adequate wind resistance by using the mass of the Liquid Thermal Mass system as a ballast for structural stability in high winds. This version of PyraPOD should also be implemented in order to test a complete designed solution for a portable structure that is accessible to more POD Pioneers. This Field Test will be installed in the Fall on the parking lot of Five Points Youth Foundation and tested over the next year with various studies by students as well as professionals, including the members of the ENCOUNTER Think Tank in LA.
Full-scale PyraPOD Demonstration Projects
• Phase 1) This Phase will cover the development of a proposal for EU funding of a full scale PyraPOD Project, which will be proposed for construction in 20016 in Iceland. We will request funding support for replication at several appropriate high solar energy potential sites, possibly in a Mediterranean, North African or Gulf State locations. This phase will include the search for an appropriate strategic partner with suitable assets and ability to collaborate with the SolaRoof Foundation Consortia. Data and projections based on investigations and operations of the Field Test Project will be of some considerable benefit and so the start up of several POD Pioneer enterprise around the world.
• Phase 2) Feasibility Study starting spring of 2016. It is recognized that the cost per square foot of the PyraPOD system for Closed Ecological Environment is estimated to be €150 to €200 per square meter. Such economic analysis will form part of the design studies that will evaluate the projected commercial viability of the Demonstration Projects.
• Phase 3) In the autumn of 2016 we anticipate proceeding to the implementation phase of the PyraPOD Demo Projects.
Icelandic Start Up Center will supply management services throughout the development program described above. We propose that our Aluminum Partner will fabricate material for the PyraPOD component including conversion of the materials into the prefabricated PyraPOD. CAUDEX will provide design and construction services with XXXXXXXX providing engineering services for structural and mechanical systems, and the Innovation Center of Iceland will coordinate relationships with possible collaborative partners for the Pilot Project Phase. The University of Iceland will mobilize with other Universities, for academic support and the participation of Students around the world. PGI will build relationships with Foundations and NGOs who will facilitate the Consortium’s outreach to communities stressed by Climate Change, conflict and natural disasters who may benefit with association with some of our activities. SolaRoof will coordinate with the several other POD Pioneers that are launching in 2015 as we start up PGI with support of CoMissioners. Foundations and NGOs that have expressed an interest in the past include: Tamera EcoVillage, Schumacher College, Shell Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, FabLabs and the Make Poverty History initiative and recently a Nepalese group seeking earthquake disaster relief organization. Our business consortia will implement an PyraPOD Demo and provide team members to provide technical support to POD Pioneers, including business development, construction and commissioning support and online services. For the Icelandic developments, the University of Iceland may offer resources, site, utilities and university staff and student program support. We will jointly seek grants or fees for contract research as may be required to evaluate the PyraPOD product.
RATIONALE AND SIGNIFICANCE
Communities from the far polar regions to the tropics and especially the arid lands have been underserved by the lack of technology developed to maximize the benefits of the high level of solar resources available in these regions. Our PGI business development will unite major universities and colleges, who together with innovative private sector enterprise will form a global Consortium to investigate, develop and commercially exploit the new permaculture approach to sustainable resources that has been proposed by the core leadership team working closely with SolaRoof. The large numbers of potential end users of the new technology have inspired our collaborative group to extend our model of business cooperation to the vision of implementing a global cooperative network that will provide unlimited accessibility and the practical means to deliver our technology through certification and training programs and make them available through our PODworks enterprise with in-house training programs offered with associated educational institutions.
The POD Works program is a proposal for establishing a global network of vocational training centers that will teach and certify new standards for an PyraPOD enterprise – however, this project will follow up the results of present proposal and is especially intended to take our sustainable construction methods and propagate them in the “greening” of urban life and to empower a rural village renascence throughout the world. There will be a new urbanism program as well as a new pattern of distributed living in self-reliant EcoHabitat and small to medium EcoVillages and both of the urban and rural vocational educational initiatives will be further enhanced by designing and promoting an inexpensive, interactive, state-of-the-art ICT for “distance learning”. Furthermore, this desktop rural/urban Network will prove to be self-supporting even with limited student enrollments at each participating site.
The impact of this project will prove significant to other rural sites desiring educational opportunities, which have been too distant or too expensive to participate in higher education. The educational opportunity gap between urban and rural communities can be closed and a model program established for consideration by other regions in addition to becoming a self-sustaining program offered into the future by the POD Works to enable coping strategies for adaptation to extreme Climate Change Challenges around the world from polar to tropical climate countries and adapted (as a model system) to programs that enable commuities to prosper while adapting to dangerous Climate Change.
PGI is developing a number of strategies to protect its know-how and innovations and to build the value of its Brands. New patents shall be applied for in respect to advances and improvements in the PyraPOD system. Strategic alliances with key collaborators, working with SolaRoof as members of the “PyraPOD Global Development Consortia”, recognize and consent to the transfer of the benefit of all co-created copyrights, IP and commercial rights related to PyraPOD to PGI as the authorized manager of the supply chain by which the Consortia members intend to empower PGI to channel their components, materials, products and knowhow to the global market of POD Pioneers, in cooperation with the PODworks hubs. These materials, products, technology and services may include by way of example: the SolaFabric, structure kits, bubble generator apparatus, automation and AI control systems and structural design applications, with Cloud Services that tie the whole PyraPOD system together. The Consortia intends to continue to pursue trademarks, copyrights and design protection to emphasize the branding of its quality products for the benefit of PGI, and for sharing by the registered members of the SolaRoof community in accord with the Creative Commons Public License.
Overview of Potential Applications
Imagine a greenhouse in the north or in the desert that can be heated or cooled with little electrical energy demand and zero fossil energy. The efficiency of heating or cooling is twenty (20) times more energy-efficient than double polyethylene or glass equivalents. This vision has become a reality with the PyraPOD concept and PGI cooperative network is ready to introduce and market this product to the Greenhouse Industry when the development is complete.
PyraPOD is a complete building system that overcomes the inherent problems of existing greenhouses or other similar daylight applications. PyraPOD technology is applicable to a wide variety of building types, which can be categorized into three basic Product Lines: 1) Greenhouses, 2) Agricultural (livestock and other farm structures) and 3) Architectural Buildings.
The greenhouse market is our first focus. For this market PGI will offer the PyraPOD. While commercializing this technology, PyraPOD will gain a significant share of the existing greenhouse market and at the same time our product will expand the overall market size by enhancing the profitability of growing market segments. As a second strategic step, PyraPOD will enter into the general agriculture markets for pre-engineered livestock and farm structures that have enormous revenue and profit potential. We estimate that 6 to 12 months of R&D is required prior to considering full commercialization to these applications.
PyraPOD will then be well prepared to enter into the architectural markets that are truly vast in scope and variety of applications. However, while the PyraPOD greenhouse concepts are ready and other agriculture products are nearly market-ready at this time, many tests are required for architectural product approvals under various safety and building codes before the marketing of these products could commence.
Existing Market: Greenhouses
The Greenhouse Industry is expanding throughout the world, as growers become more sophisticated and the production of quality food is increasing consumer awareness and demand for locally grown fresh produce. Greater investments are being made in growing technology, from seed to the plant production environment. Shortages of water, land and energy and a complex distribution system, combine to drive growers’ interest in sustainable controlled environmental growing.
Total control is required of the growing environment so that the producers can recover their large investment in hydroponic or soil-less culture and other forms of high yield production facilities. Analysis shows that the PyraPOD system will deliver the highest rates of return on investment, in all climates and applications.
Commercial Fresh Produce Production Centers: PODworks
The advent of scarcity of water, poor soils, and long transportation distance to market, etc. has diminished the efficiencies of field crop production. Then there are the added risks of climate change and increasing production loses due to varying climatic conditions, windstorms, drought, rainstorms and unseasonable frosts. For the production consistent quality fruit and vegetables, mushrooms and aquaculture crops the enclosed, controlled environment is ideal. Modern “industrial” agribusiness producers invest considerable sums inside the greenhouse enclosures to enable quick and efficient production (Hydroponics) and for automation of picking and packaging. However, the state-of-art greenhouses can only operate efficiently for seven to eight months a year.
The new PyraPOD approach to greenhouse design will allow crops to be produced continuously for 12 months, providing enormous gains in the quality of production, quantity and market availability for produce, especially in the “out of season” months when produce prices increase. The conventional commercial greenhouse growers will not be able to compete, or stand up to stonger competition from multinational corporations importing food from distant large scale field growing operations. Local field crops are available only for a short time and supply a tiny fraction of the demand.
Today, the public demands quality production for flowers, vegetables or herbs. The savings of marketing distribution, the advantage of locally grown produce, organic or biologically grown in greenhouses, has tremendous market appeal. The affluent society demands a better quality product (a vine-ripened tomato for example). PyraPOD makes this more feasible than ever. Existing greenhouses require high rates of forced ventilation (or large roof sections that can open and close) and large shade screens that open and close for sunlight protection and for controlling temperature. These existing methods very often lead to the contamination of the working environment by dust, pollen and pests. To date, the conventional methods provide a partial solution but limit growth and consistent quality, while requiring toxic chemicals and synthetic fertilizers for profitable operations.
PyraPOD technology liquid cools the closed environment, eliminating all the foregoing problems related to the conventional ventilation. Internal air movement is provided by re-circulation fans and therefore the closed atmosphere is easily filtered; no screened openings (natural ventilation systems) or large volume mechanical ventilation systems are needed. Also, since shade curtains are not required to combat overheating, the crop can benefit from higher PAR light levels that promote maximum photosynthesis and plant growth. Researchers can then study the full effect of growing crops in a CO2 enriched atmosphere and quantify the benefit of much higher yields, shorter time to harvest and higher quality produce. Research in biotechnology is enabled, while we exclude genetically modified (GM) crops due to an ethical position known as “the precautionary principle”. Other, advanced biotechnology, using no “engineered organisms” techniques can now be safely done in an enclosed environment that is isolated, like a clean room environment. This prevents the loss of pollen or other vectors from the plant research environment or the contamination of organically grown crops by exterior GM pollens (that can result in undesirable cross-pollination) or by the infiltration of pests or mold and fungus spore. These PyraPOD research facilities become truly valuable research tools with efficient operating costs.
Expand the Agricultural Market Size
PyraPOD will actively expand the controlled environment agricultural market size by meeting the unmet demand of growers for improved production technology and by removing the production limitations facing growers because the current greenhouse technology is non-optimal for many regions. Only 1% of fresh vegetables consumed in the USA and Canada are now produced in greenhouses that have an area of about 10,000 hectares. Therefore, expansion in this area alone would produce an exceptional growth in demand for greenhouse structures. By comparison the EU production in greenhouses is greatly advanced with over 30,000 hectares of production (over half of which is food crops) in one location alone: Almeria, Spain.
PGI’s management envisions working with key greenhouse producers who are not necessarily tied to traditional greenhouses but who see the opportunity of industrial food production, of a very high quality, using PyraPOD in conjunction with their growing technology. We will establish PODworks hubs as demonstration projects – often creating these projects with lead growers. The PODworks activities may include the vocational training and attract “EcoCenter” projects that are integrated with these facilities whenever possible. The data generated will then be used to convince the majority of growers to switch to the PyraPOD and other SolaRoof solutions and enjoy the benefits of consistent quality, constant year round operations and improved profits.
Livestock and other farm structures
PyraPOD’s second target market includes livestock shelters, barns, processing plants, wastewater treatment, biotechnology, aquaculture, fish farming and forestry nurseries.
The following analysis is dating from 2005:
In the USA the Agriculture building industry is comprised of $4.22 billion worth of such products as portable buildings and houses, silos, greenhouses, and other prefabricated metal buildings. Farm prefabricated building systems and made up for 60 per cent of sales in 1996 and accounted for $2.54 billion in shipments. Residential, farm, portable dwellings and greenhouses made up 27 per cent and $1.48 billion. The EU market is larger in size and diversity and represents a more challenging market in some sectors due to a highly conservative approach to changing agricultural practices.
EcoTourism opens Architectural Applications of PyraPOD
As we now launch PGI (in 2015) there is great interest in the enterpise opportunities connected with creating solutions for EcoRetreats and Eco Bed & Breakfast developments that bridge between the PyraPOD and the Architectural Applications of SolaRoof. At this time we are developing these concpepts for a project called Tropics Ontario. This initiative and others around the world are likely to launch and apply the PyraPOD solution to these specially attractive market opportunities.
The North American Greenhouse Industry
The US Market
All amounts are in US $ and data is from market studies produced by Richard Nelson from Statistics Canada and USDA information and other private data sources between 1996 and 2006.
There are estimated 12,750 wholesale greenhouse operations in the US, comprised of four basic categories of growers: floriculture, propagation, food production and transplants making for $4.3 billion in wholesale sales. The great majority of these growers are small operations, most having less than one acre of growing area. The floriculture crops represent 82% of greenhouse crop acreage or 13,016 acres, followed by propagation, which can include production of many floriculture crops as young plants, with 1,643 or 10% of the greenhouse crop acreage. The wholesale sales of the floriculture market are estimated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) at $3.57 billion representing $5.4 billion in retail market value as per the National Gardening Association (NGA). Within the floriculture market segment, the major crop types are bedding plants and potted plants, representing 48% and 21% of total floriculture production respectively.
The following is a summary of the floriculture major distribution channels with the related gross margin for the growers:
Average Growers Margin
Retail garden centers
There are approximately 4,478 floriculture operations with $100,000 in sales or greater annually, representing approximately 11,130 acres of 85% of the US floriculture production but 43% of the floriculture growers. California is the largest producing state with 21% of total floriculture acreage, followed by Florida with 11%.
The US production of greenhouse vegetables is significantly smaller, per capita, than the Canadian market, representing only a fraction of one percent of the total wholesale value of greenhouse production and 5% of all acreage of greenhouses; and an even smaller fraction of all US (field grown) vegetable production. There are approximately 1,025 operations in the US that produce vegetable crops, representing 728 acres of total production. Large portions of these crops are grown hydroponically with California representing 34% of the total acreage. As in the Canadian greenhouse industry, the main crops grown in greenhouses are tomatoes (the king of greenhouse vegetable crops representing 50% of the total vegetable production), cucumbers, peppers, lettuce and herbs.
The main type of physical greenhouse structure currently in use in the US is the gutter-connected house (non-opening), considered the most permanent as well as the most resistant to weather damage. This due to the strength of its steel construction and the fact this greenhouse type is generally built by manufacturers who are members of the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association, who have adopted uniform minimum specifications for their structures. In terms of new structures built within the last years, we can observe a trend toward more expensive structures offering better advantages to growers, such greater height and the new opening roof systems, which provides better light and ventilation.
New Greenhouse Structures
Gutter connected, non-opening
Gutter connected, opening roof
Greenhouse Covering Type
Plastic films, single or double
Klerk, SC and TYCO, LA with 70% combined market share
polycarbonate or acrylics
polycarbonate: Matra Plast, Canada and Green-Tek, WI with 50% combined market share
Acrylics: Cyro Canada has 90% of the market
Major industrial glass manufacturers
Polycarbonate and acrylics have replaced fiberglass coverings over the past 10 years due to improved light transmission, heat retention, structural integrity and minimal discoloration. On the other hand, glass is more expensive to purchase and operate (high heating and cooling cost), and can shatter in hailstorms, yet the higher light levels do provide advantages when managed properly.
The Market Size (US$)
Sale of greenhouse structures in the United States was estimated to be about 882 acres or 29 million square feet in 1999. The existing Greenhouses in the USA and Canada cover over 19,500 acres with an historical acreage growth rate averaged at 3-5%. In dollars, new greenhouse structures sold in the US was $160 million or $5.5 per square feet, of which an estimated of $115 million (72%) represents sales by US manufacturers and $40 million from Canadian companies.
However, total revenues by all companies selling greenhouse structures in the US and Canada was $350 million, including sales of components as well as minor amounts of retrofitting of existing structures. Indeed, structural companies provide some components used in greenhouses whereas the manufacturer supplies controls. Growers have being increasingly purchasing equipment, which saves labor costs such as conveyors on monorails, machinery that can pick up and relocate plants and automatic watering booms.
PyraPOD’s market, contrary to its competitors, is the whole greenhouse system. This includes the structure and covering, the components, control, heating and cooling systems. Thus we will expand the global potential market size to around $500 million – or $15 per square foot, versus the $5.5 per square foot for the structure only.
Structure Without Climate Control
Structure with Opening Roofs
With Climate Control*
Include environmental controls technology and mechanized growing equipment selected such as conveyors on monorails, machinery, automatic watering booms…
The Players: Products and Services
Purchasing a greenhouse is a turnkey process. Manufacturers attempt to make the process as simple as possible for the grower and lend their expertise to the fullest possible. Greenhouses are somewhat generic; structural components specific styles, steel tubing, and access to coverings and components are similar. Individual strengths and weaknesses are generally associated with services and perceived value related to reputation for engineering capability, responsiveness, level of sales support and innovation such as open roof structures. The companies are differentiated by size, proximity to its market and marketing effort. Successful structure companies provide the following products and services:
• Range of structural options including varying designs, shapes and covering.
• Availability of components, add-on equipment or replacement parts, as manufacturers are direct distributors of many major heating and cooling component products, mostly for those, which work better within their structural system.
• Engineering services such as design capability to meet specific needs and assistance with code and zoning issues. Recently, more structure companies have added in-house staff to manage this function instead of subcontracting.
• Assistance in selecting and contracting with controls manufacturers. Greenhouse controls vary greatly, from very simple to very complex, computer-controlled systems. Most controls are sold directly by the manufacturer to the grower given these systems are highly technical and require specialized knowledge to install and service.
• Construction capability: This is not a critical aspect of the greenhouse manufacturer’s offering. It is estimated that 20% of construction is contracted back through the supplying company. Most manufacturers use contractors whereas major structural companies such as Nexus and Rough Brothers use contract labor. Generally, structures are simple but labor intensive to assemble. Therefore, growers can do the work inexpensively with existing labor.
According to the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association, no individual company has greater than a 12% market share. The two leading manufacturers, Nexus and Rough Brothers combined represent only 23% of annual sales. The five leading companies are the following:
Others with 5% or less market share combined (including imports)
The Canadian Market
As per Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the are 4700 commercial growing operations in Canada including ornamentals, nursery plants and vegetable growers, primarily in Ontario, 1500; Quebec, 1200; British Columbia, 800; and Alberta, 450. In 1999, the industry wholesale value of crops grown was estimated at $1.5 Billion, versus $1.2 Billion in 1998, for a revenue growth rate of 25%. Overall, the greenhouse industry grew in both size and sales in the 1990s. Between 1990 and 1999, the total area under glass and plastic grew by 129% to 3,631 acres or 158 million square feet.
Canadian and European growers have been at the forefront of greenhouse production technology primarily due to climatic conditions. As a result, they have developed close ties with research institutions, which have helped to provide a competitive advantage. Recently, several new US producers have entered the greenhouse business using new technologies and increasing their greenhouse acreage, thereby diminishing Canada’s technological competitive advantage.
The size of the greenhouse vegetable industry in Canada was estimated at $530 million in 1999 of which 50% was exported to the US, mainly to key northern markets such as Chicago, New York, Boston and Detroit. In 1999, for the first time in several years, the greenhouse vegetable production declined slightly in proportion to the sales of flowers and plants, representing 35% of the total greenhouse production, versus 37.5% in 1998.
Leamington, a small town in southern Ontario produces 45% of all Canadian greenhouse vegetables, and at 838 acres or 336 hectares, is the same size as the entire US greenhouse vegetable-growers sector. British Columbia and Quebec follow Ontario as the largest areas devoted to greenhouse vegetables. The majority of production goes to tomatoes, with the remaining portion of the acreage devoted to cucumber and pepper production.
Product quality and safety are seen as key elements on which to build the strength of the greenhouse vegetable market. The ongoing change in consumer preferences towards fresh, natural, healthy foods will result in increased demand for greenhouse vegetables. Furthermore, its future prosperity lies largely in the US market because of the untapped consumer potential of big cities like New York, Boston, Detroit and Chicago.
Greenhouse vegetables are generally priced higher than field-grown vegetables as production costs are much higher than open field production, but yields are much higher as well. Higher costs are attributed to higher usage of fuel, labor, sophisticated technology and computers. The main greenhouse vegetable crops in Canada today are tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce. Particularly, Canadian greenhouse tomatoes are available from March to December with a peak in production in May. There is a move toward trying to provide a year round supply, however, the economics of producing a crop when light levels and temperatures are at their lowest limit supplies from December to February.
Information on the greenhouse manufacturers are limited given there is no Canadian association comparable to the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association in the US.
The type of greenhouse structure uses varies from province to province. Ontario has dramatically increased its acreage over the past five years with most of this increase in double polyethylene-constructed greenhouses. British Columbia on the other hand has used glass greenhouses as the most popular structure. Alberta and Quebec have used mainly glass-constructed greenhouses, but now double polyethylene-constructed greenhouses are becoming popular. The trend to high gutter height has continued and most new construction has 16 ft. The greenhouse environment is computer controlled in all large greenhouse operations.
A market survey mandated by Nelson, dated October 2000, from McCormick Business Solution Inc, a private consulting firm in the greenhouse industry, estimates the annual Canadian structure sales at US$55-60,000. The following table presents a short list of the greenhouse structure companies, accounting for the majority of construction business, with more than $5 million in revenues:
Les industries Harnois inc.
Westbrook Greenhouse Systems
Greenhouse Growers Supply
Cravo Equipment Ltd
Paul Boers Greenhouse Construction Inc.
$ 7 million
Target markets and related success factors
Greenhouse crop prices generally vary based on the early or late delivery within a defined time frame. Therefore, certain market regions with extremely cold winter and warm summer temperatures are more likely to fully benefit from PyraPOD’ advantages. Furthermore, the floriculture market is a prime target due to its size and value, particularly Michigan, New York, California and Florida – states making up to 45% of floriculture plant sales. Overall, PyraPOD’ first target clientele for its greenhouse structure will be the larger growers willing to pay a premium for a better controlled environment with an expected return on their investment within a three years period.
More particularly, the PyraPOD system advantages for the growers is primarily an access to inexpensive heating and more efficient greenhouse cooling, thus allowing the growers to meet existing market demands which are not being met, as illustrated below:
• The market for larger spring sizes and more established plants — growers in the northern tier states of the US (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan) essentially “shut down” their greenhouses due to high heat costs over the winter and delay re-opening until spring. The PyraPOD system will allow them to bring in plant material sooner, thus sell stock sooner or grow these plants into larger pot sizes for sale earlier in the season.
• Additional crop cycle in bedding transplant production or the production of a larger crop earlier — considering the average revenue per acre for floriculture crops is $270,000 to $360,000 per year when excluding foliage and cut flower production, possible incremental revenue gains for the grower are tremendous;
• Allowing northern growers who have stopped producing foliage plants years ago due to high energy costs and a concentration of production at lower prices in Florida, to re-enter the foliage plant market (although mass merchant sales out of Florida to northern states would likely continue, the garden center and supermarket outlets will purchase foliage plants)
• Improved young plant (propagation) production optimizing the square footage is important, as is the heating cost (they are in production during the mid-winter), especially for the growers located in northern US and in Canada, who are more accustomed to spending greater amounts for structures and outfitting their propagation greenhouses;
• Expansion of the fall sales market in southern states — systems that help to cool greenhouses, while still allowing high light, would enable growers to increase both the number of crop cycles and quality.
• Expansion of vegetable market in Northern States and Canada – reducing costs thereby improving economics of current growers and increasing market share gains.
PyraPOD will be well positioned to respond to grower’s demands for better-controlled production environments independent of the crop type and growing regions. The PyraPOD price premium will be well compensated for in the higher productivity and energy cost savings, as well as our high quality support and engineering services.
Furthermore, professional or research greenhouses (biotechnology or pharmaceutical research or production, specialty medicinal herbs including canabis, genetic seed production and plant breeding) require a structure that provides the most consistent growing conditions possible. This is a function of the level of sophistication of the control process as much as the environmental process. Research greenhouses currently represent only 1% of the total market, due to the limited options for environmental control actually available on the market. PGI’s building system is aimed to revolutionize the market by providing the missing solution to this high-end niche market.
PyraPOD Competitive Edge
Most of PyraPOD competitors are small regional entities that spend little to nothing on research and operate on small gross margins. Therefore they do not have the resources to respond to PyraPOD technological advantage. This industry has been static for more than half a century. The only significant development during the past three decades was the introduction of polycarbonate panels and, recently polyethylene woven fabrics as a covering material. The greenhouse operators are frustrated with the short life and low physical properties of polyethylene film greenhouse structures and breakage of float glass used by Dutch Venlo and other “glasshouse” structures. None of PyraPOD competitors have any alternative energy efficient developments to offer the greenhouse industry. PyraPOD competitors are completely unfamiliar with the basics of the PyraPOD breakthrough technology, while PGI will have the PyraPOD product ready for OpenSource commercialization in 2016.
A consolidation trend is taking place in the industry as growers are attempting to counteract the power of their mass merchant customers by growing through acquisition, thus allowing them to better service mass merchants by having regional shipping points in more locations. The net effect of the growers’ consolidation will be fewer but larger independent greenhouse operations and a greater need for structural manufacturers to focus on these major customers, thus resulting in a decrease in the number of structural manufacturers.
To compete against a well-established market of structural producers with mature product offerings including structures, coverings and components, PGI will capitalize on the revolutionary PyraPOD OpenSource technology and offer unique turn key solutions. Particularly, PyraPOD competitive edge is in the following areas:
• Heating and cooling cost reduction of over 80% is tremendous when considering that more than 16% of operating costs (this doesn’t consider recent dramatic energy price increases) are for heating requirements (McCormick Business Solutions Inc)
• Insulation factor “30 R-value” versus the industry standard of “1 to 3 R-value”
• Improved plant growth by virtue of low reflection and better light transmission, modulation and diffusion
• Ability to grow during extremely warm or cold periods when this is otherwise not possible in conventional greenhouses
• PyraPOD Controlled Environment technology permits CO2 enriched closed atmosphere production while the competitors are limited to open cycle ventilated environments
• Enlisting the early movers as POD Pioneers and expanding the network of future POD Preneurs with viral, OpenSource and Open Organization strategy that empowers the PyraPOD Growers to be universally successful with training and Cloud Connected services to our membership
• Establishing the global network of PODworks to serve as hubs for training and sevices supporting the rapid growth and viral expansion of PGI as a global COOP
In North America there are two to three dozen regional suppliers of greenhouse structures. These companies’ manufacturing operations consist primarily of metal fabrication. The Competitors resell covering materials and mechanical components produced by others.
In comparison PyraPOD technology takes full control of the environmental processes within its vertical farm structures. Our POD Enterprise Network will use to advantage of our collective purchasing power to source an OpenSource aluminium structure and PolyFabric & SolaFabric building envelopes at best commodity prices. Additionally PyraPOD suppliers in cooperation with PODworks hubs will provide all of the equipment required to regulate the heating, cooling, filtered makeup air supply, air mixing and C02 enrichment, humidification and shading, thus providing a real turn key solution and better engineering services to the growers.
PyraPOD disadvantages are more acute at the beginning of its commercialization phase given the Network will be a newcomer on the market. However, this can easily be overcome by our effective participation in the OpenSource SolaRoof Community that offers exceptional marketing and educational tools for all types of greenhouse producers enabling them to adopt PyraPOD. Furthermore we will be targeting the largest opportunity, which is the opportunity for new local growers of food and horticultural products, as presented below:
• Crop response to new PyraPOD technology gives rise to uncertainty for the first growers to use the system. PGI will underwrite this risk for the pioneering first adopters of the PyraPOD with financial support from investors in our POD Notes.
▪ Advanced Solar Fabric with high light transmission is more expensive compared to glass covering which represents only 12% of the greenhouse market However, this technology investment reduces operational risks while gaining an incremental return on operations that retires the incremental capital cost in only a 3-7 year period.
▪ More complicated to use – however the grower is supported by an automation system with Cloud Services — PGI management intends to hire and train technical representatives who will provide all after-sales support to the grower.
Strategic Development Plans
Implementation of a Commercialization Strategy
PyraPOD will bypass the existing greenhouse manufacturing industries that are unprepared to compete successfully in an OpenSource business environment and have shown decades inertia in respect to adopting the PyraPOD advancements. PyraPOD on the other hand has a well prepared and qualified team and will quickly establish initiatives to promote Demonstration Projects directly to lead growers – offering them an incentives to be POD Pioneers, including a discount price by financing the entire premium out of membership fee that is a small % of energy savings such that revenue increases in excess of their (baseline) existing operations. The financed premium is projected to fund the PGI operations, including the early stage costs of the development of PyraPOD.
Demonstration Projects, by POD Pioneers as described above, will be sought out in approximately 6 key regional markets in the USA and in every Continent as we launch PGI in 2015. They will lead to the establishment of regional distributors, which are the PODworks enterprise – many of which may be established by the current greenhouse manufacturing companies or as new ventures.
The Greenhouse Industry
PyraPOD manufacturing and sales operations are founded on a substantial technological leadership and a strong manufacturing team brought together by Mr. Richard Nelson. Together with our PGI alliances, our aggressive commitment to support the POD Works hubs will provide us with an enormous R&D advantage that will widen this gap in the near term. In our optimistic forecast we project sales of our PyraPOD to take the market over and to become the dominant North American manufacturer in this industry within three years. The greenhouse industry has not yet produced a market leader and PyraPOD intends to achieve this goal within three years and capture the major share of the world market, or over 500 acres per year (750,000,000 $US sales) in five years. We have the potential in our PyraPOD Product to become a multi-billion dollar, multinational COOP enterprise in seven or eight years.
Greenhouse structure manufacturing is not a high margin (10-20%) business due to the similarity of many companies’ offering and the number of competitors. Pricing also depends on the manufacturers’ unique attributes, level of service through a technical sales force, such as Nexus and Rough Brothers. Extrapolation from the survey of the North American greenhouse industry performed during the year 2000, we estimate the profit before tax for the structure manufacturers to be approximately 5-12% of sales.
Because the PyraPOD product is uniquely adaptable to diverse climates and crops, the Company will be able to sell to global markets, whereas its competitors in the greenhouse structure market are strongest in regional markets. Furthermore, PGI will be able to price its product at a higher margin than the competition for its unique and innovative advantages for the growers. PGI management expects an estimated 50% premium over the market average price of $12 for a fully equipped glass gutter-connected greenhouse – that is, a TurnKey selling price of $20. We expect to also attain a Net Profit of 20%.
In most cases, larger growers are called upon directly by manufacturer’s representative. This market segment represents 70% of total greenhouse acreage nationwide but 5% of total growing operations. Distributor representatives and trade shows are more important for lead generation as a percent of all new structures but not in acreage figures.
Sales are made by the structural manufacturer sales representative and shipped to the grower from the manufacturer’s factory. Therefore, structural manufacturers do inventory significant quantities of all structural products to allow them to ship a greenhouse quickly. They may also inventory some component products as well given they normally act as distributors for components manufacturers who also utilize traditional distributors.
The Distributor as an Intermediary:
The distributor representative makes the sale, but the manufacturer still ships the structure and equipment to the grower. Particularly for national companies, distributors are used to supplement their own sales force. Distributors may also keep inventories of spare parts and act as an agent for components manufacturers as well. Distributors earn a commission of 5-10% for a structure they sell. There are 400 distributor sales representatives for 100 distributor companies in the horticultural market. There are two types of distributors servicing horticultural markets: small independents and multi-market/branch players.
PyraPOD Positioning and Action Plan
Members of the PyraPOD Global Development Consortia will adopt a program that is supplemental and may overlap that of the PGI Plan of 2015 which has the strategy of attracting individuals and groups to enlist as POD Pioneers who engage in a co-creative development program with the goal of mobilizing 12 POD Pioneers during 2015. In support of this heoric pioneering effort by individuals SolaRoof is mobilizing to create a leadership group to sustain a collective, exemplar Demo project for PyraPOD, which is referred to as the Alpha project.
The Alpha site will become operational during the R&D phase and two other beta Demo sites will be developed as PGI begins to gear up for aggressive publicity and PR activity in 2016. Additionally, an excellent enterprise website and our sponsorship of the SolaRoof Wiki will be used to disseminate technical information and other key investigative reports to the market place, including reports on the POD Pioneer Projects established with a selected group of enterprising growers who are willing risk takers; these POD Pioneers will be the first commercial users of the PyraPOD system. This strategy is expected to have an immediate impact and will enable us to reach the majority of those seeking new enterprise opportunity throughout the world. We take this approach because our mission is to make POD Fresh Food accessible to everyone, everywhere – without delay. In so doing we can together act to avert the crisis that will otherwise soon overtake us and overwhelm society, destroying any hope of peace and secuity for anyone. In other words this is not a plan for “business as usual” and focused on maximizing profit, we have a mission with a massively transformative purpose: building a future of abundance for all.
PyraPOD will seek strategic alliances with key greenhouse industry leaders, manufacturers and builing materials and technology suppliers in the areas of complementary products, construction, distribution and marketing who will be invited to PyraPOD Alpha & Beta sites in order to create interest and awareness.
By collaborating and working with other major players in the construction industry, the PGI intends to license the manufacture, installation and sale of the systems in various regions. PGI will supply key component parts, and PODworks representatives will assist in sales and moreover supervise and inspect the installed systems to maintain PyraPOD quality image and leadership role of PGI.
R&D Activities – Product Development
Beta Site Monitoring & Testing
In all cases, PGI needs to establish collaborative arrangements with the University EcoCenters as well as the Commercial Beta Sites to join with our early POD Pioneers in the testing of materials, the upgrading of mechanical systems and sharing results of the information gathered on the operation of the PyraPOD as well as the vertical growing, aquaculture or other purposes for the SolaRoof Controlled Environments. This will help the COOP form its statistical basis for commercialization.
The monitoring of the POD Pioneers’ facilities on an ongoing basis will be important to develop the database on energy efficiency in extremes of temperature in both hot and cold climates. Automatic data recording will be fed into the computers and software system so that comparative analyses may be made with university based researchers and other consultants, working with the firm in preparation for its full commercialization.
PGI intends to continue its product research with our strategic partners – to produce other quality SolaFabric materials that may have the benefit of a lower price, but provide good technical attributes. Some SolaFabric panels will be less translucent for animal husbandry, for working environments and other applications that do not require a high level of direct sunlight. Every aspect of the PyraPOD system will continue to go through a process of improvement for productivity and efficiency. These include some of the following areas:
Improved Bubble Generator Configuration
• Reduced energy and use of modular generators for mass production
• Various bubble densities, R-values, durability, thermal effects, light and/or heat modulation
SolaFabric Coating Process
• OpenSource double-layer SolaFabric panels with woven glass fabric and other fabric combinations;
• Fire code testing; other human occupancy code approvals.
SolaRoof WideSpan Structure and modular panels
• Engineering designs for the wide span aluminium joists that will ease assembly and open diverse applications and economize costs.
• Formulas for thermodynamic analysis, calculating the size of water reservoirs, rate of cooling per evaporation, color effects on growing.
• As greater information on thermodynamic qualities and thermal mass efficiencies are understood, these will have a bearing on both the software and other aspects of the system.