Thursday, November 20, 2008

First Iteration - a system dynamics model of food vs. biomass

I have been doing a lot of research lately and as a result my blog has been relatively sparse on posts. However, this research has enabled me to develop a very crude model of the impact of biomass production for fuel on food yield within a finite space of land.

This model is by no means close to representing the various dimensions needed to make it worthwhile. However, this is my blog and I wanted to post what I'm working on at this moment.

Keep in mind this model does not account for:
  • Demand on food due to growing population
  • Demand on biofuel (biodiesel specifically)
  • Energy requirements for planting and harvesting
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Carbon Taxes (as incentives for adopting biofuel)
  • Rate of Land Degradation
  • Price Fluctuations in Petrol Markets

Now, these aren't all of the parameters that will be added to the model, but they are some of the most important ones at this stage. The idea is to provide this general model that can be adapted to fit with various farming systems, ie mainstream industrial farming represented as a mono cropping system and alternative multi-cropping systems where there a number of various crops with differing values competing for resources. Each system present different management practices and therefore different energy consumption patterns.

Over the next few months this will represent a central theme on my blog as this is what I'm working on... imagine that!

Anyway, here is the current model structure (I will post the equations in another post but this is hopefully a useful visual):

Here is the output:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Global Plant Sciences Initiative Website Update

The GPSI website is slated to go live in January of 2009. We at CTLT have just finished developing a new, slightly modified design of the site and wanted to share a screen shot.

I'm still not sure what the final url will be, but the current, password protected address is

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Agro-MAPS: Global Spatial Database of Agricultural Land-use Statistics

For the link to Agro-Maps, click here:

The Question....

What is the question? Well, that is a great question! But, I'm thinking more specifically about the question driving my interest in alternative agricultural systems.

Are alternative agricultural systems truly more sustainable in terms of reducing GHG, promoting economic viability of farms, and producing affordable, safe food, than more industrialized (modern) farming systems?

There is a lot of rhetoric being published from those arguing for a "perfecting" of modern agricultural processes, strategies and technologies, just as there others arguing for the alternative. But, when we move past the rhetoric we are still just as confused as before regarding the sustainable path to present and future food security.

Rather than proponents of each side of the debate continuing to ignore the other, it is perhaps time to engage in some serious comparative analysis that incorporate economic, environment and social dimensions. Understanding the complexity of interdisciplinary research, "most" of these studies are glaringly absent from the dialogue. It appears that one dimension supersedes all the others in current studies. It is usually economics, with environment coming in second and social coming in a distant third.

I think this needs to be changed if we are going to start identifying appropriate policies for a sustainable future, especially one where we can eat!

Interesting Report...

Emerging Challenges for Farming Systems: Lessons from Australian and Dutch agriculture

This report is an interesting little piece of work as it intersects in many ways with what I'm focusing on. Although the specific questions they are addressing are different, the methods and sentiment regarding complex non-linear systems is right on.

I think this will serve as a good foundation for arguing precedence in my area of work and in the application of systems thinking/computer simulation in the assessment of sustainable agricultural systems.

FDR Style Fireside Chats for the Youtube Generation

Your Weekly Address from the President-elect

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Part 1:

Part 2:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Results Are In