With so many people in the world today and the likelihood of that number growing, it begs the question: “How large a human population can be sustained?”
The question has had different answers depending upon when it was asked. Three hundred years ago the answer would have been a number substantially less than actually exists today. When Europeans discovered the deep plow it made it possible to grow the cereal crops in much greater abundance. That led to the tremendous growth of population the world has experienced.
Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834) was a British economist and demographer. He presented his theory of population in An Essay on the Principle of Population, which was first published in 1798. Essentially he viewed poverty and starvation as inevitable. The Malthusian hypothesis is that population will always grow at a faster rate than its means of subsistence. It then is checked by disaster such as disease, famine, or war which culls the herd to a sustainable level of existence.
Some people worry we are on the precipice of such a situation now because of the limitation of adequate hydration for irrigation in the farm belt. There seems to be a tradeoff with energy. Either we grow corn for fuel or food, for example. Can we have it both ways?
The food and water problems are not hopeless says the small family R&D team of Allen and Peter Schuh who have worked on solutions for the past seven years and have United States issued patents on the problem.
The challenge with feedstock products is where vegetable products can be used for food or for fuel. There the tradeoff seems to have many uncomfortable questions. When it comes to the use of nonedible green resources, as with crops that grow in deserts on marginal land, or usually is not edible by a large portion of the population, as with algae, the alternatives are more clear. Your vehicle does not care if it is running on vegetable or petroleum material as long as the fuel meets specifications. The driver does not care as long as it is the cheaper alternative.
Growing algae in ponds out in the open is not only possible, it is a nuisance in many farming areas. The runoff of fertilizers causes the ponds to gorge with algae which until now had been seen as a problem. Lets turn the problem into an opportunity. The feedstock can be converted to both fuel by pulling out the oil for biodiesel and the carbohydrates for ethanol. What is left can be a food. The remarkable thing is that the feedstock may have initially been toxic but is neutralized by specific processes.
Inventors Allen J. Schuh, Ph.D. and Peter A. Schuh (www.algae-water-food-patents.com) have seven water treatment, algae and food related patents. The most recent patents cover rapid recovery of drinking water from a variety of contaminated sources. These improved treatment techniques purify water containing contaminants of cyanotoxins, bacteria, viruses, parasites, positively charged ions, negatively charged ions, and radiation.
The abundance of algae and of plants that are drought tolerant such as Jatropha means that substantial amounts of food are available with a detoxification revolution similar to the deep plough.
Jatropha is a genus of approximately 175 succulents that are perennial plants of the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae) and are native to Central and South America. “Jatropha” is derived from iatros (physician) and trophe (nutrition), so the plant is known by the common name “physic nut”. Its seeds are used to produce Jatropha oil, which is burned in diesel engines, but it has other uses. The plants are resistant to drought and pests but they have poisonous components, namely the seeds.
Biodiesel from Jatropha seeds is fast becoming recognized as a potential source of alternative fuel to meet the rising demands around the world. The fuel contains no sulfur and is thus a clean, low-emission fuel. Jatropha has the potential to serve as fuel to power a vast array of energy needs from wheeled transportation, combined heat and power (CHP) plants, and even cooking stoves. In addition, after oil is extracted, a block or cake of the plant fibers is left that can be pressed to form an oil-less cake.
In addition to nutrients, the press cake contains toxic substances that give the plant its disease and pest resistance. There are two principal toxins: lectins, also known as curcin, and phorbol esters. In the past, these toxins prevented use of the press cake in human and animal nutrition. Although United States Pat. No. 8,137,717 discloses treatment related to Jatropha, other feedstocks can be detoxified as well, namely toxic marine algae. The Schuh’s believe that any plant with a toxin that can be detoxified by alcohol or heat, or both, can be successfully treated with this apparatus and methodology and then safely eaten. Such feedstocks include castor beans (Ricinus communis), jojoba beans (Simmondsia chinensis) and Indian beech (Pongamia pinnata).
Jatropha seeds contain energy-bearing components: lipids within the seed cell structures can be collected and converted into oil used for the production of biodiesel according to procedures described in United States. Pat. No. 8,043,496. Conversion is by a transportable processing apparatus that can be delivered along a water course by ship or barge, by rail line, by road wheeled transportation, or by air to a location in proximity to the agricultural sites where Jatropha is grown.
Carbohydrates in the cell structures can be converted into sugars and then ethanol, which is used first to scrub the press cake to be detoxified and then the same ethanol is used to process the oil to be biodiesel according to United States Pat. No. 8,017,366. After removing the oil and the ethanol used in the extraction of toxins, the protein meal is suitable for human consumption.
When Jatropha is grown in hedges or in small farms in developing countries collecting and processing the fruit can provide needed fuel and can also inject money into the local economy. The added ability of producing a protein-rich meal for consumption enhances the potential of Jatropha as an economically viable feedstock.
The portable apparatus can convert Jatropha and similar seeds into humanly edible food and biofuel at the village level and it can accomplish those tasks in a short period of time. This apparatus may be utilized 24 hours a day and 365 days per year by sharing it among agricultural settings. The apparatus is simple and logical in construction, utilizes self-generated fuel, and utilizes important human engineering principles for operation and maintenance of the apparatus in a safe manner by a single person.
Innovation has always advanced human progress even in the times when the threats seemed insurmountable. If full use of marginal lands for Jatropha production and full utilization of domestic pond algae were employed, it would be possible to double the food production and still have the energy necessary for everyone to lead the good life.
To discuss this portfolio of assets contact:
Peter A. Schuh