Alec Muller

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since May 12, 2015
New Hampshire, zone 5a
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Recent posts by Alec Muller

Jason Silberschneider wrote:Technology such as this is the norm on current day mine sites. Dump truck "drivers" sit in offices in Perth, each in control of several massive dump trucks on a minesite hundreds of kilometres away. Onboard radars will detect an obstacle the size of a cat, causing the truck to stop and send an alarm for onsite staff to attend and investigate. Of course, mine sites use this technology for the complete opposite goal of permaculture.

Hacking technology invented for destruction and using it for creation - I love it.
4 years ago
Survey-robots with the right software would also be useful for rotational grazing. Surveying every few days to make detailed estimates of the biomass in each pasture would tell you how quickly your animals are grazing down the current pasture, and how quickly previously-grazed ones are recovering. This data would take most of the guesswork out of deciding when to move the animals and where to move them. If the software sees an overall decrease in edible biomass (i.e. the previously-grazed areas aren't recovering fast enough for the current level of grazing), then it would give you early warning so you'd have time to sell animals or provide supplemental feed to prevent extensive degradation or malnourished animals.

The data would give you year-over-year measurements of how much forage you've built up, which helps you decide how many animals to run each year.

Again, people could share and crunch survey data over a large number of farms to make it easier to identify better combinations of forage and cash crops.
4 years ago
I'm interested in drones for data collection, and VERY interested in software for analysis and design assistance:

1) Imagine a camera-equipped 15g quadrotor (they already exist and will only get cheaper and higher-resolution) and software for your computer to fly it around and survey your site. Not just the topography, but also the plants. The current software for recognizing plants using machine vision isn't polished yet, but it works (sometimes), and many people outside of permaculture are going to keep making it better regardless of whether we use it.

2) Imagine software that uses the site survey data to build a 3D model that includes plants (including how healthy and mature they appear to be) and topography.

3) Now imagine software that helps permaculture designers plan out their development efforts: plant this polyculture here, turn these low-value trees into wood chips there, run this number of chickens over this area, move this dirt to make swales or a pond here, get these off-site inputs of compost and woodchips to kick-start the initial growth, etc. The same software simulates what everything will look like in 2, 5, or 10 years. An app for a phone or a paper printout guides you through installing it. It could even estimate how much time it will take based on the types of tools you use (i.e. shovel vs. excavator) and how many people.

4) Imagine sending the drone out weekly to update the survey and collect data on the polycultures you've installed. How are the plants doing? Do they appear healthy? Are they putting on biomass faster or slower than expected? What can the software infer about your soil, daylight, and hydrological conditions from the growth of these plants?

5) Imagine sharing this polyculture data (the layout, the follow-up survey data, etc) in a file format that other people running this software can use. You've developed a bad-ass perennial polyculture in eastern Europe, and I see from your data and other people's data that it works in the northeastern US, so I import it into my site model and install a copy of it in real life.

6) Data scientists use software to crunch all this shared data and suggest new polycultures that are better-tuned for each micro-climate.

If we had these kinds of robot-data-collection and analysis software available to us, we'd make our own physical efforts far more productive, even if we're still doing everything by hand.
4 years ago
Does anyone make a mushroom-based roll that comes pre-seeded with guilds of compatible plants?

I'm picturing material similar to what these guys are using for packaging, but optimized to store more water (i.e. open cell structure and lots of surface area), and packaged in rolls like other people use for sod:

They'd come seeded with cover crops, nurse plants, and other seeds organized into compatible guilds. Some seeds could even have time-delays like Fukuoka-style seed balls.

You'd buy rolls of the stuff and blanket a broad area in very little time, and the plant roots would take hold before the mushroom biodegraded. It also lets you leverage a good guild design with minimal installation labor.

Does this exist?
5 years ago