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Specialty Chemistry Forums => Other Sciences Question Forum => Topic started by: Enthalpy on March 12, 2022, 10:52:47 AM

Title: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on March 12, 2022, 10:52:47 AM
Hello everyone and everybody!

The worldwide harvest of cereals was bad in 2021 due to drought and Covid. Now, war in Ukraine will hamper or impede agriculture there and may hamper the exports by Russia, so we risk to lose two essential exporters.
  aljazeera (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/17/infographic-russia-ukraine-and-the-global-wheat-supply-interactive) - aljazeera (https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2022/3/11/food-crisis)
The rich countries will pay more, and the importing poorer countries risk to starve: Lebanon, Bangladesh, Egypt...

So what do you propose?

I know zero dot nothing on the topic, so my suggestions are probably unrealistic.

If I'm not too wrong, much of the best lands grow cereals to feed cattle, which is inefficient. Something like 5-15kg cereals to grow 1kg meat. My suggestion for the coming year:
grow cereals for human consumption on the best lands and send the cattle pasture grass on the bad lands.

Cattle and humans seem to eat different vegetables. We won't eat soya every day, and possibly we dislike cattle's maize. So different plants must be sown, and in the Northern hemisphere (middle West, Rhine valley...) it's largely too late. But in the South it's still time, for harvesting around January 2023. Sow wheat or maize for humans in La Pampa, send the cattle graze in Patagonia, Scotland, New Zealand.

Comments, criticism, counter-proposals are highly welcome!

Marc Schaefer, aka Enthalpy
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on March 14, 2022, 06:33:02 PM
Fertilizers have become too expensive but are necessary for yield. Their production consumes natural gas in big amount to obtain hydrogen for ammonia. Then urea and others are produced
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urea#Industrial_methods
181 Mt in 2020!

Guano extraction is negligible. With 70g consumed per human and per day, forget pee. Saltpetre extraction seems abandoned. Phosphate extraction was 136 Mt in 2006, but I doubt it can increase at once and replace sources of nitrogen.

The least bad alternative I see would extract more coal from the mines, transport it, use it at the urea plants instead of methane to obtain hydrogen. But can can this succeed quickly?

Ideas welcome!
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on March 18, 2022, 08:14:27 AM
In one more heartbreaking decision, we could sacrifice some forest area to cultivate more fields, for few years until Ukraine and Russia again produce and export food, and fertilizers become available somehow (... not from gas nor coal please). Then forest can be planted again.

I've no idea how fertile forest soil is for agriculture, especially the first year.

The cut wood can replace some gas and petrol the first year. Additional chipping machines are quickly built. Forest harvesters are more difficult.

The existing cultivated area will produce less due to the lack of fertilizer, but the available seeds sown on more area hopefully produce as much or more.

The EU would produce more wheat, maize, sunflower... while French Guyana would produce rice. Neighbouring Surinam was a huge rice producer before the civil war.

Marc Schaefer, aka Enthalpy
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on March 19, 2022, 11:13:40 AM
Vegetable oil is short here. First corn oil became expensive as local maize harvest was poor, then sunflower oil (imported from Russia and Ukraine) got scarce, only olive oil was still abundant. Today I've seen the last little bottle of linseed oil disappear, only walnut oil in tiny bottles was still on the shelves.

Do you know if palm seed oil is healthy? It's much saturated but thin because the acids are short. This one must still be abundant, and once refined, its colour and smell are reportedly acceptable.

Palm oil (the one with long saturated acids) must still be abundant, especially if we don't torch it as biodiesel, but it's bad for the arteries. So if you chemists find a way to introduce cis double bonds in palm oil, it's useful and profitable. Or if you can synthesize cis fatty acids from an other commodity, like butadiene.

When corn and soya feed poultry and cattle, is oil already extracted?

==========

Producing rice in French Guyana wouldn't even need to cut trees. Just use the swamps along the coast.
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on March 19, 2022, 04:13:42 PM
Palm oil production was 74Mt worldwide in 2019, with half the European imports converted to biodiesel, while sunflower oil production was 18Mt in 2018.

A proportion of fatty acids in palm oil is: 48% saturated palmitic and stearic, 37% monounsaturated oleic, 9% polyunsaturated linoleic, etc.

I propose to convert the complete palm oil to methyl ester or to the free acid, crystallize the saturated ester or acid, then recreate triglycerides with the unsaturated acids mainly. The resulting oil nears the composition of high-oleic sunflower oil: 10% saturated, 83% monounsaturated, 4% polyunsaturated acids, etc.
  Palm oil (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_oil) - Sunflower oil (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunflower_oil) - Vegetable oil (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetable_oil) at wiki

Palm oil is already fractionated, but acids mixed in triglycerids hamper the operation. Methyl esters or free acids must separate far better. The operation looks cheaper than introducing cis double bonds.

The fraction of saturated ester or acid not used as food is good enough for biodiesel, biokerosene, soaps.

Whaddyouthink?

Marc Schaefer, aka Enthalpy
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on March 20, 2022, 07:27:42 AM
[...] French Guyana would produce rice. Neighbouring Suriname was a huge rice producer before the civil war. [...]

The rice production of Suriname peaked at disappointing 300kt/year long ago. Several harvests per year can increase the production quickly, and French Guyana could produce as much too. Interesting operation for the Guyanas, but this won't compensate the mean 28MT/year wheat produced in Ukraine.
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on March 20, 2022, 07:56:13 PM
If we were to believe this newspaper article, Australia has harvested exceptionally much wheat but can't export it for lack of ports
  aljazeera (https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2022/3/10/as-wheat-prices-soar-australian-farmers-step-up-to-the-plate)
Such a sub-detail stopping a group of hungry Sapiens sapiens is absurd. And it's a multi-G$ matter. Let's have a look.

The multi-lane West Gate Bridge in Melbourne accommodates cargo ships of decent size. So does the Sydney harbour bridge. Both cities serve the Murray-Darling basin
  wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray%E2%80%93Darling_basin)
At the slow lane of each direction, replace a bridge deck element by a metal grid. Trucks dump their load through the grid in the cargo ship below, ¡Olé!

Dedicate one lane pair to the operation, say during nighttime. Each truck shall dump 25t wheat (surely Australian trucks are bigger) in 1mn. In 10h, a cargo is filled with 30 000 t wheat. 300 cargo ship rotations carry 9Mt away in a year. Does this match the missing capacity? There can be more grids in a lane (with funnels and pipes if needed), more lanes used to dump wheat, more bridges. Trucks can be bigger and dump several trailers simultaneously. If a bridge fits, a train can do the same.

Marc Schaefer, aka Enthalpy
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on March 23, 2022, 10:48:16 AM
[...] crystallize the saturated ester or acid, then recreate triglycerides with the unsaturated acids [...]

Here are phase change temperatures for the main acids of palm oil. As expected:
Nist gives melting points and atmospheric boiling points for the methyl esters
  tsapps.nist.gov (https://tsapps.nist.gov/publication/get_pdf.cfm?pub_id=904983)

mp °C   bp °C      Methyl
=============================
+38     361        Stearate
+28     332        Palmitate
=============================
-20     344        Oleate
-43     346        Linoleate
=============================
mp °C   bp °C      Methyl


Nist gives the melting points of the fatty acids
  Stearic (https://webbook.nist.gov/cgi/cbook.cgi?ID=C57114&Type=TFREEZE) - Palmitic (https://webbook.nist.gov/cgi/cbook.cgi?ID=C57103&Mask=4) - Oleic (https://webbook.nist.gov/cgi/cbook.cgi?ID=C112801&Mask=4) - Linoleic (https://webbook.nist.gov/cgi/cbook.cgi?ID=C60333&Mask=4)
while the database of the Mpbpvp software brings the experimental atmospheric boiling points.

mp °C   bp °C      Acid
============================
+68     383        Stearic
+62     352        Palmitic
============================
+16     360        Oleic
 -7     365        Linoleic
============================
mp °C   bp °C      Acid


A double bond lowers the melting point by 50K at the acids too, and the separation temperature seems cheaper.

This separation between healthy edible oil and fuel should be done all time, not just when lacking sunflower and corn oil.
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on March 23, 2022, 08:11:15 PM
[...] grow cereals for human consumption on the best lands and send the cattle pasture grass on the bad lands. [...]

Maybe some cattle could pasture in the mountains again? Spain has unused moutain area, Italy and Portugal a bit too. France has underused land in the centre-South.

An other way to eat less meat, feed less cattle, keep their vegetables or fields for human consumption? Eat more vegan dishes. Presently in rich Europe, vegan dishes are slightly more expensive than meat, but this can change if people buy vegan more often. These dishes are made from wheat and soja proteins, hopefully a kg of vegan dish uses fewer kg vegetables to produce than a kg meat, and the leftovers are usable too.

Laboratories grow meat with no animal. This shall produce the same animal proteins using less vegetables. Still not marketed to my knowledge.

In the EU, fallow fields will be cultivated
  n-tv.de (https://www.n-tv.de/wirtschaft/EU-will-Lebensmittelproduktion-ankurbeln-article23218434.html)
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on April 16, 2022, 04:46:22 AM
I propose to convert the complete palm oil to methyl ester or to the free acid, crystallize the saturated ester or acid, then recreate triglycerides with the unsaturated acids mainly.

The same process can extract healthy unsaturated oils from coconut oil and animal fats.
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on April 19, 2022, 04:31:45 AM
This year I see very few bees where I live in temperate Europe. Or is it a bit early?

US farmers pay beekeepers to bring hives near to the fields. Possibly an example to copy.
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on April 19, 2022, 11:05:58 AM
I propose to convert the complete palm oil to methyl ester or to the free acid, crystallize the saturated ester or acid, then recreate triglycerides with the unsaturated acids mainly.

Extract healthy unsaturated oil from milk.

Today maize oil was again available. 4€ for 1L in a glass bottle, ouch. As expensive as olive oil.

The same process can yield polyunsaturated oil from banal oil. Take canola oil, adjust the composition to lineseed, walnut oil... That may bring money. The leftover is still a healthy cooking oil, similar to sunflower or peanut oil, that resists heat better.
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on May 11, 2022, 07:29:37 AM
Still very few bees where I live. Very few wasps too. Very few butterflies. Their flowers were ready.
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on May 18, 2022, 03:28:42 PM
As neighbours confirm we lack insects this year, and studies confirm pollination increases the yield of sunflowers and rapeseed, I wonder if we might build
small autonomous airships to pollinate the fields.

The operation is long, hence the airship to fly for hours. Hobbyists fly already models. Weeks of work need autonomous operation, possibly several airships per field.

How to pollinate is unclear to me.
Lack of knowledge stops me here. Someone shall complete the draft if meaningful.

Marc Schaefer, aka Enthalpy
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on May 28, 2022, 12:07:05 PM
Boats can't enter ports on the Azov and Black sea ports presently to bring the 2021 Ukrainian harvest to countries in need, and the 2022 harvest may even lack storage room. Russia uses it as an indecent blackmail to Nato countries.

The Danube could transport the crop. If one convoy of barges carries 3000t, then 30 convoys a day over 80 days transport 7 200 000 t, a big fraction of the harvest. But only if enough barges are available, if (improvised) loading means suffice, and if the crop reaches the Danube in Bessarabia or Romania. The Russians blew a strategic bridge leading there. Improvise floating bridges?

Trains too would suffice... One four-axle wagon carries 60t, a train of 50 wagons carries 3000t, again 30 trains a day over 80 days transport 7 200 000 t. If the (improvised) loading means suffice, and if railways can operate.

The track width in Ukraine differs from some other countries. Spanish companies have quick solutions for that. Can they provide existing or purpose-built hardware?
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on May 29, 2022, 06:01:47 PM
The appended drawing illustrates how very little improvised equipment lets trucks load a barge on the Danube if the ports don't suffice. Or drop the load from a bridge or a pontoon where available.

I drew a tipper, but other types of trucks may fit crop better. Maybe geotextiles keep the crop clean and dry.

Many location operating in parallel provide the throughput, and also the needed redundancy, since nobody should expect help from the Russians.

Similar equipment might let cross the rivers in Bessarabia, with redundancy of course.

==========

Ukraine uses the Russian track width while all friendly neighbours use essentially the normal width, as shows the appended map pinched from Wiki
  wikipedia (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5d/Rail_gauge_world.svg)
Moldova is the only exception and can lead indirectly to the seas.

Though, one railway line in Poland and two in Slovakia use the Russian track width and connect with Ukraine
  wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linia_Hutnicza_Szerokotorowa) - wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uzhhorod%E2%80%93Ko%C5%A1ice_broad-gauge_track) - wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Track_gauge_in_Slovakia)
Operating these lines could be easier than transferring the load between railcars or replacing the axles near the border. At least, the lengthy operations can run in parallel at several locations.

==========

Transporting crop isn't an act of war, so foreign workers and equipment could help that in Ukraine.

Marc Schaefer, aka Enthalpy
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on June 02, 2022, 03:14:57 PM
[...] nobody should expect help from the Russians [...]

Russia bombed yesterday a tunnel of the railway line to Lviv because it served to introduce weapons in Ukraine.

The consumes long-range guided weapons. How many does Russia still have despite the embargo on chips? 50, 100? More barge loading equipment and floating bridges can be built than that.

I put estimates to export 7.2Mt crop from Ukraine. The present wheat stock is rather 20Mt. Just scale up all figures until this summer to free up storage room. The next harvest leaves more time for transport.
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on June 09, 2022, 09:42:44 AM
maple syrup contains 2/3 sucrose. Mainly Acer saccharum, nigrum and rubrum, present in North America, let produce 0.08Mt/year, or just 0.05Mt/year sucrose
  wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maple_syrup) - quebec.ca (https://www.quebec.ca/agriculture-environnement-et-ressources-naturelles/agriculture/industrie-agricole-au-quebec/productions-agricoles/production-sirop-erable-acericulture) - thecanadianencyclopedia.ca (https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/fr/article/acericulture)
far from the 70Mt/year crop from Ukraine. But could the production increase?

1hm2 sugar maple produces 250L syrup or 170kg sugar. The species extend over 1 000 000 km2 in the wild. Imagine they make 1/20 of the area (do they?) of which 1/5 is reasonably accessible. Tapping the forests makes potentially 0.17Mt/year. If the bitter taste is removed, sap can be harvested over a longer period to produce 0.5-1Mt/year more sucrose. Nothing brilliant, but this feeds 20M people more.

==========

Or could the fat Europeans and North Americans ingest less sugar and ship it instead to hungry people? Where I live, mustard, chilli, saffron and tomato sauces contain sugar, yuk, and even guacamole did recently. Germans swallow 32kg/year, 3.5× the maximum recommended by WHO, and get sick from it. Much comes from soft drinks that contain 2× as much sugar as in the UK.
  de.statista.com (https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/175483/umfrage/pro-kopf-verbrauch-von-zucker-in-deutschland/) - test.de (https://www.test.de/Fanta-Sprite-Co-Warum-der-Zuckergehalt-von-Softdrinks-je-nach-Land-variiert-5473595-0/)
Imagine that the consumption shrinks to 25kg/year just from receipe changes, that's 0.5Mt/year for Germany alone, let's say 1.5Mt/year for the EU, as much for North America, and sugar has more feeding value than the same mass of wheat. We can be healthier and save 3Mt/year sugar to feed 80M people more.

Marc Schaefer, aka Enthalpy
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on June 11, 2022, 05:40:19 AM
Could road trains help move crop out of Ukraine, alone or combined with railways and boats? Trials were conducted in Europe.
  wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_train) - pistenkuh.de (https://pistenkuh.de/reisen/australien/roadtrains-in-australien/) - mercedes-benz-trucks.com (https://roadstars.mercedes-benz-trucks.com/de_CH/magazine/transport/02-2018/on-the-road-for-abs-transport-in-outback-with-actros-road-train.html)
Difficulties exist.

Drivers must be hired or trained. Other road users must be aware of such trains. Law in Ukraine, Moldova, the EU may need updates.

The tractor units available here seem strong enough, but Europe lacks the trailers used in Australia, North America and Argentina. If European companies build them, then rather near to the customers, but at least the drawings exist. Or the trailers must be rented and brought quickly from other continents
  wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_C-17_Globemaster_III) - wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airbus_A400M_Atlas)
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on June 24, 2022, 11:42:08 AM
Camels and kangaroos in Australia compete with human activities and are culled but not always eaten. Alas, they would feed few humans.

Over 300k Australian camels, 30k/year could be taken
  wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_feral_camel) - wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dromedary) - wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel#Meat)
if each provides 150kg meat, they feed 30 000 humans only. Elsewhere, 3.3M camels are slaughtered yearly for meat.

40M kangaroos bear maybe the removal of 0.8M/year
  wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangaroo) - wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangaroo_meat)
if each provides 25kg meat, they feed 1M humans only.

Removing mostly the males and targeting an optimum age may double these figures.
Title: Re: Produce More Food?
Post by: Enthalpy on October 04, 2022, 08:10:18 AM
Up to last year, natural gas made fertilizers over hydrogen, ammonia, then urea. In short, 1/4 of our food is natural gas.

Good news, Nigeria will sell the C3-C4 fraction obtained from wells instead of torching it
  aljazeera.com (https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2022/10/3/nigeria-to-award-flared-gas-contracts-by-end-of-2022)
These gases too can provide hydrogen for fertilizers. This depends competing uses.

Also: the conversion of formerly cheap methane to hydrogen burned the rests, but proven reactions convert the rest to valuable liquid fuels.
  chemicalforums (http://www.chemicalforums.com/index.php?topic=96676.0)
This applies to the C3-C4 fraction too.

Research papers propose biological means to fertilize the fields, mostly to inject nitrogen compounds. I can't assess how cheap and efficiently, but this would free agriculture from fossil fuels. I instinctively disbelieve that hydrogen from electricity is cheap enough for fertilizers. But two decades ago, I believed natural gas would stay cheaper than solar electricity: wrong.