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ISIS Report 24/07/06
Dream Farm 2 - Story So Far
A potted history of Dream Farm 2, its conceptual underpinnings and update
with a potential site in mind. Dr.
A fully referenced
version of this paper is posted on ISIS members’ website. Membership details
What is Dream Farm 2?
Many people have asked what exactly is Dream Farm 2.
There are several answers. First of all, Dream
Farm 2 is a model of an integrated, ‘zero-emission’, ‘zero-waste’ highly productive
farm that maximises the use of renewable energies and turns ‘wastes’ into
food and energy resources, thereby completely obviating the need for fossil
fuels. It is our answer to the energy crisis and climate change, and more.
It is a microcosm of a different way of being and becoming in the world, and
in that respect, nothing short of a social revolution.
In a way, I have dedicated
the past 20 years to developing the idea, and trying to live up to it.
details are in my book , The Rainbow and the Worm - The Physics
of Organisms 2nd Edition , published in 1998, and reprinted several times since. The
book presented a theory of the organism that captures the essence of Dream
Farm 2 and the kind of social and spiritual revolution it entails.
I also proposed that we could look at sustainable systems as organisms.
I had actually discovered
Gunther Pauli’s ‘zero-emission’ work, if only peripherally, and had cited
it in a paragraph at the end of the final chapter of another book, first published
also in 1998, Genetic Engineering
Dream or Nightmare  where I argued that we need a deep and sustained
change of direction in all spheres of life before the dream of solving all
the world’s problems by genetic engineering turns into a nightmare. But the
full significance of Pauli’s work had not dawned on me until much later.
Sometime during the Christmas break of 2004, a letter
from theoretical ecologist Robert Ulanowicz at the University or Maryland
turned up on my desk; only it was sent six months earlier. I had put it aside
as ‘very important’ and forgotten about it. I e-mailed him at once, expressing
abject apology, and lucky me! We ended up writing a paper together, which
took the idea of Sustainable Systems
as Organisms into ecology . Our paper was published in May 2005. So
when I discovered George Chan’s Integrated Food and Waste Management System,
its connection with my own work struck home; and soon afterwards, I saw how
to extend my theory of sustainable systems as organisms to include growth
and development explicitly, which until then, it did not.
By July 2005, I had met waste-treatment engineer and town planner Kenneth Spelman
who came to the Sustainable World First International Conference  (Sustainable World Coming,
SiS 27) organised by ISIS. Kenneth has an extraordinarily long string
of titles following his name, revealed when he handed me his card at the conference
In August 2005, I made contact
with George Chan, to tell him we need something like his IFWMS in Britain,
and could he help? He said to me, “Get me a good engineer.” So I picked up
the phone and got Kenneth, who said, “What a good idea!” And that was the
start of what later became Dream Farm 2.
But let me backtrack just a little to explain the idea of looking at sustainable
systems as organisms.
Sustainable systems as organisms
the ‘zero-waste’ or ‘zero-entropy’ model of the organism and sustainable systems
predicts balanced development
and growth at every stage, as opposed to the dominant model of infinite, unsustainable
growth. This immediately disposes of the myth that the alternative to the
dominant model is to have no development or growth at all, and that is how
most critics of the dominant model see it, including the New Economics Foundation,
for example, which sees itself as very radical .
The dominant model of infinite
competitive growth can be represented as the bigger fish swallowing the smaller
ad infinitum (Fig. 1), and it
describes equally how a person should behave and how a company should develop
in order to be successful.
Figure 1. Big fish swallows small
fish swallows little fish
A person grows at the expense
of other people; a company grows by taking over other companies, laying waste
to the earth’s resources in the meantime. There is no closed cycle to hold
resources within, to build up stable organised social or ecological structures.
Not surprisingly, this is totally unsustainable, which is why we are faced
with global warming and the energy crisis.
In contrast, the
archetype of a sustainable system is a closed lifecycle, like that of an organism,
it is ready to grow and develop, to build up structures in a balanced way
and perpetuate them, and that’s what sustainability is all about. Closing the cycle creates a stable, autonomous structure
that is self-maintaining, self-renewing
In order to do that,
you need to satisfy as much as possible the zero-entropy or zero-waste ideal
(Fig. 2). We tend towards that ideal, which is why we don’t fall apart, and
grow old only very slowly. If we were perfect, you realise,
we’d never grow old. The secret is described in my book, the Rainbow Worm, so you better read it.
Figure 2. The zero-entropy ideal
of a sustainable system
This diagram says
no waste or disorganisation (entropy) accumulates in the system. Even the
waste (entropy) exported to the outside is minimised towards zero in a healthy
balanced system. The more we approach that ideal, the better the system can
develop and grow, and remain young and vibrant.
The system’s cycle contains
more cycles within that are interlocked to help one another thrive and prosper.
The minimum integrated farm has the farmer, livestock and crops. They work
by reciprocity and devolved autonomy.
The farmer prepares
the ground to sow the seeds for the crops to grow that feed the livestock
and the farmer; the livestock returns manure to feed the crops. Very little
is wasted or exported to the environment. In fact, a high proportion of the
resources are recycled and kept inside the system. The system stores energy
as well as material resources such as carbon. The extra carbon is sequestered
in the soil as the soil improves, and in the standing biomass of crops and
The farm can perpetuate
itself like that quite successfully and sustainably, or it can grow. Organic
growth is always done in a balanced way by engaging more cycles, units of
devolved autonomy that help one another do better.
the old paradigm, organisms are predominantly seen to compete for resources
and for space. But we’ve got three space dimensions and the time dimension
too. We’ve got space-time that we can fill up more thickly with life cycles
of different sizes that occupy different space-times. That is exactly what
organisms in a naturally biodiverse ecosystem do to maximise the reciprocal,
symbiotic relationships that benefit all the species. So you can add fish,
algae, poultry, worms, mushrooms, etc., turning the ‘waste’ from one cycle
to resource for another.
more lifecycles incorporated, the more energy and standing biomass are stored
within the system, and the more productive the farm. It will also support
more farmers or farm workers.
biodiversity always go together
in a sustainable system, as generations of farmers have known, and recent
academic researchers have rediscovered. It is also the most energy efficient.
Why? Because the different life cycles are essentially holding the energy
for the whole system by way of reciprocity, keeping as much as possible and
recycling it within the system.
in contrast, is the least energy efficient in terms of output per unit of
input, and often less productive in absolute terms despite high external inputs,
because it does not close the cycle, it does not have biodiversity to hold
the energy within, and it ends generating a lot of waste and entropy and depleting
Actually the lifecycles
are not so neatly separated, they are linked by many inputs and outputs.
As one cycle winds down
another winds up, and vice versa
later on. This kind of reciprocity is operating all the time in our body as
in a sustainable system, which is why energy and materials stay stored for
It is my belief that organisation and societies that
encourage devolved autonomy, reciprocity and synergy would be much more effective
and creative than those that emphasize competitiveness and control. They’ll
be far happier too. But that’s the ideal people including myself have to try
live up to constantly, and it is well worth it.
Dream Farm 1
I have dubbed George Chan’s
IFWMS, Dream Farms
 in an article published in last autumn’s issue of our magazine
Science in Society. So lets
call it Dream Farm 1.
For those who don’t
already know, the biogas digester is the key technology for developing the
minimum IFWMS. The biogas digester provides an anaerobic environment for bacteria
present in livestock waste to ferment the biological material, first into
acids and alcohols, which are then turned into methane by methane producing
bacteria. Anaerobic digestion prevents methane as well as volatile nitrogen
from escaping; thereby saving strong greenhouse gas emissions and nutrients
that otherwise would have been lost to the farm only to pollute the environment.
The waste water from the biogas digester with dissolved nutrients and remaining
pollutants then goes through aerobic digestion, where the algae produce all
the oxygen needed to detoxify the pollutants so the purified water with nutrients
can go into the fishponds without killing the fish. The nutrients encourage
plankton to grow to feed the fish, and the water in the fishponds containing
fish-waste nutrients can be used to fertigate crops growing on the dykes or
in the fields. You can also grow crops in floats on the fishponds. Worms,
poultry, mushrooms can all be integrated into the core system. The biogas
harvested is 60 percent or more of methane (the rest carbon dioxide), and
can be used directly as cooking fuel, or for generating heat and electricity.
The advantages of
anaerobic digestion of organic wastes to recover methane  (see Box ) (How to be Fuel and Food Rich under
Climate Change, this issue) are far greater than other “energy
from waste” technologies, the worst of which is probably incineration.
Advantages of anaerobic
digestion to recover methane
- Potential to provide 11.7 percent of all energy needs or 50.2 percent of
transport fuels in the UK
- Methane can be used as fuel for mobile vehicles or for combined heat and
- Methane-driven cars area already on the market, and currently the cleanest
vehicles on the road by far
- Biogas methane is a renewable and carbon mitigating fuel (more than carbon
- Saves on carbon emission twice over, by preventing the escape of methane
and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere and by substituting for fossil fuel
- Conserves plant nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous for soil productivity
- Produces a superb fertilizer for crops as by-product
- Prevents pollution of ground water, soil, and air
- Improves food and farm hygiene
- Can be adapted to produce hydrogen either directly or from methane
As is already clear
from George’s excellent presentation at Kindersley Centre  described in
my presentation of Dream Farm 2 (Dream Farm II, How to beat climate
change and post fossil-fuel economy, SiS 29), there are many possible implementations of his system
based on locally available resources.
Dream Farm 2 - 2005 and beyond
Kenneth Spelman, distinguished
Chartered Engineer and Environmentalist, Fellow of Royal Town Planning Institute
and numerous other learned institutions, loved the idea of Dream Farm 2 right
away when I explained that to him breathlessly over the phone. And we soon
agreed to put forward a joint application to the UK government funding body,
The Carbon Trust. We misnamed our proposal “Integrated Reduced Emissions Food
and Energy Farm” because we thought we had to have a boring title. But the
more you look at it, the more you realise Dream Farm 2 is not only ‘reduced
emission’ but closer to ‘zero emission’. By incorporating other readily available
renewable energies into the core, the farm can be both energy and food rich
without fossil fuels.
Our Carbon Trust
application failed as people said it would, because they did not think Carbon
Trust would support such proposals. After that, I improved the proposal and
made it public. ISIS invited George Chan over from Mauritius for our first
Dream Farm workshop, where I also launched Dream Farm 2. I wanted everyone
to know about it, and to set up similar farms all over the world that would
be supported by Dream Farm 2 proper.
George has been supporting
our project, and sharing his knowledge and wisdom with a large network of
fans and answering technical questions ever since. He volunteered to return
for the launch of ISIS Which
Energy? Report  at UK parliament  (Which Energy? Gets High Praise At Launch)
and speak to the second Dream Farm workshop in May 2006. Thank you George,
from all of us at ISIS, for your support, which has built up the current enthusiasm
for our Dream Farm 2, and is crucial for its eventual success; your support
is also attracting key people to the now worldwide movement to set up similar
thanks are also due to Peter Rae for volunteering to organise the second and
third Dream Farm 2 workshop (27 May and 15-16 July 2006), to Chris Maltin
of Organic Power for generously hosting both the workshops, and to David Saunders
for publicising the Dream Farm 2 project. Many useful suggestions, ideas and
contacts arose out of the workshops.
‘Dream Farm 2’ proper
is a particular implementation and extension of George Chan’s IFWMS concept,
in that it consciously integrates food and energy production, emphasising
consumption of both at the point of production. While it operates as a farm,
it will also serve as a demonstration, education and research centre and incubator
for new ideas, designs and technologies. Its aim is to promote and support
similar farms springing up all over Britain and the rest of the world not
only through publicity of Dream Farm 2 itself, but also by collating and analysing
data from all similar farms, by acting as resource centre and centre for information
exchange (see Box 2).
Benefits of Dream Farm 2
- Assembles in one showcase all the relevant technologies that can
deliver sustainable food and energy and a profitable zero carbon economy
- Generates all its own energy for heating and electricity, including clean
fuel for transport
- Energy use at the point of production enables combined heat and power generation
improves efficiency by 70 percent
- Runs entirely without fossil fuels
- Saves substantially on carbon dioxide emissions, by preventing methane
and nitrous oxide escaping, by substituting for fossil fuels and by improved
- Increases sequestration of carbon in soil and standing biomass
- Reduces wastes and environmental pollution to a minimum
- Conserves and purifies water and controls flooding
- Produces a diversity of crops, livestock and fish in abundance
- Fresh and nutritious food free from agrochemicals produced and consumed
locally for maximum health benefits
- Provides employment opportunities for the local community
- Provides a showcase and incubator for how appropriate new energy and food
technologies are implemented
- Provides hands-on education and research opportunities at all levels from
infants to university students and beyond
- Supports and promotes similar farms in the UK and all over the world
I have updated the diagram
of the complete model of Dream Farm 2 in Figure 3, which will be implemented
at a potential site now under consideration. The diagram is colour coded to
emphasize the major components: Pink is energy, green is food, blue is water
purification and conservation, black is waste in the common sense of the word,
though in Dream Farm 2, it rapidly becomes transformed into resources for
producing energy or food. Purple is the analytical laboratory on site, which
links to many other labs. We want to be able to do water, gas and soil analyses
on site, to monitor how the system is working. Modelling and forecasting will
be done on site as well.
Figure 3 Dream Farm 2 version 2
Because this is an
organic system in the sense I have described, we don’t have to have all the
elements all at once. We can have a very simple system consisting of biogas
digester, livestock, crops, algae basins without fishponds, as that essentially
does the water purification already and closes the cycle. The algae can be
used to feed livestock, as an alternative to grain or worse, soybeans.
Fishponds can be
added and aquaculture and planting done on the dykes. Willow trees will be
fine. The Chinese sauté willow shoots with almonds and sesame oil, mouth-watering,
isn’t it? Solar power and wind turbines suitably scaled down are relatively
easy and cheap to install, micro-hydroelectricity also. Combined heat and
power generation is well developed. Methane purification and compression for
mobile uses are already up and running, as Chris Maltin has demonstrated 
(Organic Waste-Powered Cars,
SiS 30). All these renewable energy harvesting
would provide enough fuel for cars and farm machinery retrofitted to run on
natural gas, as well as heat for the conservatory with more aquaculture and
warm fishponds, where we can install water harvesting and water purification,
again, based on well-tried technologies. Similarly, we can expand the production
of the farm to poultry and mushrooms, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
aimed at recovering indigenous biodiversity in both plants and animals. And
of course, we have the gourmet restaurant on site to make good use of the
fresh organic produce.
The more experimental
and innovative technologies, for example, hydrogen production either directly
from wastes  (Bug Power, SiS 27) or from methane, fuel cells for combined
heat and power generation, conversion of methane to hydrogen, and using Green
Algae for Carbon Capture  etc., can all be added
on and perfected while the farm is running
and producing, which is very important
Notice that three biogas
digesters are present, connected both in parallel and in series. This is advisable,
because it provides spares in case one is not working properly. It also provides
for the production of both hydrogen and methane in a two-stage digestion process.
I am also suggesting that we include human manure in the biogas digestion,
as well as restaurant wastes. If we set this farm up as a research institute,
and we never export any waste to the outside at all, could we escape the regulatory
hurdle, and better yet, cause DEFRA (Department of the Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs) to change the regulations for such farms?
That’s why we need
the analytical lab facilities, to produce the data to show how pure our water
is, what wonderful detoxification and removal of harmful pathogens is achieved
after anaerobic and aerobic digestion.
Four in one biogas digester
There’s an article on the
web  featuring a project in the northwest of Yunnan Province in
Southern China covering 69 000 square kilometres (the size of Ireland) of
high mountains, deep gorges, and indigenous forest containing some of the
world’s most diverse and threatened plants and animals. The area also contains
the upper reaches of important rivers like the Yantze, Mekong, Salween and
Irrawaddy on which the livelihoods of many millions of people further downstream
About 3.2 million
live in the region, from 15 distinct ethnic groups. The main threats to the
ecology of the region comes from tree cutting mostly for fuel wood, insensitive
tourist activities, unmanaged collection and use of plants and animals, and
over-grazing of animals on grasslands.
The Chinese branch
of the international conservation organisation, The Nature Conservancy, helped
set up the China Rural Energy Enterprise Development programme, working with
local entrepreneurs to develop businesses making, selling and installing fuel-efficient
cooking stoves, fuel briquettes made from crop wastes, and ‘four in one’ biogas
digesters, solar water heaters, solar cookers and micro-hydropower plants.
This ‘four in one’
biogas production incorporates an underground biogas digester, a greenhouse
for growing vegetables, a pigpen and a latrine. The open cover for the digester
is close to the pigpen and latrine. The greenhouse also covers this area,
so it gets heated and this accelerates the fermentation process in the digester.
Human excreta falls directly into the digester from the latrine and a shovel
is used to put the pig waste into the digester.
The biogas digester
is built of concrete, and has a capacity of six to eight cubic metres. This
is sufficient to meet most of the cooking and lighting needs of households,
except when it is too cold. The cost of the four in one system varies from
US$250 to 800, depending on the size of the greenhouse.
The challenge now is to
make Dream Farm 2 a reality, to put flesh on the bare bones of the diagram,
so we can start building the best when the site is agreed. Watch this space.
This article is based on her presentation at Dream Farm 2 workshop 15-16
July 2006, Gould’s Farm, Wincanton, UK.