Robin writes:

Various items

Atmospheric CO2 ain’t 300 ppm anymore.

Whale oil for indoor lighting was replaced by petroleum. Incandescent electrical lighting came later.
“Whale oil was used as a cheap illuminant, though it gave off a strong odor when burnt and was not very popular.[14] It was replaced in the late 19th century by cheaper, more efficient and longer lasting kerosene.[15]”

Planting more trees will not solve the atmospheric CO2 problem. Various other gaseous pollutants promote low-altitude ozone formation: ozone is toxic to plants. Trees are dying wholesale worldwide faster than they can be replanted and regrown.

The rest of the Wit’s End blog is also pretty good for discussion and pictures of the devastation.

What we see is what chlorophyll does not need. What it needs, it absorbs. What it doesn’t need, it reflects. Green.

Humans did not so much gain skin melanin as they lost it. And that’s because we need light.

The increase in atmospheric CO2 will take several millennia to reverse.
“Although individual CO2 molecules have a short residence time in the atmosphere, it takes an extremely long time for carbon dioxide levels to sink after sudden rises, due to e.g. volcanic eruptions or human activity[10] and among the many long-lasting greenhouse gases,”

A simpler way of putting it:
“As University of Washington scientist David Archer explains, this “long tail” of absorption means that the mean lifetime of the pulse attributable to anthropogenic emissions is around 30,000 to 35,000 years.”

Matt writes:

Professors Despommier and Racaniello,
I have been a long-time listener to your growing catalog of podcasts. As the only virologist, the only person really interested in infectious diseases, and one of only a few members of the faculty interested in basic research in a commodity department (Prestage Department of Poultry Science, NC State), TWIV and TWIM (just not enough hrs in a day to do TWIP too) has been one of the tools I used to stay engaged in with other virologist/microbiologist on a regular basis. Even if it is a somewhat one sided dialog.

Most of my departmental colleagues focus on physiology, reproduction, or nutrition; and by extension most of the students (outside of my group) don’t have an appreciation for the “wee beasties” that can affect them or the animals they are producing. Conversely, like you discussed in episode 2, most others don’t really know where they food comes from or how much of our socio-economic system is dependent on it.

To try and bridge this gap between I’ve created a course here at NC State on Agrosecurity. The course discusses the pros and cons of our current food system, vulnerabilities of the system to intentional, accidental, or acts of god. The class website is in need of major updating, but if you’re interested the course twitter page is @Agrosecurity411.

SO, when I got your tweet last week about this new podcast venture I was really interested. I’ve made it through episode 1 and 1/2 way through #2 but wanted to send you a couple of comments while I had the chance.

1st. I think it is excellent that you are tackling these issues. Good on you both! The more people in the conversation the better. I especially like the way you’re discussing this important issue but at the same time giving people a window in on how much science today is based on agriculture. I argue with my friends/colleagues at medical schools all the time that while they are seen as the vanguard of research today, most, if not all of the technologies their science is based on was discovered first in or created for Ag research. Just using the humble chicken model as an example… B-cells, graft v host, viruses that cause tumors (MDV), vaccines to control cancer, oncogenes, retroviruses, amino acid synthesis pathways (actually I think that was a pigeon, and while often call rat with wings, its closer to chickens so I’ll claim it too).

2nd. Perhaps this comes up later in episode 2, but I’ve been surprised in your discussion of the different “green revolutions” that you haven’t mentioned Norman Borlaug. That can’t be an oversight?

3rd. Some suggestions for your picks.
-The Alchemy of Air ( Dynamite book (pun intended). I think his other book “Demon Under the Microscope” was a pick on TWIV years ago, but I’m not sure. If not given the link between these 2 topics this is also a good one for the collective TWIV, TWIP, TWIM, UrbanAg crowd.

-This takes things in a little different direction than you’re headed, but I’d like to make you aware of this site I think one of the keys to sustainable food production is making the more decentralized systems, like Urban Ag, financially viable and one of the best ways is for us to recognize the other value added components of Ag systems. If we can make breakfast and cure cancer at the same time….

Finally, I’m sorry for the long email. This was just going to be a short note and quickly turned into a Thesis, so I’ll cut myself off here and close by saying…. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this podcast develops and expecting a fun ride through lots of interesting historical and controversial topics. Hopefully Urban Ag garners the following the other podcasts have gotten. If not, I’d be happy to just have regularly scheduled conference calls 🙂

All the best,

Bill writes:

Dixon, Vincent,

Affinor plans to use Nick Brusatore as spokesman etc. etc etc. There is a lot of ballyhoo in the recently legalized production and sale of medical marijuana. Most are salivating at getting $6000 per pound for something that costs $5 a pound to grow in fields in Mexico. Time will tell, but capitalism being what it is, the illegal crop will simply drop in price, and since the buyers are buying with their own scarce $$, they will buy it and all these guys with their schemes of $6000 per pound will wither.
That said, it might build a vertical farm? If anything, it can be on 20 foot pilings = easy to defend?/


Press release follows.


Affinor Appoints A World Leader in Vertical Farming Technology to
Become Company Spokesperson, Nominates Nick Brusatore to Executive
Advisory Board

MONTREAL, CANADA–(April 14, 2014) – Affinor Resources Inc. (the
“Company”) (CSE:AFI) is pleased to announce the appointment of Nick
Brusatore to it’s Advisory Board of Directors.

Nick Brusatore is known globally for being a top designer and leader
in vertical farming technology. He was the Chairman of the Applied
Research Committee for BCIT for several years and was nominated for
the AGRI Award of Excellence for Canada in 2012. Nick was a keynote
speaker at the International Conference on Marijuana in New York City
and the moderator in San Francisco and regularly sits on discussion
panels as an expert in this industry.

Nick is the original designer of Terrasphere Systems started in 2001
and currently the major shareholder and designer of Vertical Designs
Ltd started in 2010. Nick brings over 14 years experience in AGRI
Designs, plant physiology and the manipulation of metabolic pathways
to achieve organic chemistry. No current expert or company compares to
Brusatore or his ability. It will be hard to compete with the quality
and depth of knowledge to automate, industrialize and drive the
marijuana markets in Canada and the USA.

Nick recently worked in the Biotech sector growing transgenic Tobacco
for a large pharmaceutical giant as well as transgenic Safflower to
create insulin’s for medical use along with sitting on the board of
Abattis Biocueticals as a director for one year. Nick was instrumental
in helping strategize and positioning ATT with his connections to in
the public markets and installing COO and CFO for the company’s
meteoric success.

Under the Affinor agreement, the Company is immediately issuing Nick
Brusatore ten million shares to prepare and execute the business model
and financial plan required for the full scale, mass production of
marijuana for medical purposes. Nick Brusatore will also receive an
additional five million shares when the Company is granted it’s
license for production. With an LP in it’s final stages of
application, Brusatore will set up the production facility that,
subject to regulatory approval, will immediately begin producing the
highest quality product using his incredibly low cost efficiency
model. The Company has granted one million incentive stock options to
Mr. Brusatore to purchase common shares of the company. The options
are exercisable on or before April 14, 2019 at an exercise price of
$0.25 per share. Affinor has agreed to release a ten percent finder’s
fee, payable in shares, subject to regulatory approval, to Michael
Flowerdew for facilitating the agreement with Nick Brusatore.

Sébastien Plouffe, President & CEO, comments: “We are extremely proud
to have concluded our agreement with Nick as we believe he is
definitely the best in his field. He will add tremendous credibility
and unique knowledge to Affinor in helping us to achieve our goal of
becoming the leader in the Medical Marijuana and Industrial Hemp
industry. Nick has already shown amazing dedication during his
collaboration with Affinor. Nick and his private company Vertical
Designs Ltd. bought more than ten percent of Affinor on the open
market, which shows a huge commitment and his interest in building
Affinor as a leading company. I just want to say thank you to Nick for
getting so heavily involved with Affinor. I believe the time is now to
do this and with Nick involved, we will achieve our goal for the good
of our shareholders!”

About Affinor Resources Inc.

Affinor Resources is a diversified publicly traded company on the
Canadian Securities Exchange under the symbol (“AFI”). Affinor is
focused on the Medical Marijuana industry within North America.
Affinor also has a Mineral Exploration division. Affinor is currently
working towards becoming a premier Canadian Medical Marijuana and
Industrial Hemp company by consolidating fragmented medical marijuana
grower facilities and bringing industry expertise to its advisory

On Behalf of the Board of Directors


“Sebastien Plouffe”

President & CEO

Affinor Resources Inc

Juanjo writes:

Dear Dickson and Vicent,
it was a nice surprise to find out that your new podcast series will be focussing in Agriculture (urban version). As a plant virologist with a background in agricultural engineering, I have been following with interest the TWix series during several years, but most certainly this new one will become one of my future favorites. Indeed, the list of topics that you will be dealing with in the next releases is a promise for both education and entertainment. Thanks again for all your work to communicate great science to a broad audience.

While listening to the first episodes, I remembered a paper by Adrian Gibbs and colleagues that highlights a reasonable time coincidence between the origin of agricultural activities and the expansion of certain type of viral pathogens of plants, potyviruses (with 146 known members, according to the latest report of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses). The example illustrates from a different perspective the deep impact of Agriculture in aspects like the evolution of pathogens. Since the paper is open-access, perhaps it can be used as a “listener pick”. Here is the link:

The prehistory of potyviruses: their initial radiation was during the dawn of agriculture.
Gibbs AJ, Ohshima K, Phillips MJ, Gibbs MJ.
PLoS One. 2008 Jun 25;3(6):e2523. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002523.
PMID: 18575612 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] Free PMC Article

With my best wishes for a successful voyage of the podcast.
Kind regards,


Juan Jose Lopez-Moya
CRAG, Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics, CSIC-IRTA-UAB-UB
Campus UAB Bellaterra, Cerdanyola del Valles
Barcelona, Spain

Robin writes:

Using ethanol for internal combustion engines gives an ERoEI of about 1, or perhaps even negative.

Diesel engines ARE internal combustion engines. Diesel engines have ignition from the heat generated by compression of the gas instead of by a spark plug.

External compression engines burn fuel outside the piston cylinders.

“What we need we make”:
That is how we defeat limits on population growth, until hard limits are reached.

Haber was the Steve Wozniak or Paul Allen (tech guy), and Bosch was the Steve Jobs or the Bill Gates (business guy). That’s why we have Bosch still tools and spark plugs.

Explosive nitrogenous compounds are explosive because they contain enough oxygen atoms carried by the nitrogen to oxidise the carbon atoms within the same molecule. There is no need for oxygen from outside the molecule to effect enough oxidation of the carbon to release most of the possible energy from the molecule.

Urea is CO(NH2). There is only one atom of oxygen in the molecule, and it is already attached to the carbon atom.

Sooners: those born sooner than nine months after a marriage.