There is certainly more to farming than food gathering. The relevance of farming to human and material mobility among other socioeconomic activities is not lost to the pastoral age, although as ages have outwitted ages you can now hardly imagine yourself cruising your own space on the most adorned string of horses. You certainly don’t want to take that trip sitting aloft a she-camel like the Bedouin of the Islamic golden age would have had to. Rather, you cannot resist the luxury and thrill of the modern automobiles and the comfy and swiftness of the aircrafts as they pierce the ether. These machines, unlike the animals, do not run on blood and bones but on fuel and wheels, thus, they excite less pitiful affections in their riders; they can even travel faster and farther and can be more durable and dependable. All that you need to run these machines are apposite quantum of fuel or gas and perhaps a little more advanced set of skills to maneuver them.
However, since the first oil well was built by Conollel Edwin Drake in 1859 in Pennsylvania and the ensuing proliferation of fuel-powered machines, illumined minds had begun a thorough search for alternatives to petroleum, petrochemicals and natural gas as propellant and source of energy to the rapidly advancing technologies. In mid-19th century, much attention was given to farm wastes as a potential source of energy. It was realized that rather than being abandoned to rot away or used to create fire hazards, fallen trees and wood wastes could actually be used to create jet fuels among other types of biofuels. Any fuel derived from renewable biological source especially biomass is termed biofuel.
Biofuel is produced from various types of biomass using modern technologies as against the slow geological processes that create fossil fuels. When the long polymers that comprise biomass are broken, they form hydrocarbons which are the smaller molecules that comprise oil, coal and natural gas. The breakdown naturally happens due to heat and pressure that build up when layers of dead plants pile over each other for a very long time. This process can be facilitated in part by modern engineering as some technologies model the heat-and-pressure process in industrial settings; some use enzymes to break down biomass while others experiment with a microbial breakdown process which uses microorganisms to convert certain wastes into biofuels.
The first commercial breakthrough in biofuel production was probably in 1900s when Henry Ford took on mass production of biofuel cars starting with the 1908 model T-ford and owned his own ethanol plants. Consequently, about 25 percent of the fuel sold at the spot market was derived from farm wastes.
Currently, several Airlines are experimenting with biofuels made from various sources and technologies. From the United States to South Africa, several hundreds of passengers of the world’s Airlines have already flown on jets fueled by plants. In 2016, the South African Airline used tobaccos petroleum fuel blend on two test flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town, carrying about 300 passengers. Success recorded informed the Airline’s decision to give more precedence to tobacco oil plants in the future. More so, the Swedish city of Kristianstad now uses biogas to generate electricity and heat and fuel cars and municipal garbage trucks and buses.
Developing interests in biofuels and biogas is also partly influenced by the need to resolve the world’s pollution problem and woes of climate change. About half of the world’s Carbon monoxide emission come from machines powered by conventional fuel including; Liquified natural petroleum, liquified natural gas, Premium motor spirit etc. However, biodiesel and bioethanol help to control global warming by cutting the emission of carbon dioxide from cars. Biofuels limit pollution emission since they contain no lead, has only a small amount of Sulphur and high oxygen content. With this in perspective, the Swedish government made a policy geared towards the reduction of fossil fuel and the promotion of the use of renewable energy sources through tax rebates on biofuel cars. It was passed into law that 25 percent of the Swedish car purchases (excluding police, fire and ambulance vehicles) must be alternative fuel vehicles. Thus, by January 2008 there was rapid sales of flexible-fuel cars representing 25 percent of new car sales. More so, JetBlues of the New York’s JFK airport pledged to use approximately 375 million liters of biofuels sourced from natural oils that do not compete with food supply to facilitate at least 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, compared to conventional jet fuel. After developing a new technology that converts carbon monoxide emissions from steal plants into ethanol via proprietary microorganisms, Lanza Tech was eyed by several airlines, principal among which was the British Virgin Atlantic. It’s estimated that one gallon of Lanza Tech’s ethanol generates half a gallon of jet fuel, which Virgin Atlantic hopes to use to reduce its carbon emissions by up to 65 percent.
FarmKonnect Nigeria, a nascent agro-based company in Nigeria and one of the leading producers of catfish in Africa has taken a bold step to join the league of contributors to the world biofuel reservoir through its Waasimi Vegetable city (Wave-city) project — a self-sustaining 10,000 greenhouse initiative situated at Waasimi in Osun state Nigeria. The project which aims to promote food security and to empower many individuals in Nigeria is strategically structured to encompass other complementary farming activities, such as, poultry, fish and insect farming in order to facilitate the sustainability of the farm through comprehensive food and energy circle, such that the insects provide proteins to the poultry and fishes; the poultry wastes serve as manure to the greenhouses and food wastes from the greenhouses serve partly to generate renewable energy to power the farms and partly to make the company stand out as a potential partner of Nigeria’s oil sector and transportation industries.
Nigeria, and Africa at large, has apparently underutilized her capacity in biofuel generation. But as Farmkonnect Nigeria continues to work assiduously to expand in scope, you might conveniently cruise your space on techs powered by veggie wastes.
Lina Zeldovich. July 9, 2019. Will You Ever fly in a Plane Propelled by Plants and Seeds? Https://daily.JSTOR.org
Biofuel cars. Alternative energy. Https://www.citroen.co.uk/alternative energy
Biofuel in Sweden. Https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biofuel in Sweden