Victualler Al Maniac
Victualler Al Maniac’s general broadcast
So, ‘Ya Want to be a Farmer?
The first thing to do is sit yourself down on a good, agricultural world. There are plenty of planets where you can work the rocks to get something growing, but the real agricultural worlds? Those are where the soil’s just right and the agri-industry’s in alignment. Sure, ‘ya can force it and put up a farm on Vallis or Gibson - but those worlds are industrial havens where factories and machines have claimed the land - not a good place for things that grow.
You may think putting a farm there could corner the market. You figure the locals would buy from you, instead of at the exchange. But even with shipping costs, it’s still cheaper at the exchange. And if ‘ya try to do it anyways, the farmers from other worlds can still undercut your prices. Trust me, growing crops on a machine-dominated planet will always run up higher costs than on a world dedicated to agriculture.
Yah, the old timers talk about the early days. Shipping was expensive and slow back then. Growing on a manufacturing world was viable because there was no other choice. But today? Nowadays, farmers ship food by the kiloton daily. It’s way cheaper than growing on less ideal worlds.
So why be a farmer then? Well, everyone needs to eat. And people like drinking too. The only thing that farmers can’t make for themselves is clothes - and trust me, you don’t want to see nekkid farmers … though, the cotton that they make into overalls? Yep - we grow that here too.
Being a farmer is simple. Pick your crops, irrigate them well, and wait - and you’ll have the raw foodstuff. Alas, we can’t eat that directly, so that goes over to the food processor where they make it into vittles… or victuals… or rations as they’re more properly called on the station.
Ahh, but if was only that simple. Some worlds are wet. On Promitor and Verdant you can dig a hole and it fills with water - nothing to it. Other worlds like Proxion are so dry that you’d be digging wells all day just to try to get a few drops out to feed to the plants. You’ve got to find the right balance in how you produce those vittles. Nuts vs fruits? Grain vs maize? And how much water? It’s all a thing to balance. You can make it go fast - but then you might need more water. You can make it go slow, but then you might go too slow and those food processors go idle. Do you get water locally? or ship it in?
The Allure of Carbon
Some of you might be tempted by carbon - and rightly so, there are good credits in selling carbon… but don’t forget that ‘ya a farmer, make sure that you feed your workers first. It’s the excess that you grow that you can burn.
No matter what those big wigs say in corporate about “hydrocarbon plants”, grain should be first on the list of things to burn. Those plants are a bit more thirsty than simple grain and if you’re just shoveling them into the incinerator it’s all the same. Now, if you start turning up the temp, then it burns more, and faster and you need those hydrocarbon plants to make it all work right for some reason.
If you’re serious about carbon production, you could be converting an entire kiloplot’s worth of farms into just a handful of efficient incinerators.
But always remember that you’re a farmer first.
The Spicy Life
Those chem wizards can make some DDT in their labs. Pricy stuff, but it can pay well. Use some with a planting and you can grow some “herbs”. They’re a bit on the spicy side, but it can make some good food. You can mix them right in with your vittles, and make some meals with flavor… flavored instant meals they’re called at corporate. They’re not too original when it comes to trying to name things. It’s hard to make ’em and so only those spaceship engineers tend to be able to afford to eat them.
Me? I like my vittles… but if they want to pay that much for some spice in their meals? Sure… credits in my pocket. I’m not one to complain about getting paid. And a little bit goes a long way.
Once your food processors are up and running, you might think about branching into kombucha brewing, a favorite among the settlers. It takes a bit more infrastructure to get it going, so I wouldn’t advise making the fermenting vats too early on. It can take a few farms to keep the vats going with kombucha and leaving them idle can get expensive too.
Stills and More
Some of you may look and see some of those technicians walking around and wonder what they’re doing here… after all, farms and food… and even the burners are all simple pioneer folk.
Well, those techs are in charge of tending the orchards. In the orchards, one can grow hops for ale, grapes for wine, and pineberries for vita essence. And oh, how magnificent those orchards are - enormous structure taking up as much space as four farms!
They don’t need much of it, a little hops can go a long way and one orchard can produce enough for fifty fermenters. Unless you’re going all in on brewing, or want a reliable source of some of the harder to source grapes, think long and hard about putting down an orchard.
Some of you may be wondering about how to grow things where there’s no good fertile patches on the planet. And that’s where hydroponics farms come in. You can grow some things anywhere you want… but with a catch or two.
First, hydroponics farms are thirsty. If you put a few down, you’ll be shipping a lot of water around all the time. Make sure that you’re not spending more on buying water and shipping it than you’re making from the hydroponics product lines.
Those dang metal halide lighting systems constantly need to be repaired - and they’re not cheap either. Make sure that you factor those into the cost of what you’re making too.
So why would anyone build one if they’re so expensive? Because sometimes shipping foodstuffs out to places costs even more. If you’ve got a nice water world and there’s no agriculture around you can make some credits not needing to ship the water all the way to some place someone will buy it when instead you can feed it to the hydroponics and ship more valuable goods to the exchange - or start up some food production of your own with mushrooms and algae instead of soil grown beans and grain.
Now, some of ‘ya may already be chomping at the bit to expand to another base (especially those Proxion farmers after looking at their dry pump rigs and longingly over at Etherwind - I know your pain).
Putting down another base is an investment and means that instead of shipping your goods to the station to sell, you’re shipping another thing somewhere. And that does indeed sound like fun - I know many a farmer that picked up an expanded license so that they could do contracts and shipping.
It means you’ll spend fuel more frequently to move goods. That’s an operational expense without immediate revenue. It’s easy to go shipping a fraction of a hold of a few day’s worth of crops to process, and then a fraction of a hold of a few days of food the other way - and you’ll end up spending more on those partial loads than you’re saving by having another base.
So, the advice that is often tossed about is to wait until you’ve filled up the space from your first permit. This way, you likely have enough revenue and shipping demand to offset the operational costs of additional shipping.
Now, if you’ve got that settled and have enough green in the balance sheet by selling your greens… then the question is “what do you want to do?” Often, this goes one of three… or four ways.
First, there’s the expanding to making more food stuffs faster. There are planets that are set up to make drinking water and rations much better than can be done on an agri world… and that makes more room for growing things on farms.
Second, there’s water and carbon - often on the same world. Resource extraction industries they call them. Instead of having an incinerator on an agri world, ship it to somewhere better suited and maybe ship that water back so you don’t need as many rigs.
Third, there’s something else. Some people get tired of growing stuff and feel that they want to do things with metal as they eye the shipyards. There’s nothing saying you can’t do that - and it’s easier if you’ve got a revenue stream and the experience of what you want and need. Worst case, you’re making basic prefabs and shipping them back to fix up the farms.
Third… and a half… you looked at those chem wizards and say “I can do that” and go off to make your own DDT rather than buying it… after all - oxygen, carbon and water? Yea, we got that. It’s a lot of new infrastructure and product lines, but many of the inputs are things that come easily from agri worlds. It’s not as much of a stretch to get into chemistry than it is to start smelting iron.
The thing with all of these is building a new base takes credits, and that initial investment is a good chunk of one’s liquid assets. It’s often better to reinvest in your own base until you can’t anymore at which time, it will be making enough that you can much more easily support another base for a bit.
This is Al the Maniac victualler signing off. Remember to keep those farms wet and the storage dry. Buy low and sell high.