Subsurface Eco-ag Facility (SseAF)


This facility is designed to utilise all biological waste products from an analogue Mars settlement in the production of terra preta type soil valuable for para terraformation, as well as a variety of fruits, vegetables, and fish for human consumption. For ecosystem robustness and to avoid failure of life-sustaining systems due to mechanical malfunctions, all parts of the system requiring mechanical manipulation of materials will be manually operated.

Structure and function

This system is designed to be constructed from recycled intermodal containers to maximise structural integrity and minimise construction cost and to ensure ease of future expansion.
Below is a theoretical arrangement, and a selection of possible module use cases.


SsEAF (1)

  1 – Airlock, 2 – Surface Utilities, 3 – Logistics Access, 4 – Corridor, 5 – Dry Storage, 6 – Secondary waste processing, 7 – Primary Waste processing, 8 – Potato Module, 9 – 3 Sisters Module, 10 vine module, 11 – Dwarf orchard module, 12 –  Aquatic Module




Socio-ecological Asset (sEA)

Socio-ecological asset (sEA): A miniaturized-transportable specimen of ecological complexity used for the support or propagation of socio-ecological life support and or eco-industrial systems.

Gabriel Licina

Gabriel Licina joined IOaE in 2016, his primary function is applied biological sciences and chemical engineering.

Gabriel received a degree in molecular biology from the university of Washington where he conducted undergraduate research in developmental biology. He is best known for his work with the biohacking community and as a freelance consultant for several Biological R&D firms.

In addition to his work with IOaE he is working to build Scihouse a makerspace and biohacking lab in Jacksonville Florida, where he continues his work to make science and technology accessible to everyone.




Nicholas A. Carlough

Nicholas A. Carlough is the founder of the Institute of Astro-ekistics, his primary functions are as Astro-ekistician and life support systems technician.

He received a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science from The Evergreen State College for the study of agriculture and whole systems design as well as closed ecological life support systems (CELSS) science respectively. He first synthesised the concept of Closed Socio-Ecological life support systems (CsELSS) as a formalised concept distinct from CELSS, integrating an understanding of complexity theory and emergent socio-ecological systems applied to the problem of Gaian ecological propagation in closed systems for the purpose of space settlement.

Nicholas began his career as a biomedical equipment and life support systems technician in the United States Air Force (USAF),  where he specialized in expeditionary-medical facilities support systems (E.g, Facilities, power production, medical gas production and ) and personal protective equipment maintenance (E.g, HAZMAT/CBRN protective equipment and power respiratory systems). In addition to his technical profession, he also served as airfield, personnel and decontamination security during OIF/OEF and Operation Tomodachi during the Fukushima nuclear incident. He also volunteered with the Venus Project as Co-director of Marking / Public Relations.

After leaving the USAF Nicholas served as Chief Operations Officer for the extreme futurist festival in LA, and from 2012 to 2014 Chief Science Officer for TRED (Terraforming & regenerative ecosystems development) Laboratories a san-Francisco based R&D firm interested in advanced life support systems and space settlement technology.

Nicholas is also the founder of the Æ Settlement Compact, a private community-organization dedicated to the birth of a space faring nation and intentional emergence planetarily independent socio-ecological organism.





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Fractal-Emergent Settlement Architecture (FESA)


Fractal Emergent Settlement Architecture (FESA) is a settlement system architecture plan developed by IOaE for a settlement system based upon a single structural module with nearly infinite scaleability. FESA expands along a fractal pattern using a standardized construction modules and layout, minimizing diversity of necessary manufacturing and maintenance infrastructure. The FESA system is intended to contain a soil based closed socio-ecological life support system (CsELSS).

Mars Ecumenopolis

Mars Ecumenopolis (FESA 15) – Population 78 billion *to scale

A CsELSS is essentially a walled garden within which a human population can sustain itself indefinitely as an integrated function of its host ecological complexity. A CsELSS is not just a home for humans supported by ecological systems (Closed Ecological Life Support system CELSS), but a home for a whole Gaian system within which the day today life of its human inhabitants is fully integrated with the ecological system itself, an organism in its own right. The fractal nature of the FESA combined with CsELSS ensures a uniform environment within which Gaian ecology can grow and evolve over time. By this method, a FESA can theoretically span an entire planetary surface and thrive doing so.

Structure and Function

Below is a high-level description of the various system components that emerge from the fractal expansion of the FESA settlement system, using our methodology.

FESA Module

A single form multi-function module that is the base unit for all levels of FESA development.

Untitled drawing


Astro-ekistic Units of FESA

FESA Infographic

The Astro-ekistic units (AEU) of FESA are adapted from the ekistic units as described by Constantinos Apostolou Doxiadis, the original formalizer of the scientific study of human settlement known as ekistics. The  AEU of FESA are divided into two subgroups fundamental AEU and Major AEU. Fundamental AEU contain the building blocks of FESA where each scale describes different levels of functionality, where as major AEU are simply fractal conglomerates of the largest fundamental AEU. The differences in functionality emerge as the open spaces that provide for different sized transparent covered spaces between the fractal arrangements of the fundamental AEU and are described below.

Anatomy of a Village Infographic

The “Village” (FESA4) is the largest of the fundamental FESA Astro-ekistic Units, all major units (E,g. Town, Polis, Metropolis) are simply conglomerations of FESA4


Fundamental AEU

Population Density: 1538 – 965 / km2

Major AEU

Population Density: 965 / km^2

Transparent Covered Space & Utility Structures (TCS & US)

The open spaces between the fractal pattern of the FESA units are the largest continuously open spaces within the FESA system. They are covered with transparent roofing and used for various utility and recreational purposes.

Tablinum (TCS-1)

Named for the tablinum of the ancient Roman family home(Domus). The Tablinum is an empty space the size of one module available for personal use. It is located in the center of each Anthropos (FESA-1), and provides a private space available for personal artistic expression, relaxation, and seclusion as necessary. There is one Tablinum space for every Anthropos thus ensuring that private space scales with the carrying capacity of the FESA system

Impluvium & Hydria (TCS-2 & US-2)

The Impluvium is named for its primary function, the storage, and distribution of water for each house (FESA-2). The aesthetic of each Impluvium space might very, however, their function remains the same, it acts as a local meeting space that allows for the broadest possible access to water that is condensed out of the air by the Hydria structure(US-2) which is housed in a single module centered in the Impluvium space.

Atrium and Stoa (TCS-3 & US-3)

Each band (FESA-3) encircles a naturally lit Atrium space and Stoa which functions as a community meeting space and for distribution preparation and storage of food.

Balaneion and Hypocaust (TCS-4 & US-4)

The largest naturally lit space is called the Balaneion and in the center is the hypocaust they get their names from ancient Roman bathhouses and the system by which they were heated. This space is the primary recreational space for each Village (FESA-4) and is the largest standard open space within the FESA system.

The Balaneion contains such facility’s as are necessary for large public meetings, relaxation, recreation and physical fitness, within the Hypocaust(US-4) is contained steam rooms, bathing facilities and such equipment as is necessary for central power and heat distribution to the surrounding bands.

The Ginnungagap Engine

The Ginnungagap Engine (GgE) is a whole systems architecture for the maintenance of life sustaining climatic and biogeochemical patterns within a confined space. Its purpose is to provide a sufficiently complex thermodynamic and biogeochemical climate within which high-level ecological ascendency can emerge and continue to evolve in perpetuity.


Boiling River Hot spring Yellowstone national park, The place of inspiration for the Ginnungagap engine (Oct 2012)

“Ginnungagap, the Yawning Void … which faced toward the northern quarter (Niflheim), became filled with heaviness, and masses of ice and rime, and from within, drizzling rain and gusts; but the southern part of the Yawning Void was lighted by those sparks and glowing masses which flew out of Múspellheim” – The Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson, translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, 1916, p. 17.

Systems Synthesis

Within the GgE framework, Passive Energy management and Automation systems act in concert to provide for the perpetual emergence of hydrologic, thermodynamic, and novel material exchange conditions. The GgE framework is intended to provide a suitable climate for the propagation of a closed socio-ecological life support system (CsELSS) within a variety of contexts both open and closed (E.g., Planetary and orbital Space settlement, arcologies, and life shield bunkers)

Energy Management Sub Systems

GgE energy management systems provide both Exothermic and Endothermic influences within the system. Areas under the influence of endothermic processes will tend to gather moisture and those that are exothermic will tend to expel moisture. If these influences are placed within a closed system, along a gravitational well, with exothermic systems being placed below endothermic systems an atmospheric convection and hydrologic cycling systems can be expected to emerge.

GgE Diagram

For example: Imagine an illuminated Martian magma tube, several Km long and about 100m in diameter. This tube is angled ~15 Degrees along its vertical axis. Placed at the bottom end of the tube is a metal sphere that will perpetually remain 100 Degrees C (Exothermic device), at the top end of the tube is another metal sphere that will perpetually remain 0 Degrees C (Endothermic device). The tube is assumed to remain between .9 and 1.1 ATM, contain a fluid material content approximately that of earth and be filled ~20% with water. Over time one could expect ice to grow on and around the endothermic device and extend until it began to melt. The melting and formation of ice would meet equilibrium, and a reliable steady run off of fresh water would eventually emerge.

This water might be captured in a series of pools as it runs down the tube, eventually returning to a resevour, perpetually heated by the exothermic device which if arranged in a particular way could form several pools maintained at a variety of temperatures. Water vapor from this section would travel up words through the tube where it would precipitate and flow back down the tube or be trapped in ice.

Within such a structure a temperature gradient will form along the tube, from end to end. Depending upon the morphology of the tubes internal structure, areas with temperature favorable to life, running water and novel climatic systems can be caused to reliably emerge.

Automation Sub Systems

Energetic potentials across the aforementioned thermal gradient and hydrologic cycling systems can be utilized by automation devices to provide various auxiliary and maintenance services.

For Example:

Consider the tube discussed previously, now in addition to the single tube lets add a smaller utility tube only 10m in diameter running outside the primary tube circumventing all its complex structures.  One end of this utility tube descends from the ceiling of the primary tube and enters the water that sits in the bottom end of the primary tube, with the other exiting near the top end of the primary tube facing the ice formation around the endothermic device. As water is evaporated from the pool surrounding the exothermic device, the water level may drop as water collects in pools and in ice at the top end of the primary tube. If this water level at the bottom of the primary tube where to drop below the end of the utility tube, a portion of steam and warm air flow would then be redirected through the tube and be projected at the ice formation causing the temperature to become elevated at the top of the primary tube. This system state would increase ice melt and water flow which would eventually fill the pool at the bottom of the primary tube covering the utility tube and causing the system state to return to its base condition. This is an example of a basic hydro-thermal logic system, which can be used to create pressure and temperature gradients, with in the system that can be used for power production and to accomplish various types of material transfer or other utility functions.

More complex heat transfer systems can be arranged with the assistance of Closed passive absorption heat transfer systems, constructed of a materially closed network of basins, tanks, and pipes which when properly arranged, transport liquid and gaseous ammonia and H2 gas so as to allow for energy transfer via external heat exchangers. Such systems can be integrated throughout the structure of a GgE powering exothermic and endothermic devices wherever one desires.


The Serpent and the Floods – Ch. 1

Mid Atlantic Space logistics Complex (MASLog)
February 2037

The Mid Atlantic Space Logistics Complex was buzzing with activity as final preparations were being made for yet another round of cargo launches, destination, Mars Transit Station (MTS) – L2. Fuel and logistics drones were arriving daily with every imaginable good. Operations ran around the clock and launches were leaving at every possible opportunity, all in support of the rapid expansion of Mars City. This massive effort had provided an economic boost to the launch port itself, which had grown significantly in population. In fact the sea surrounding the complex had become a hub for individuals and communities preparing for the coming “great migration” off world.

At a distance of 8 Km from the central launch facility, ocean thermal energy conversion OTEC as well as oil and trash scrubbing plants ringed MASLog, there presence marked the edge of the safety cordon. The primary function of the OTEC plants is the production of liquid H2 and O2, feeding the fuel, cargo and passenger drone freighters that keep the sea dragon logistics rockets launching.

Untitled drawing (3)

MASLog Complex

Another 8 Km from the safety cordon, the Mars Workers Cooperative (MWC) operates a private sea-stead which maintains a ring of eco-industrial buoys, forming a massive modular network of artificial reefs, bio-film harvesting buoys and auto fisheries. The ring of buoys suspends a barrier which maintains a second surface water containment zone around MASLog. Nutrient rich water from the deep ocean flows upward from the base of every OTEC plant due to the thermal gradient induced as a byproduct of power production. This convection current brings mineral rich water from the deep ocean to the surface. As mineral rich water mixes with the nutrient rich effluent of local eco-industrial systems, an ideal environment for the mass cultivation of Phyto-plankton is maintained. The barrier concentrates a continuous phyto-plankton bloom into a dense green film almost a meter thick that is continuously funneled into Algae scrubbing buoys located throughout the eco-industrial ring.

The MWC maintains a small drone fleet out of its sea-stead, which patrols the ring of eco-industrial buoys performing maintenance and collecting plankton oil and other products for use locally and export, this is the economic life blood of the MWC on earth. At full capacity each bio-film scrubbing buoy filters 10 tons of biomass every day yielding a bulk oil to be further refined, and a nutrient rich effluent which is first fermented for methane than ejected outward enriching the surrounding waters. providing nutrition for the local fish stocks that take refuge in the system of reefs and mangroves being propagated by the MWC.

The now mostly automated MTS at L2 received logistics rockets for refueling and forwarding to MTS in martian orbit from earth. Both transit station now have a full crew of robotics technicians maintaining the machinery of the ship yard and material staging zone, with a small support crew including an extension of the MWC, overseeing port operations, customs, and eco-industrial services. The MWC regularly rotates personnel from there various eco-industrial service cooperatives to both transit stations.

On mars the MWC had spent the last 5 years building up ecological assets and an independent settlement in partnership with Mars City. They offer services not dissimilar to those at MASLog in exchange mostly for robotics and industrial equipment. The MWC settlement is now able to receive 40% of all organic waste produced by mars city, in addition to exchanging a large portion of mars city air daily. Out of this eco-industrial symbiosis the MWC settlement meets its own nutritional needs and is able to export enough produce to meet 30% of the nutritional needs of mars city with another 40% from MASLog.

The MWC kept most of its activities with strict confidentiality and there was very little physical contact between the settlement population and the citizens of mars city, though immigration between the two have occurred. Largely a mystery to outsiders, the form of the MWC settlement could be seen growing like a mycelial net through tortuous back filled trenches mounds and tunnels. The bulk of the settlement is subterranean with the exception of the standard construction yard at the ends of its various branches, which slowly creep along the surface in a fractal and oddly biological looking emergence. The construction yards could be observed day and night adding section by section with obvious intent, yet no recognizable order. towering above this landscape of scars and haphazard mounding, three solar collection and heat pumping stations rose out of the martian dust not dissimilar in form to mushrooms, each surrounded by shimmering fields of mirrors, and an auxiliary power plant presumably for low solar output periods. Leading to the oldest heat pumping station was a busy and well maintained road and railway with a collection of pipelines connecting it first to the Mars City port, than to mars city itself and its grey grid based urban developments.

Tensions between the earth government and Mars city have been growing over a perceived shadow embargo of necessary financial aid. The political situation in general has grown stale between all party’s of the space settlement effort, due to a tax dispute, and several pending environmental lawsuits against prominent industrialist council members. The MWC to this point, has not been subject to direct foreign economic interference due to its political and economic Independence from the Terran states.

Eco-Industrial Services Cooperative

Eco-Industrial Services Cooperative: A workers self-directed enterprise, organised for the purpose of providing ecological service as a function of industry.

The aim of an Eco-industrial services Cooperative is not simply sustainability, but democratic social industry that eliminates the concept of waste, through building ecological capital.

Workers Self-Directed Enterprise

Eco-industrial Services

Eco-industrial services are a new paradigm of human enterprise with the goal of true mutualistic symbiosis between human industrial metabolism, and the ascendency of its host ecology.

“Ascendancy is defined as the level of functionality to an ecosystems trophic network. One way of interpreting ascendency is to regard it as the organisational structure of connections that enables resources to flow through the network, the magnitude of the power that is flowing within the system towards particular ends. As such ascendancy is a key index in determining the ability of an ecosystem to prevail against disturbance by virtue of its combined organisation connectivity and size.” -Complexity academy (Systems ecology 10: Ecological Networks)

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) report 2005 defines Ecosystem services as benefits people obtain from ecosystems and distinguishes four categories of ecosystem services, where the so-called supporting services are regarded as the basis for the services of the other three categories.[1]

Supporting services

Ecosystem services “that are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services”.[14][15] These include services such as nutrient recycling, primary production and soil formation.[16] These services make it possible for the ecosystems to provide services such as food supply, flood regulation, and water purification.

Provisioning services

“Products obtained from ecosystems” [14]

  • food (including seafood and game), crops, wild foods, and spices
  • raw materials (including lumber, skins, fuel wood, organic matter, fodder, and fertilizer)
  • genetic resources (including crop improvement genes, and health care)
  • water
  • Biogenic minerals
  • medicinal resources (including pharmaceuticals, chemical models, and test and assay organisms)
  • energy (hydropower, biomass fuels)
  • ornamental resources (including fashion, handicraft, jewelry, pets, worship, decoration and souvenirs like furs, feathers, ivory, orchids, butterflies, aquarium fish, shells, etc.)

Regulating services

“Benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes” [14]

Cultural services

“Nonmaterial benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation, and aesthetic experiences” [14]

  • cultural (including use of nature as motif in books, film, painting, folklore, national symbols, architect, advertising, etc.)
  • spiritual and historical (including use of nature for religious or heritage value or natural)
  • recreational experiences (including ecotourism, outdoor sports, and recreation)
  • science and education (including use of natural systems for school excursions, and scientific discovery)
  • Therapeutic (including Ecotherapy, social forestry and animal assisted therapy)

There is discussion as to how the concept of cultural ecosystem services can be operationalized. A good review of approaches in landscape aesthetics, cultural heritage, outdoor recreation, and spiritual significance to define and assess cultural values of our environment so that they fit into the ecosystem services approach is given by Daniel et al.[17] who vote for models that explicitly link ecological structures and functions with cultural values and benefits. There also is a fundamental critique of the concept of cultural ecosystem services that builds on three arguments:[18]

  1. Pivotal cultural values attaching to the natural/cultivated environment rely on an area’s unique character that cannot be addressed by methods that use universal scientific parameters to determine ecological structures and functions.
  2. If a natural/cultivated environment has symbolic meanings and cultural values the object of these values are not ecosystems but shaped phenomena like mountains, lakes, forests, and, mainly, symbolic landscapes.[19]
  3. Those cultural values do result not from properties produced by ecosystems but are the product of a specific way of seeing within the given cultural framework of symbolic experience.[20], 2Jun2017 1244hr PST


  • Agro-forestry

  • Aquaponics

  • Regenerative Herd Management


  • Fertility and feed management

  • Organic waste digestion

  • Energy Farming


  • Atmospheric purification

  • Water Purification


  • Eco-village

  • Arcology

  • Seastead


THC Shutdown, We All Fall Down


The interaction of warm and cold areas within a single fluid body creates a natural churning movement known as convection. The most notable example of this being major weather events like tornadoes and hurricanes, when the combination of cold and warm fronts press against each other. When cold and warm areas in the ocean interact, a natural current called the thermohaline circulation (THC) is formed, scaling the size of the oceans.


Thermohaline Circulation (THC)

Cold from the poles and heat from the equator stirs our planet’s oceans like a lazy spoon in a cup of coffee. This movement allows aerated waters from the surface to mix with water in the deep ocean, providing the O2 necessary for aquatic aerobic life to exist.

As salinity and temperature in the oceans are disturbed the stability of the THC is threatened. If the THC fails, the oceans enter a phase called a THC Shutdown event. If you’ve seen a sad goldfish desperately puffing at the surface of a bowl with no pump, this is an example of a hypoxic aquatic environment.

The map below outlines persistent marine hypoxic areas (Dead Zones) that currently exist. You’ll note that they are mostly on coastal areas.  This phenomenon is due to temperature fluctuations as well as nutrient overloads, such as those from fertilizers.


Global “Dead Zone” Map

Not all the world is aerobic. Not everything breathes oxygen. In the places where there is no oxygen, there are sulfate reducing bacteria and archaea that create hydrogen sulfide H2S as their waste product. They stay tucked into areas with no oxygen, like the bottom of the ocean. The oxygen rich surface waters creates a buffer, while the sulfate reducing bacteria maintain an H2S rich environments deeper in the water column.

H2S is currently used in emergency medicine to induce coma for extreme trauma patients. By adding controlled amounts of H2S to a respirator, patients can be rapidly put into a state of reduced metabolism. An H2S induced coma slows mitochondrial function delaying death, allowing more time for life-saving treatment, though extended exposure can cause serious chronic health effects, organ failure and death.

Putting the pieces together.

During a THC Shutdown event, dissolved oxygen throughout the ocean is reduced. As the oxygen reduces, the buffer protecting the rest of the ocean from anaerobic bacteria reduces. As the buffer zone decreases the bubble of anaerobic bacteria is allowed to expand. Slowly they move closer to the surface, until the anaerobic zone meets the atmosphere.

As anaerobic bacterial waste dominates the oceans, marine ecosystem collapse is accelerated as everything that breathed O2 suffocates. In what could be a matter of days oceanic hypoxia is complete, atmospheric H2S rises to toxic levels and potentially all animal life on earth goes to sleep and never gets back up.

A simplistic even fantastic sounding theory, yet the scientific community believes it has played out twice in geological history (Anoxic Event) and is backed up by historical precedent. You can see the evidence for global THC shutdown extinction events in the fossil record, or take a walk along the coastal areas of dead zones and smell the sulfur.