The survival of our species

This website is celebrating its 21st birthday. My current focus is improving gut bacteria by growing plants in biologically active soil but over the years the focus has been on diabetes, wicking beds, intelligent irrigation, subsurface irrigation etc.


Way back in 1974 I realised that computers would change the world - and that was in the days of punch cards - no touch screens.

I taught myself programming and wrote some software called Moldflow which solved - using numerical methods - a problems which could not be solved by conventional mathematics - predicting the flow of a hot plastic into a cold mold.

Today we would say it went feral and my company become the leading exporter of technical software from Australia. But I realised that compared to the multi nationals that we were competing against we were a tin pot company and the back end of the world. We needed to keep on coming up with major new innovations.

I found the trick was speculative research - doing things which looked a bit stupid - and generally were - but they led to new ideas. This I called the zig-sag approach to research.

We made good money but after some twenty years running the company I felt I was not working on the critical issues of how we were going to survive as a species.

I sold the company and started speculative researches on what I thought were the critical issues we faced - soil and water. That is when I started this website.

The irrigators dilemma

If you have a little irrigation the water wets the surface and soon it lost by evaporation. If you apply a much larger irrigation water is lost past the root zone - but also flushes away valuable nutrients. How do you apply just the right amount of water?

I saw two potential technologies for solving this - subsurface irrigation and intelligent irrigation scheduling which ‘learns’ how much water the plant is using and applied just the right amount of water to reach the base of the root zone.

I experimented with these technologies and did develop what I thought were good products but they did not hit the jackpot. I think they were just too complicated.

But as often happens in zig-zag research it led me to a new idea of placing a plastic film under the root zone. This automatically prevents any water and nutrients passing the root zone and there is no problem with scheduling jut fill until full.

All the experts said this would never work as the water would turn putrid but experiments showed that if you cycle the water it worked beautifully. Even so it did not catch on with commercial growers but it did lead to the wicking bed system which again went viral and is now used throughout the world.

Unfortunately many imitators have failed to realise that soil biology is the key to making wicking beds work so they have used inert material like stones and cloth which reduced their performance.

There are numerous articles on wicking bed technology in the library.

Wicking beds and diabetes

My life took a major turn when my wife Xiulan was diagnosed with diabetes. My focus changed from saving the species to saving my wife.

The world is fully capable of producing the quantity of food the world’s population needs - now and into the future. However quality is another issue - mass produced foods are generally high in carbohydrates and sugars - which can be produced in bulk very cheaply - but are deficient in essential minerals and phytonutrients (essential complex compounds produced by plants).

Our bodies have an effective mechanism for dealing with a high carbohydrate and sugary diet - it produced insulin. However after a period of excess insulin the body becomes insulin resistant and bingo - you have diabetes (type 2).

It sounds so simple - cut down on carbohydrates and sugars and start eating food with the needed minerals and phytonutrients. If it were so simple then why is it that some third of the global population is either diabetic of pre-diabetic.

Changing diet is an essential part of managing diabetes - but it is not enough. We also need to change our gut bacteria. We are just beginning to understand gut bacteria - we certainly know how important it is - our guts produce essential vitamins - enable us to access critical minerals, work with our immune system but above all they produce hormones which affect our moods.

If you gut biology is telling you to go and eat a bit more cheese cake it is extraordinary to resist long term.

How to change gut bacteria is now the focus of my research and articles can be found on this here.