Future Farm Fuels & Fertilizers

The evolution of farm fuels:
What happens when fossil fuels are exhausted?

By Jay Schmuecker

100 years ago

One hundred years ago, farms were small and labor intensive, with horses performing the heavy field work. Over time, gasoline-powered tractors replaced horses. By the 1950s, a 160-acre farm could support a family.


Today’s farms are much larger and depend on fossil fuels for their operation. Fossil fuels—coal, petroleum and natural gas—were formed over millions of years and the consumption of these fuels is increasing. As the supply declines, fossil fuels will become more expensive. We need to explore and implement carbon emission-free renewable farm fuels so that fossil fuels can be preserved for making fertilizers, herbicides and  insecticides.

Most combustion happens when hydrogen combines with oxygen. Ammonia is an excellent hydrogen carrier because it does not require high storage volumes and pressures. It can be used as fertilizer for crops and as a fuel when combined with hydrogen. The ammonia used as fertilizer by today’s farmers is made from fossil fuels. With one-third of the world’s population dependent upon ammonia-fertilized food, finding a viable way for farmers to make their own ammonia–as we’ve demonstrated is possible with our system–would be a positive effort felt around the world.

100 years from now

There is not an endless supply of fossil fuels; they will eventually be exhausted. The high use of these fuels is contributing to global warming. Our country needs to develop other sources of energy to replace fossil fuels.

It’s time we became forward-thinking and proactive. We need to establish other sources of farm energy or eventually our farms will once again be using horses. One option is to develop a self-contained contamination-free farm energy generation system. The Raphael Schmuecker Memorial Solar-Hydrogen System demonstrates that this is possible.