Virtual sheepdogs

I have spent my entire life dreaming up, fine-tuning and then documenting ideas.  Most completely wacky, but some worth serious consideration.  I’m just not much of an “executor”.  When these ideas, often years later, are launched amidst great fanfare and millions of dollars, I look on in dismay.  If only?

Wednesdays are going to be devoted to publishing some of these ideas.  My rationale is two-fold.  Firstly, I have a date and timestamp of the blog post should I wish to pursue the matter at some time in the future.  Secondly, and more importantly, maybe one of my readers would like to take one of these ideas further with me.

This idea dates back to 2014, but now much of the required technology has come of age and its probably worth a re-look.

The idea is for a “self-herding” flock of sheep (or any other domestic animal).  All the sheep in a flock are fitted with collars containing an internet-enabled tracking device and GPS.  It is powered by a small battery or could even have solar panels.  The collar also contains a speaker (or buzzer).   It is linked to a mobile app and the farmer can track his entire flock (and each sheep individually) in real-time.

To move sheep, one would traditionally use a shepherd and a trained sheepdog.  The shepherd would instruct the dog, which would then run after the sheep and slowly move them in a general direction and then into specific areas.  Although it is great fun for the dog, it is time-consuming, labor-intensive and certainly too random for 2018.

The Virtual Sheepdog concept works like Google Maps.  The farmer locates the flock on his smartphone (from anywhere in the world),  indicates the required destination and the software goes to work.  The collars of a few sheep on the far side of the destination (as determined by the algorithm) start “barking” or “buzzing”.  Sheep closest to them dart off in the opposite direction (ie. the direction in which you want them to move).  The “barking” stops.  The barking sheep who are now confused just follow the general flock.  A few seconds later the algorithm recalculates, and a few more (maybe different) sheep on the outside “bark” again.  Repeat until the sheep are safely at their destination.

Potential equity investors are welcome to contact me at synaptoman(at)







Trading – The Lambo Lifestyle (not)

For the last 7 years I have had the privilege of working with some of the top commodity traders in South Africa.   There are literally scores of different “types” of traders, but physical commodity traders are certainly not amongst the more flamboyant type.

Typically conservative, White, Afrikaans-speaking, God-fearing, family men, they work hard and enjoy their booze, play golf or other sports and, to a man, hunt in Winter. Their intellectual property consists of their experience of the markets and their extensive network of contacts built up over many years, that is only now being slowly eroded locally by younger, emerging black traders in this sector.

Risk-averse, they use the markets strictly to hedge physical positions, with the occasional maverick “punting” with a small intraday speculative position.

A far cry from the Lambo Lifestyle of the 20-year old Forex, binary and crypto traders in the US and UK whose “careers” can be measured in weeks rather than decades.  I use the term “traders” very loosely here as these individuals are nothing more than gamblers with zero experience of the markets they trade in and literally roll the dice with borrowed money and massive gearing.

Like a typical Ponzi scheme, they often extend their short trading lives by conning the naive into pumping more and more money into their schemes or sell expensive (yet worthless) training courses to the gullible.

In the coming weeks I am going to slowly unpack my experiences in trading and what I have found, by observation and practice, works.  I cannot promise you a Rolex or a Lamborghini but I may just spur you on to consider a career in trading.




The Pivot

Pivot, verb. “to turn on or as if on a pivot”

I was always told, “if you don’t have anything interesting to say, just keep quiet.”  Well the reason for my “radio silence” over the last few years has certainly not been for this reason.  Plenty of interesting stuff has in fact been happening, but in my rush to “pivot” from a free-ranging, Aquaponic system designer and builder to a fully-fledged member of the White Monopoly Capital, polo-playing, wine-quaffing set in the Cape Winelands of South Africa, I just didn’t find the time to put any of my thoughts down on paper (or computer).

The pivot will now also extend to this blog, so for the couple of loyal followers who are here solely for the Aquaponics, I am afraid this will probably disappoint you.  I am going to package the extensive Aquaponic Section and archive it for any die-hards and embark on a brand new direction.

Enjoy the ride.



Aquaponics 101 – Sell the sizzle

An economics lecturer back in the day, once told me, “don’t sell the sausage, sell the sizzle.” How wise these words proved to be.  While our new wired world makes the market for our goods and services many multiples bigger, it also dilutes our influence.

Let me explain it another way.  In the previous business model the market was smaller, but so was the competition.  Nowadays, if you cannot somehow differentiate yourself, your products or services, no matter how good, will not sell.

How then does that affect Aquaponics?  Well, in one way it is good because Aquaponics, being a rather new and novel way of growing fish and vegetable crops, does in fact differentiate us from the other struggling vegetable farmers and aquaculturists.  But this “difference” is also a double-edged sword because the ordinary man in the street has no idea whatsoever what Aquaponics actually means.

So what then is the “sizzle” of Aquaponics?  How about, “better than organic”, “space-age food production”,  “the future of food production” or some other catchy byline?

One of the basics of scaling up to Commercial Aquaponics, as I have said so may times, is a rock-solid marketing campaign.  Don’t even start thinking about the technical or even financial aspects of your new system without first considering the following;

  • Is there a market for my products?
  • Where are my potential customers?
  • What are they willing to pay?
  • Why would they choose me over so many other vendors?

Although you are unlikely to get firm orders without a salable product, this short exercise will keep you grounded when you tackle the other elements of your system design.

As mentioned in a previous post, I have been hard at work on a number of online initiatives, one of which is a Classified Site called This site is specifically targeted at the agricultural sector (landbou meaning agriculture in Afrikaans) and provides a market place for buying and selling products and services relating to farming. Advertisements are free and I have created categories for both fish and vegetables.

Please feel free to register and start placing some ads. It is currently aimed at Southern African countries but if the demand is there, I would be glad to extend it to other countries.

Enough for now.



Going the Distance for a Green Future with New Initiatives

I have many like-minded readers from around the World. This is the first in a series of Guest Posts.  Todays article is by Sam Marquit, an independent ‘green’ contractor and co-author of Fair Marquit Value.

There are some incredibly inspiring global and local green initiatives today. Being an independent contractor, I really began to notice the way that green materials and building practices could change the carbon footprint of my client. Now, as a commercial contractor, businesses also have an amazing power to promote green practices and become a beacon for others to follow as an example. There are a few green initiatives out there that have really done something for the world. The most inspiring thing for me to see is the amount of changes in the travel industry. Eco-friendly businesses in tourism and hospitality make a difference every day. Hotels are unique in the way that they advertise eco-friendly and recyclable practices right alongside with accommodations and other services. That’s something that every business should be doing to get more people interested in saving the planet.


Just think if you were a business owner and could win an award for doing something for your community or protecting a local wildlife preserve. These are just a few of the things that you can win an award if you’re nominated in The Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards. Businesses around Asia strive to be nominated and chosen for awards in multiple categories. These categories include environmental protection, cultural preservation, resource efficiency and community engagement. Not only do these categories cover green materials, but they also look for social welfare qualities and responsible business tactics. That’s an important aspect to building a business in today’s marketplace.
In addition to the variety of initiatives, there are a number of green facilities that continue to go up. Las Vegas is actually home to the “Most Eco-Friendly Hotel in America.” The Las Vegas Palazzo Hotel and Resort was given this award because of its solar energy panels, water-recycling program and waste reuse. The hotel has several other ways that it recycles and uses green materials. It’s important to recognize that hotels can partake in these practices as well and save on energy in the long run as well as reduce their carbon footprints.
Inspiration comes in many forms. If more businesses choose to be green like the new green Las Vegas hotels, the impact would be extremely beneficial for its customers and planet. We can all do our part for a greener world and it is up to us to continue the positive green trend.



Aquaponics and the Meaning of Life

With the first Winter rains now falling in the Western Cape of South Africa and the grapevines almost bare of their Summer plumage, ones thoughts turn to more philosophical directions. I enjoy Winter in the Cape. It offers a time for introspection; re-visiting the successes and failures of the previous growing season and planning for what lies ahead.

Aquaponics (AP) really is a scale model of the workings of the earth and provides a great platform to explain how everything hangs together. I have taken many school groups through my various AP builds over the years and I have found it extremely heartening to see the “light-bulb” moment as a child suddenly sees the point of it all. When he/she realizes that every system (whether organic or mechanical) works exactly the same and that it is infinitely scalable, the impact is huge.

Nature has no waste. Every output from one system is an input for another. Our artificially created, urban living areas “appear” to generate massive waste and seem, on the face of it, to be unbalanced, but in reality nature mops up the waste over time and uses it as an input in another system. What we must realize is that it doesn’t all happen immediately and it may be many, many years before the next system even needs the output from the earlier system.

There are many examples of this. Gold mining is one. The goldfields of South Africa and other gold producing countries are littered with “mine dumps”. These discarded mountains of earth are the by-product of the mining and extraction process. At the time, the cost and availability of technology and the price of gold didn’t make it feasible to process these dumps any further. Now, many years later, it provides a lucrative new source of gold which is extracted from these “dumps”.

Landfills are another example. I predict that in the future these hidden dumps of a civilizations waste will power cities with easily-extractable methane and the solid matter recycled in a multitude of ways.

There is no waste in the long-term.

AP has often been described as a “closed-loop” system; a perpetual motion, organic machine that, once in balance, will sustain itself indefinitely.  In theory this is true, but in practice it is not very long before some or other input is required, the most obvious being food for the fish. Another is an AP systems rapid depletion of iron and other trace elements needed in only small doses, but without which, the system comes crashing down.

The secret of AP and Life itself, is thus BALANCE. Balance is often not apparent in a snapshot, but if you look at the system, in whatever form, over a period of time, it seems to smooth out and settle into a balanced state.

Our lives, in a seemingly meaningless, headlong rush to the grave, also seem out of balance, but below the surface of this raging river is a calm, balanced, REASON for it all.  Sometimes we just have to step back, lift our eyes from our iPhones and other distracting gadgets and realize that this is all part of a bigger plan.

We are just so bogged down by detail and noise and confusion. To truly appreciate the meaning of it all, maybe we should just go out into our gardens and truly OBSERVE the miracle of nature, be it only in a tiny patch of green that we call our own.

Henry David Thoreau, the finest American philosopher who ever lived, said, “Our life is frittered away by detail.

Get out there and appreciate it.




Bitcoins – the missing link?

A concept that has intrigued me for many years, is a lifestyle combining the simplest of permaculture living with the absolute “bleeding” edge of technology. An eco-village (real or virtual) where we grow our own food, generate our own power and educate our children, free from the pressures and interference of big governments and rampant consumerism.

Now its easy to give up the day job, sell the house and cars and buy a piece of land in the country, but where will the money come from to feed, clothe, educate and protect your family? How will you afford healthcare? Many folk like me, with some web-based income, will find it easier to adapt, but what we cannot do without, is high speed Internet connectivity and the ongoing means to sell our wares online.

Once you have an online business up and running, the reality of payment options rears its head. I have fiddled with PayPal, credit cards and direct deposits over the years but the manual interventions required at almost every step makes the income earned not worth all the admininstration involved.

I started researching online virtual currencies a few months ago with a view to adapting my business model to a wholly online experience. With the recent financial upheavals in Europe I realised that governments and banks could not be trusted with our money and although online currencies where fraught with growth pains, they offer a welcome break from the traditional financial model.

Over the next few months I am going to re-visit my dreams of an eco-village, start another web business helping folk earn an income online and move all my payment options to virtual currencies, namely Bitcoin.

My ebooks book can now be paid for with Bitcoins.

Aquaponics – The Synaptoman way

If you’d like to trade in virtual currencies, including Bitcoins and SLL (Second Life Lindens) pop over to  VirWoX

To buy or sell Bitcoins, go to Mt.Gox and open an account.

Enough for now.