This article is a response that was written to a question on another forum. It is reprinted here for sharing purposes. Questions are welcome.
Worlds that have been settled for a long time (such as Clarion, which canonically has been ruled by the same family for over 400 years) will have a wide range of foodstuffs, combining classic crops and food animals introduced during colonization, to native crops and genemods.
Even heavily industrialized worlds have more than enough space to be self-sufficient under most circumstances. Any agricultural products imported from off-world will be starter seed stock and genetic starters, not foodstuffs ready for distribution.
Why? Simple: lack of ships and lack of technology.
Looking at Knight Hawks, we know how many ship construction centers capable of building starhips exist (2 class I, 3 classII) and more importantly, we know the rate of construction of ships (hull size x 30 days) and how many hull points can be under construction at any given time (140 and 50, respectively); this allows us to calculate how many new ships can be built in a single year (I do not have the calculations available at this time).
The number is not very large, especially when you take into consideration the need for trained crew (pilots, astrogators, and engineers) to operate the ships.
We also kave a good idea of that one hull point worth of cargo can be. Although the rules do not say so specifically, we can infer it from the passenger capacity of space liners (KH pp. 6); 25 passengers per hull size. Page 21 tells us that baseline (journey class) passengers take up 4 meters square of deck space, so that is 100 square meters. I have always assumed that these four square meters is not the actual floorspace of a cabin, but that it includes the corridors, a shared head, and “carry-on” luggage space. (As a side note, we also know that one square meter can accomodate three storage-class passengers, so each hull size point can accomodate 300 storage class passengers!)
Now, how tall is that space? For convenience (and generosity) let's assume four meters; the corridor and quarters may be 2.5 to 3 meters tall, but structural components, wiring, pipes, ventilation, power, and electronics full out the rest.
So we have a 400 cubic meter volume of space for cargo. A standard intermodal container (40-foot) has an internal volume of 67.5 meters, so ...5.95... SIX standard cointainers will fit in a single hull size point.
At standard density, one cubic meter will mass (weigh) one metric ton. For reference, the International Space Station masses 450 metric tons.
Star Frontiers, as written in Alpha Dawn and Knight Hawks, is on the fairly hard side of science fiction, meaning that despite their massive sizes, spaceships are still relatively lightweight.
Thus, a HS-20 freighter (the largest possible in canon) has a maximum capacity of 8,000 tons of cargo (we can assume that extra volume can be added to fit bulk cargo of lesser density), or 120 standard 40-foot containers.
A real-world 8,000 DWT (deadweight tons = cargo tonnage capacity) bulk carrier falls into the “mini-bulk” category. WWII-era Liberty ships had a 10,000 DWT capacity. Modern Panamax bulk carriers have up to 80,000 DWT capacity. MS Ore Brasil, the largest bulk carrier in the world has over 400,000 DWT capacity.
Clearly, even HS-20 freighters have tiny capacity in comparison.
Now let us look at the population of the planets. Yes, I know that they do not give hard numbers, preferring to leave it to the GM to determine what a “heavy”, “moderate”, or “light” population actually is... but they do give us clues:
Heavy Population: The planet has many large cities that are very crowded, and hundreds of smaller cities. Individual cities may cover hundreds of square kilometers.
Moderate Population: The planet has several large cities and numerous smaller cities, but they are not overcrowded.
Light Population: The planet has only a few cities, and most would be considered small on a planet with a Heavy population.
Outpost: The planet is a small outpost or new colony. It has only one city, but there may be small settlements scattered nearby.
How are we defining “city”? In Sweden and Denmark a “city” can have as few as 200 people. In the US, the Census Bureau defines “city” as having a minimum of 2,500 inhabitants. In Japan, you need at least 30,000 people in order to classify them as one city.
Looking at real-world cities by population does not help much; does Theseus have any cities like Shanghai (24 million), Mumbai (20 million), Lagos (21 milion), Tokyo (38 million), Mexico City (20 million), New York (23 million)...?
Alpha Dawn pp. 7 tells us that “...several human cities are known to have populations above 5 million.” So we can assume that 5-6 million should be considered the standard large city in human worlds.
In 1900, the largest city in the world was London, with a population of 6.6 million. The world population at the time was 1.7 billion. This might be a good model for a Heavy population Human world.
There are two Human systems with Heavy population (Minotaur and Clarion). It can be safely assumed that each of these has at least one 5+ million city. I might add Gran Quivera to this mix.
In 1920, the largest city in the US was New York, which had a population of... wait for it... 5,620,048. The US population at the time was 106.5 million.
This might be a good model for a Moderate population human world.
So, why am I rambling on on this tangent?
Bear with me.
Ever hear of the Berlin Airlift?
In 1949, blah, blah, blah, (look it up) it became necessary to supply a city of over two million people (including non-civilan personnel). Calculations for food requirements came up to 1,534 tons of foodstuffs per day, added to the 3,475 tons of coal, diesel and petrol required daily.
1,534 + 3,475 = 5,009 tons needed PER DAY
A HS-20 freighter would not last two days.
What's that? Star Frontiers technology can make things ultra-compact?
Yes, this is true. Let's look at survival rations; one 2 Cr packet weighing 100 grams (ten packets weigh one kg) and has four days of rations for one person (4 man-days).
10 packets = 1 kg = 40 man-days 1 ton = 40,000 man-days 400 tons = 16,000,000 man-days (1 HS) 8,000 tons = 320,000,000 man-days (20 HS)
In other words, a HS-20 freighter could feed the entire population of the US in 2014. Pretty damn impressive!
That is a survival ration of a single day. Even Alpha Dawn says that these are not intended for long-term use.
Health issues aside, this does not address clean water, medical supplies, fuel for the power generators, or for the shuttles, or for the vehicles distributing the food (ground/hover transports can carry just 10 tons, and aircars can carry only one ton).
Then keep in mind that the cargo must be handled; first it must be loaded on the freighter, which then spends 9.5 days in transit (regardless of distance; according to KH, ships accelerate at 1 g to 1% of the speed of light; this takes 4.72 GST days, followed by the same amount of time decelerating at the destination), before entering orbit and unloading its cargo either at a station or directly via shuttles.
Shuttles use chemical drives. This is canon. The only ships that can enter the atmosphere, land, and take off again are “all shuttles, system ships of hull size 5 or less, assault scouts, and other scout class starships. Scout class starships include military, exploration and research ships of hull size 3 with two atomic engines.”
No, you cannot put an atomic engine on a HS-1 or 2 ship, because “Shuttles are small ships that can land on the surface of a planet and take off again. They can fly into orbit around planets, but their range is too short for interplanetary or inter stellar travel. They are propelled with chemical drives (rockets). Shuttles are the least expensive spaceships to build. Shuttles are used to transport passengers and supplies from starships or space stations to a planet's surface, and from planets to ships in orbit. Unlike other types of spaceships, a shuttle can be flown by any technician that has reached the 6th level of ability.” This means that if you put an atomic engine on it, it is no longer a shuttle.
We are going for canon Rules as Written (RaW), after all.
Shuttle takeoffs are pretty much rocket launches (seriously! look up the takeoff rules in KH!), and when they come in, they pretty much dead-stick in... like the NASA space shuttle.
Difference? The real-world largest cargo aircraft is the Antonov An-225 Mriya. Fully loaded it can carry nearly 254 tons of cargo and has a gross tonnage of 640 tons.
If they are coming in with cargo measured in HS, a HS-1 shuttle will have 400 tons of cargo, not counting the weight of the shuttle itself! The largest lighters (in the context of Star Frontiers, a HS-5 three chem drive system ship designed to ferry cargo to and from the planetary surface) could carry 2,000 tons; a fully-laden Saturn V Apollo-mission rocket weighs in at just over 3,000 tons!
In all fairness, the largest lighters are probably HS-4, since their engines are 2xA, instead of the 3xB of the HS-5.
Wow... what a rant!
Let me bring it all together;
Large-scale agricultural trade in the Frontier sector is not at all viable; There are not enough ships, crews, time, or supplies to keep even a single city supplied for any significant length of time. Even worlds with Heavy / Industrial profiles must, by necessity, have enough food production to keep the entire population fed.
Besides the basic cereals and grains, there should be extensive protein production, from open fishing to land or water farming, to hydroponic protein-laden genemod fungi.
Have you tried Malthar-Brand Soylent? The taste varies from person to person...