I think a mayor directive for the list should be that you cannot expect to find anything on the alien world. For example, the local flora might be indigestible to all Earth herbivores, so you should think of including plants that can also double as feed as the animals are literary incapable of grazing. Or you might not even want to bring grazing animals along at all or pick the least food-intensive one.
There should also be redundancy taken into account. People mentioned soy and the like, and you definitely should bring a protein-heavy crop. Hell, you should bring three just in case one of them can't grow for whatever reason. Same should go for other things, you don't want just one source of fiber but several. Don't rely on one source of fiber, don't rely on one source of building materials, etc.
For food, the three big groups should be taken into account: carbohydrates (fibers in oats, rice, wheat and sugar in sugarbeets), protein (soy, lentils, peas) and micro-nutrients (I don't even know where to begin there except you want a complete package). Then other priorities like fibers, building materials and medicine (unless you can expect to be severely strapped for those too).
This is going aside the common criticism of interstellar colonies in that you would need to have the technology to build space habitats. That's not just simply making living spaces, but making completely self-sufficient habitats, especially in terms of food. They'd mine asteroids and whatnot for raw materials, but nothing else besides. So they would have very, very good experience of turning raw materials into whatever they need be it basic needs or complex things computers or medicine Going to a habitable planet would actually be easier than building habitats, because everything is so close to each other.
The other notion is that you should bring extensive genetic engineering into it, from adapting your plants to local day/night cycles and conditions to outright changing humans to be able to eat the local flora and fauna. But that's outside the scope of the OP I guess.
Formless wrote:We should likely take some average old grass along. It grows quickly, lets some of our animals graze, and could help prepare the soil outside for our other crops.
Except you are planting that in alien ecology. You do not want a runaway plant species to spread uncontrollably, you do not want to wreck the planet's ecology faster than you can repair it. If it can grow at all. If you have to make your own soil, then you might want to produce more productive crops that you can feed yourself and the animals with. Or even go with animals that require less food and are more direct with grain-to-meat ratio like chicken instead of cows.
There is also the question of how much arable land you have and how hard it is for you to make.
Why are you arguing sugar cane vs. sugar beets when, if you take bees, you not only get pollinators you also get honey?
Because sugar would be a mayor caloric source in place of meat (especially in a low-meat diet), one much more efficient per arable land. Bee honey is a source but is a byproduct of pollinating while sugar beets are direct source.
Well, obviously, initially it's going to be very high tech what with space travel and all, but the tech level will plunge rapidly once they arrive due to a simple lack of infrastructure.
Yes, but fast will the colonists be able to build infrastructure in the first place? If you have 25st century tech and manufacturing base with 3d printers, nuclear-powered refineries, mining machines, robots with AI (another big thing) and who knows what else, then you could easily create early 20th century-level infrastructure rather than go back to 18th-century level. You would likely have access to nuclear power, either fission or fusion, either as cargo or taken from the spaceship (which you would recycle unless it goes on its own merry way after dropping the people). If you have 3D printer that can print itself, that would radically alter your plans. If you have molecule-fabricators with nanotechnology (or just very good chemical factories), you can create whatever medicine you need artificially rather than inefficiently grow them.
You would want this because even with just 20th century technology you can massively increase the efficiency of farmers. You will have limited amount of people, so you want them to be as efficient as possible even if you have to lug more machines. You'd go pre-industrial in things that are less important like hygiene, luxuries, house construction material, etc.
That is not to say that bringing everything essential for a low-tech technology base is a bad idea. Especially so as backup in case something bad happens to your high-tech manufacturing bases. But it does change what your priorities are. If you have good metal, ceramics and/or plastics manufacturing from the start, building materials are less of a priority.
1) they run on the same "fuel", broadly speaking, as people do, fuel that is grown rather than mined and refined and
Yes, but how much arable land will you have from the start?
2) they "engines" are self-reproducing, you don't have to build them they'll replicate on their own if you let them
True, but they have fixed reproduction rates. Babies need time to mature and grow up. That is actually a problem with plants too, no matter how big your fields are they need a certain amount of time before they can be harvested and that's not bringing seasons into it.
The colony might retain a very limited fleet of mechanical vehicles but how much fuel are they going to bring with them?
If you have nuclear power, you could have plenty of fuel either with batteries or by making new fuels like hydrogen for fuel cells, biodiesel, extracting from seawater, etc.
This also brings in the question whether the colony can expect (and use) hydrocarbon sources on the alien world. Without oil and coal you cannot jump-start the industrial revolution all over again and you will want to tailor your approach that you don't need to in the first place. In fact, it would be best to assume that nothing but simple resources would exist. Pretty much like making habitats in space, which a space-faring civilization would be familiar with.
Even today, there are times and places we still use horses for transport as a practical solution rather than for fun - rugged wilderness terrain, for example, and a new planet will be entirely "rugged wilderness". Horses don't need roads and where you're going there aren't any roads (yet - I'm sure there will be in time).
Places where horses are the most practical vehicles today are usually places that are not suited for arable land. You don't want to start your colony there or go regularly there.
As for vehicles:
a, you can make vehicles that work on rugged terrain.
b, one mayor advantage of horses is that they can graze to feed themselves on wild terrain. This might not work with the alien flora and you might find yourself having to grow crops just for them, in which case you might as well go for cows for more food and less transportation capacity.
c, you are going to do mayor landscaping anyway to make farmland and even low-tech roads can be efficient. That said, you want to limit motorized vehicles for truly essential tasks like being tractors, landscaping machines, suppliers of multi-ton loads, etc. Likely on developed roads, whereas you'd use cheaper and simpler vehicles for things like personal transportation.