With the world focused on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the public’s attention to other threats to global health and well-being has waned, while such threats themselves remain very much in place.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA, February 18, 2021 /Neptune100/ — Food security is a simple concept. As defined by the United Nations food security “means that all people, at all times have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.” Food insecurity certainly isn’t a problem affecting me and probably not having an impact on your life, either. But for millions of people around the world it is a daily concern with direct impacts, while for billions of others it remains a distinct, if not imminent, threat.
After decades of success in reducing world hunger, the number of people affected by hunger started to climb in 2014. A recent U.N. report — “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” — estimated that as of 2019 about “690 million people, or 8.9 percent of the global population, were undernourished.” This estimate represents an increase of 60 million people affected by hunger since 2014. Going forward, if the trend continues, the U.N. estimates that the number of undernourished people will near 850 million by 2030. Adding to the concern, the U.N. estimates that almost 30 percent of the population, about two billion people, face potential moderate or severe food insecurity.
Food insecurity has numerous causes, ranging from drought to distribution problems and from land degradation to high costs. Meanwhile, global population continues to grow, creating ever higher pressure to produce more food from a limited production base.
The world’s population is expected to reach about 9.7 billion by 2050.
Combined with an increase in global living standards and diets, global food production will need to increase by 50 percent to maintain food security. With a dearth of available farmland, such increases are going to have to come from increased yields through crop productivity.
Food Security Challenged by Other Global Threat
Meanwhile, another rising global threat will likely prove to be the greatest challenge to food security — that is, climate change. It’s difficult enough to increase production due to an increasing population, but trying to boost yields in the face of climate change is going to be especially challenging.
According to a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) report, U.S. corn and soybean production accounts for 17 percent of the world’s caloric output. To meet the expected food security demands of 2050, the report said that the U.N. projects that American exports of corn will need to triple and soybean exports double. With limited agricultural land availability, the only way the U.S. can increase production is through improved yield.
However, climate change is projected to vastly reduce crop yields both in the American Midwest and in other agriculturally productive regions in the world.
For a worst case example, scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted experiments that showed that an expected 4 °C rise in average temperatures as of 2100, would cause the number of corn kernels per plant to nosedive. We’re talking about losses of up to 80 percent of kernels, with some plants producing no kernels at all.
Ironically, rising temperatures have been partly responsible for helping the U.S. Midwest — known as “world’s breadbasket” — increase yields over the past few decades. The climate change-induced rise in temperature and change in annual rainfall patterns have produced ideal growing conditions for corn and soybean production. This will likely come to an end within the next 10 years though, as even higher temperatures and more changes in rainfall patterns start causing yields to decline.
HyperCubes is All About Increasing Yield
Naturally, we find such research and projections about the future to be depressing. But rather than accepting such as “fait accompli,” choose to seek out solutions. Thus, our investment in Hypercubes. I do not believe that this innovative nanosatellite technology will miraculously solve the imminent food security crisis, but do believe that it can mitigate it. Given the seriousness of the problem, mitigation is a worthwhile response.
I recently came across a quote from a Harvard University energy expert and a climate change adviser in the Obama administration, John Holdren, who said the following: “We basically have three options: mitigation, adaptation and suffering. We will witness a little of each. The question is what is the mix that will be? The more we mitigate the less adaptation will be needed and the less suffering there will be.”
He was referring to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but we can extrapolate his words to other problems that the world now faces, such as the issue of food security itself, which is intertwined with climate change.
Mitigation is the primary purpose of HyperCubes.
The political incoherence exhibited by several countries in their response to climate change means that it’s up to the private sector to address changes in the climate and all of its consequences. Some governments are not prepared to address inefficiencies in agricultural production and food distribution logistics, so it’s up to innovative companies to mitigate as much as possible the risk of potential food chain collapse, whether due to climate change or some other cause.
HyperCubes, I should explain, are nanosatellites that rely on hyperspectral imaging and artificial intelligence algorithms to provide near real-time analysis of soil composition and other elements of plant health. Such data on soil nutrients, invasive species, bacteria, and other soil health metrics can aid farmers in maintaining optimal food production and increase yields.
The technology can be used to identify which plant cultures might adapt best to the soil of a particular area and produce the best yields without the need for additional stimulation, such as from fertilizer. The data can also be used to determine optimum water allocation needs and sense the presence of invasive species, bacteria, and other plant destroying pests.
On a broader scale, HyperCubes offers a streamlined means for developing new streams of potential food crops. There are more than 300,000 edible plants in the world, but very few dominate global agriculture. Currently only 12 different plant types and five animal species are used to produce 75 percent of the world’s food.
This limited range poses a serious risk to global food production and supply even absent a profound change in the climate. Much like COVID-19 shocked the world, a new plant disease could easily emerge and vastly curtail production of one of our primary food plants.
Such a development would prove catastrophic to the food supply chain and food security. With tools to identify soil characteristics in order to optimize the choice of producing the best food at the right time and in the right place, HyperCubes can lead the charge in expanding our range of potential food crops.
Despite the promise offered by HyperCubes, getting around entrenched political and corporate interests will prove a challenge. Historically, such entrenched interests are resistant to change because the accommodation of their own interests always tends to be stronger than improving the greater community’s well-being.
We cannot change this nature, but we hope through HyperCubes to educate society, government, and corporations that there are other means of increasing food production and ensuring food security. Thus, one of our early challenges is to prove that there are smarter and more profitable ways in the long run to improve how agricultural production is conducted today.
Whether directly or indirectly, we all have to work on developing the solutions needed to ensure the world’s food security. HyperCubes is ready to provide exponential solutions to exponential problems. We find that working at such a technologically driven time when so many are eager to change the world for the better is highly rewarding. Investment with real social impact is what nourishes, inspires and motivates us.