Food Security Technology
As food security becomes a growing threat in light of situations like Venezula's government weaponizing hunger, many technologies are rising to meet new food challenges. These four companies span everything from new financial technologies on blockchain, to defense of crops through introduction of parasitic insects, spreading agricultural knowledge to regions without Internet, and increasing crop yield with cheaper hydroponics.
- In response to the Venezuelan government's selective distribution of food aid along party lines, two local citizens established eatBCH, a cryptocurrency food donation program.
- eatBCH uses Bitcoin Cash (BCH), a peer-to-peer monetary distribution system, to allow donations to cross borders without large financial penalties or charity overhead. Major news outlets and thinktanks, such as Vox and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), have begun to endorse eatBCH.
- As of December 14, 2019, over 286 BCH had been collected, which could be in excess of $59,000.
- eatBCH's website also links to an external article tallying their donations to South Sudan at over $10,000, which adds weight to such estimations.
BioBee Bio® Aphidius
- Recently, genetic modification programs such as DARPA's Insect Allies research are worrying scientists with their potential for weaponization of insect-borne viruses to target crop production.
- As a result, insect predator technology like BioBee's Bio® Aphidius wasp, are being touted as a potential line of defense against virus-carrying pests like aphids.
- Bio® Aphidius is only one of BioBee's modified insect technologies, but because researchers estimate this species kills 388 aphids for each female, it is one of their most promising products.
- BioBee is the most established company on this list, having been founded in 1984.
- In 2000, BioBee reported sales of NIS 20,000,000, and in 2001, Hazera Genetics acquired one quarter of the company for NIS 10,000,000.
- Another, perhaps more simple approach to the threat of weaponized crop pests is to democratize the spread of information between poor, smallholder, or rural farmers, as Wefarm is doing with its SMS-based social media platform for farmers.
- By further utilizing machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) technologies independent of the English language, Wefarm attempts to match each farmer's questions with the most suitable and knowledgeable farmer's answer, regardless of language ability.
- In 2018, Wefarm announced raising $7,000,000 to expand its services to aid 100,000,000 farmers by 2022.
- While hydroponics have often been suggested as a solution for growing crops in nutrient poor regions, the cost of such technology has remained prohibitively high.
- However, UK-based Phytoponics has harnessed deep water culture technology to create the Hydrosac, which they say will reduce the costs of hydroponic farming by half.
- In 2018, Phytoponics raised £500,000.
These four global food security companies were selected after careful review of potential sources of food insecurity caused by outside actors with malicious intent. Therefore, each of these companies was selected to be a promising emerging technology addressing one method of attack.
In regard to the estimate of eatBCH's funding: our method of calculation was multi-staged. First, we tracked the total amount of BCH that had passed through their wallet's public key, which is listed on their site. Then we accessed the current valuation of BCH, a highly volatile exchange rate, to estimate the total value. It should be noted that because the price of BCH fluctuates daily and because donations have been collected over the course of a year, this number can only be an estimate.