Research Priorities

Research Goals

On this page we’ll go over some of the projects our team is working on and projects we’d like to work on with more funding. Big picture, we have research underway and we’re working on adding more subject area experts to the team and get additional funding for their research.

2019 Research Priorities

  • Cost-effectiveness of alternate foods for industry disabled scenarios. High-Altitude EMP (HEMP) from nuclear weapons, severe solar storm, or coordinated cyber attack could disrupt power grids, causing the collapse of much of our infrastructure. We plan on using Monte Carlo analysis to estimate how useful alternate food interventions to these catastrophes could benefit the far future.
  • Single Cell Protein from methane digesting bacteria. It’s already being grown for fish, people already eat spirulina. In a catastrophe people could grow bacteria at home for food with the added benefit of waste heat heating their homes. We may also look into growing methane digesting bacteria at the industrial scale.
  • How-to videos for some of the most useful tools and techniques for growing alternate foods at the household/community scale.
  • Continue growing our network of experts, provide them with media training, and build relationships with the media to disseminate useful information in catastrophes.
  • We have calculated that it is technically feasible to feed all people at least two times over. This means that alternate foods could keep all humans alive and also preserve many other species. Next, we want to quantify the cost per expected species saved by alternate foods. These catastrophes could cause extinctions directly, but also starving humans would likely eat other species to extinction. Therefore, alternate foods could be a highly effective environmental intervention.
  • Estimating the cost of scaling up fishing vessels to fish for huge reservoirs of deep sea fish.
  • Working with a project (such as the nuclear winter team funded by Open Philanthropy Project, or similar) to incorporate alternate foods would help both us and the said project to get a better idea of the impacts of nuclear war and how they might be mitigated. For example, the OPP project is analyzing societal impacts and recovery, and introducing the possibility of alternate foods into such analysis could change the result dramatically.
  • Estimating the cost and speed of retrofitting existing chemical plants. This would likely be in consultation with experts and could be compared to the option of rapidly constructing dedicated food production facilities.
  • Initial scoping analysis of new alternate food possibilities, such as single celled protein powered by electricity, direct chemical synthesis of food, seaweed (if the sun is not completely blocked), single-celled protein growing on plastic, and mushrooms/Quorn growing on coal/oil/peat.
  • Using models of nuclear winter, look into which crops could be located to which places. Most likely, the sun wouldn’t be entirely blocked in all locations, but environments would be drastically changed so crops normally grown would need to be replaced with crops better fit for the new environment.
  • Investigating financial mechanisms for governments paying industry to make preparations now. The governments could get a payout in food in the event of a catastrophe.¬†Private funders may perhaps be interested in funding projects and then getting paid by governments for money saved by spending less on stored food.
  • GIS analysis of the resources (biomass, industry, etc.) to produce alternate food by country would help with both individual country and cooperative planning. Economic and trade analysis could estimate levels of cooperation at different intensities of food shocks and levels of preparation for alternate foods.
  • Flexible biorefinery investigation: there are already factories in existence that turn crop leaves/stalks into ethanol. They produce sugar first so they could produce human food in a catastrophe. We would perform experiments to produce the leaf protein concentrate, sugar, and feed for chickens, cows, and mushrooms. Then we would work out how the process could be scaled up quickly in a catastrophe.