The foreseeable effects of Earth’s changing climate system include greater food insecurity. For people living in climate-sensitive regions, access to nutritional calories is becoming less reliable and more limited. The scale and scope of this human health problem will continue to grow, turning prosperous societies into societies struggling to stave off widespread malnutrition. The mission of the Food Security Team (FST) centers on finding strategies of adaptation that provide reliable and sustainable access to food with high nutritional value. The FST draws from the scientific achievements of other MEER:ReflEction Teams, building on their work as it innovatively combines existing technologies and develops new ones.
Food Security Team Leader
Laya Pothunuri is an undergraduate student at Nanyang Technological University, majoring in mechanical engineering and specializing in design. Focusing beyond the risk horizon of our destabilized climate system and seeing opportunity in addressing the very dangers that threaten the foundations of the civilized world, Laya’s farsighted vision helped her earn the distinction of being selected as a 2020 National Geographic Young Explorer. Her research prioritizes affordability and sustainability and treats them as inseparable elements of any approach for mitigating the hostile effects of Earth's new climate patterns and fraying web of interconnected ecosystems. With the eyes of an engineer, Laya looks at the swarming of desert locust, a phenomenon that devastated the 2020 harvest of African, Indian, and Pakistani farmers. She is assessing several technological proposals, with Dr. Tao’s guidance, for efficiently harvesting these short-horned and short-lived grasshoppers during their gregarious swarming phase. Edible, highly nutritious, and ubiquitous during a swarm, locusts can be harvested as a food source in ways that are affordable and sustainable and that offer significant climate remediation cobenefits.