The Hyperloop might be the key to preventing global food shortages. The world’s increasingly obsolete, slow, overworked and inefficient transportation structure makes shortages of food more likely.
Hyperloop is a potential solution to this problem because it might be capable of moving fast amounts of food at high speeds. More importantly because it operates inside a large tube, Hyperloop is far less vulnerable to the weather than current transport technologies.
Unlike railways, canals and highway Hyperloop would be able to operate through blizzards, monsoon rains, extremes of cold and heat, high winds and quite probably floods. That means food would keep moving even in terrible weather.
Crumbling Infrastructure threatens our Food Supply, is Hyperloop the answer?
The world’s supply is highly dependent on aging, slow, obsolete, inefficient and often crumbling infrastructure.
Much of the grain, corn and soybeans exported from the United States travels on railroads that were built in the 19th Century. Some of the major rail lines in the United States were built before the Civil War (1861-1860) and no major transcontinental railway has built in North America since before World War I (1914-1918) Those railroads are constantly being delayed or knocked out by floods, crashes and are highly vulnerable to sabotage.
To make matters worse, 60% of the agricultural exports exported by the US travel through the Inland Marine Transportation System (IMTS) in other words rivers and canals; 18th century technologies, The Washington Post Wonk Blog reported. Rivers and canals freeze in the winter, and are vulnerable to flooding and dependent on locks which can be knocked out with a few pounds of TNT.
A potentially greater problem is the slow speed that barges on the IMTS move at. The average cruising speed of a barge is six kilometers (3.7 miles) an hour. That’s right much of our food supply is moving on a transportation system that is slower than a horse and buggy. Nor is it just the United States Brazil; another food major supplier has a crumbling road network and railways, both of which can easily be knocked out by a rain storm.
Chokepoints Threaten the World Food Supply
What’s even scarier is that 53% of the world’s food supply moves through a few chokepoints that can easily be blocked by war, political unrest, terrorism, natural disasters, strikes, or system failures, the British think tank Chatham House concluded. Movement of food depends on 14 chokepoints; 13 of which have suffered major disruptions in the past 15 years.
Those Chokepoints include rivers; such as the Mississippi in the United States, straights; such as the Dardanelles, Gibraltar and Malacca and canals such as the Panama and Suez. Ports are also a problem, around 25% of the world’s soybean crop moves through just four ports in Brazil. Around 12% of the world’s wheat supply moves through a handful of ports on the Black Sea and the Dardanelles.
There are also sea corridors such as the Red Sea, the English Channel and the Mediterranean. Such routes are narrow and very vulnerable to attack and blockage.
This means that one warship, one mine field, or a few batteries of artillery in the right place can choke off a large portion of the world’s food supply. It also explains why countries; like the United States, India, China and the United Kingdom, are investing heavily in new naval vessels.
It also explains China’s; or “New Silk Road,” transportation network that includes direct rail links to Europe and Pakistan. A major reason for the One Road is to bypass chokepoints in the Middle East and the Strait of Malacca. The Suez Canal and Red Sea are next to Yemen and the Sinai areas; where wars are waging, and a few hundred miles from ISIS’s main base in Syria and Iraq.
The Hyperloop Solution to the Chokepoint Dilemma
Hyperloop is a potential solution to this dilemma because it might be capable of moving vast amounts of freight in cargo containers at extremely high speeds.
Elon Musk estimated that the system might operate at speeds of up to 700 miles (1,126.54 kilometers) per hour. Hyperloop One has tested its XP-1 pod at speeds of 192 miles (308.9 kilometers) per hour. This means it might be possible to move vast amounts of food at speeds faster than what an airplane moves at.
More importantly it would be possible to build new routes to bypass chokepoints fairly easily. For example; several Hyperloop tubes running across Isthmus of Panama or Nicaragua would be far cheaper and easier to build than a new canal.
A Hyperloop running under the Straights of Dover would enable ships carrying grain to dock and off load at Liverpool, rather than sail to Rotterdam or Hamburg. A Hyperloop running through Eastern Europe would allow Russian grain to be shipped out through Rotterdam; Athens or even Liverpool, rather than the Black Sea.
The system might also be more efficient instead of loading Russian grain onto a train for shipment to a port to be loaded onto a ship to reach the Middle East. The grain can be loaded in a Hyperloop container, and shot straight to the Middle East.
Among other things this would allow year round food shipments from parts of the US and Canada, including much of the grain from the Great Plains to be exported via Houston; or the Mexican port of Lazaro Cardenas on the Pacific, rather than down the Mississippi.
An intriguing long term solution is Hyperloop lines under seas and oceans. This might be cheaper, and would certainly be faster than ocean shipping.
How Food can Make Hyperloop One the World’s Most Valuable Unicorn
The potential profit from this transport is immense; the global food trade grew by 127% between 2000 and 2015. That growth is projected to continue for the foreseeable future, which increase the demand for new transportation solutions.
One of which is Hyperloop One’s solution which is designed to move cargo containers. The fragility of the world’s transportation network and the vulnerability of food might make Hyperloop One into the world’s most valuable unicorn; pre initial public offering (IPO) company.
The world has an infrastructure investment deficit of $250 billion through 2040, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated. That deficit might be made worse by climate change, which an electric powered Hyperloop can help prevent.
This means that the world’s potential food supply problems might be a huge opportunity for Hyperloop One and competitors like Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. The tube might be the solution to the world’s food problems.