Konar Research Group

Civil and Environmental Engineering Department
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Resilience of food production, supply chains, and security to COVID-19

COVID-19 is creating dramatic changes in the location and timing of food supply and demand. This project will analyze the impacts of COVID-19 disruptions on food production, food consumption, and supply chains to identify those locations most vulnerable to food security impacts. This project will also develop innovative analytical models and data integration approaches to investigate how the US food system is affected during a pandemic. Research outcomes, including county-level maps, model code, and spatial datasets, will be made freely available online for the research community. An online, interactive tool to explore how COVID-19 has disrupted the food supply chain will be produced.

Urban food security in Southern Africa

This research investigates the interactions between urban food security and rural agricultural production. Specifically, the project evaluates the impacts of environmental variability on rural agricultural production and how this affects urban food security, and, in turn, how urban population growth affects the demand for local and regional agricultural production, as measured through food trade and flows. This project aims to understand how local, regional, and global food flows affect urban food security under different socio-environmental conditions in order to develop new understanding of how to maintain urban food security.

A national strategy for a resilient food supply chain in the United States

Distribution through complex supply chains is critical to food security. Several risks to food supply chains in the U.S. are increasing in potential frequency and severity. Extreme weather disruptions to agricultural production, reliance on unsustainable irrigation resources, and degraded infrastructure represent future threats to food supply chains in the United States. This project seeks to (1) articulate the interdependent infrastructure networks that support the national food supply chain, (2) evaluate the exposure of the food supply chain to key risks, and (3) pinpoint vulnerabilities in the interdependent infrastructure networks that underpin the food supply chain.

Mapping the food, energy, and water system of the United States

The Food, Energy, and Water (FEW) system is complex, yet critical for national well-being. This project's major contribution is to create and exploit the first detailed mapping of the FEW system of the United States. This capability will improve understanding of how local FEW policy decisions and technologies cause ripple effects throughout the system (for example, how electricity usage in an American city affects rivers hundreds of miles away). Policies and technologies often pose trade-offs between FEW systems, and this project is measuring those trade-offs so costs and benefits may be understood and balanced in future decisions.

Smallholder livelihoods and global food security

Food security in regions affected by drought is influenced by a complex set of interactions between hydrological, agricultural, and social systems. This project's goal is to understand the effect of drought hazards in subsistence agriculture using a novel integrative framework that merges data, models, and knowledge of drought risk and crop production; their interactions with the dynamics of the international trade system; and their effect on household food security and consumption. This project focuses on Zambia, whose small-scale farmers typically rely on rain-fed agriculture, making it an ideal place to study how the interactions between drought risk, crop production, trade, and policy affect food security.