I call bull on the rice shortage excuse


Soylent Staff,

You said in your recent e-mail update, “experiencing supply issues due to a global rice shortage, and had to push back their delivery date several weeks”. That is bull.

I live in the Asia-Pacific area and there is a global rice surplus causing serious problems for rice farmers. That is why the rice farmers in Thailand are trying to bring down the government there, because of the low price for their Thai quality rice. Rice prices in Asian stores are lower than they have been for years. Google ‘Thai rice farmers protest prices’ and you will get numerous links to stories.

You need to have a talk with your supplier, either that or you guys are just looking for an excuse to delay again. You picked the wrong excuse.

Daniel H. Nielsen
Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (U.S.)


What do you think that in reality, those guys are too lazy to unpack the rice protein they have already laying there for weeks, and therefore they are just coming up with some stories, to hide the real truth…

Yes, I think they made some mistakes, but that is being too excited and ambitious, and not overseeing that March 2014 would be the real realistic date. And Augustus 2013 just wasn’t realistic.

This mistake will affect the trust many people have in this company. The only thing they can do now, is learn from it. If you guys think you can do international shipping in June. I would say, write “Augustus or earlier” instead of June.


When the Soylent guys (or their suppliers) talk about a “global rice shortage,” they are not speaking as economists. The old yarn about the difference between a recession and a depression applies here. In this case, a rice shortage is when you can’t get all the rice you want right away, while a global rice shortage is when I can’t get all the rice I want right away.

I see @reddleman posted as I was typing this, but he does get to the heart of the terminology and its usage. I'd say i went to the heart of why they cant get the rice. 

While I don’t know who their supplier for the rice protein is, I don’t doubt it when they say their supplier is having issues getting rice. There are many factors that can control the global rice supply. For starters, Rice harvest times vary globally based on the environment ( http://www.mediumgrainrice.com/aboutrice/harvester.asp ), and trade. From Wikipedia:

less than 8% of rice produced is traded internationally.[79]… Many countries consider rice as a strategic food staple, and various governments subject its trade to a wide range of controls and interventions. :

Some countries ban rice imports depending on what was used as fertilizer. On top of the trade (which counts ALL rice shipments), we also have to consider that the maker of Soylent’s brown rice protein isolate may use a special variety of rice (which could affect nutritional ratings, or merely be the only one that can be made to the desired size).

It sounds like that surplus is an issue of their own making, and was bought well above the current price of rice. I doubt they will manage to sell it unless they don’t mind selling it for a major loss.



Your response makes no sense. Soylent stated as a fact that a supplier of rice could not supply the need rice becuase of a world shortage of rice and thus the need for further delay in shipping promised soy lent.

I posted as a fact that there is NOT a worldwide rice shortage. In fact there is a surplus thus the lower rice costs and gave an example i.e. low rice prices in Thailand and Asia in general and provided a way to verify my factual statement through Google.

Your response does not address the company statement of a rice shortage (which is false), and my statement as fact that there is in fact a rice surplus (which is true). Therefore my conclusion that either the supplier is not telling the truth or Soylent is using an excuse to delay shipment that is not true. Your response provides no facts or substantive usable facts to show either the company is right or I am wrong.


The REAL reason behind the delay was buried in the message. Only ONE supplier can the provide the rice at the proper particle size necessary because of a patent. That supplier may be having issues with their specific rice supply, no telling how they are organized or what deals/restrictions on their sources they have. This should not have been such a large issue that this particular supplier dropped the ball somehow if they could get a proper substitute elsewhere, but here’s another example of patents screwing things up for everyone.


I dunno, I think if I invented a particular process or machine that ground rice to a particular size, I’d be entitled to profit from my invention. Patents are not to blame, here, anyway.

It’s a niche market, so you’re not going to see a lot of redundancy, even if there weren’t patents in place. This is a new product - nobody was anticipating a demand for these particular ingredients.


I disagree with the way patents work currently… any patent that stalls progress is bad for the world in my eyes… specially if the goal is profit instead of improving life for everyone… I think it’s fine that you should earn money on inventing something, but perhaps it should be more important that you had the superior product… if someone could use your invention and improve on it or the process to make an even greater product that sold better… that should be alright. Patents stall progress.


That is true. The point I was trying to make, was something different then showing you are right or wrong on this subject.


It all boils down to the fact that society has to protect the individuals absolute right to the fruits of their own labor, intellectual or otherwise. If you remove patents, you remove protection of intellectual labor - and in this world, most of us do intellectual work at one level or another. If I have no protection of my ideas, then why bother sharing them?

Nobody else has the right to use my ideas in any way except the ways I decide I want them to be used. Patents offer the most rigid protection, but there are other options out there. This is the importance of open source licensing - there are legally protected ways of sharing your work and retaining credit, with control over the sharing, within current patent law.

If you remove patent law from the equation, you end up with the individuals and corporations with the greatest means of production monopolizing ideas, stifling innovation, and profiting off the hard work of others, without giving due recompense for their hard work.

We don’t exist in isolation, so the free trade of ideas needs protection to prevent abuse. This allows situations in which individuals can capitalize on their intellectual labor. Remove the ability to capitalize on intellectual labor, and you remove personal incentive.

The open source mentality is the solution for the problem you are acknowledging. At some point the benefits will be familiar to enough people that the ideas of licensing products and inventions under permissive open sourcing will be common. It will still be possible for corporations like Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung to perpetuate their institutions and protect their intellectual property.

“Should be” doesn’t count for much in my book. Make the best of it. Participate in open source and educate yourself and others to make the best of an imperfect world. Patent laws exist, and aren’t all bad. Open source is the enlightened alternative.


I just don’t get why rice have to be certain size? Isn’t those get grinded up anyway?


It’s not the size of the rice itself, it’s the size of the particles it’s ground into. If the rice isn’t ground in a certain way, it makes the whole mixture feel “chalky”.

As an analogy, a grain of gravel is bigger than a grain of sand, and both are bigger than a grain of clay – they’re all (basically) ground-up rock, but the pieces are bigger or smaller.


Ahh understood. Thanks.

I wonder if Soylent company can further ground rice to smaller size.


That’s the point - whatever method the other supplier was using, they have a patent on that method, so it is difficult to find elsewhere.

The Soylent guys could look for someone else, but paperwork would probably make it take at least as long, if not longer, to put through an order in the enormous size they need.


of all the rise in the world only 8% is exported. and perhaps 1% of that is used to make rise proteins, being selled to different retailers and manufacturer. That will probably make it quite easy to create a “rise shortage” in one manufacturer.


I have to say, even though I’m on the other side of the fence vis a vis intellectual property, I am enjoying all the well reasoned debate on ancillary topics that soylent is causing.

Once again, civil debate (and science) for the win!


As people have noted, there is a difference between the supply of rice (in a local, food base sense) and the global supply of rice in a trade sense.

Just because local food prices have fallen doesn’t mean that there is interest in exporting that food internationally. Even if there was a surplus harvest, if it was proceeded by a few lean years it is absolutely rational and normal for governments to fill the national granaries before they start allowing export for trade and profit.

A good example of this (in the reverse) is the US national petroleum reserves. In times of economic duress where overseas fuel supply diminishes (as happened over the past decade), the government opens up some of the reserves for processing by oil companies. When petroleum prices drop, they fill the national reserves.


Don’t worry, dnielsen50; you can be sure the people of the Soylent team are every bit as ticked-off as we are about this delay (if not more so), they’re just too professional to curse and rant in public about something they have no control over.
These are just the hiccups of a new company feeling the pains of going big a bit too fast, and things are going to be a bit bumpy for a while. Be patient, and expect great things, because it’s about to pay off.


What I dislike the most about patents is that there isn’t a practical way for independent invention, not that the current system even acknowledges the possibility. It forces me to look through others work to make sure I don’t come up with something too similar on my own. It deviates the resources that could be spent solving problems into making sure you don’t step on other’s intellectual toes, if it’s even possible because the person deciding if the invention is novel doesn’t have to be skilled in the art, such that obvious evolutions become protected and hinder any advancement for a period of time.