Gro Intelligence Founder and CEO Sara Menker highlighted the pivotal role real-time data can play in finding solutions for two of the world’s biggest problems — food insecurity and climate change — during a panel discussion at Fortune Magazine’s sixth annual Brainstorm Health conference.
Gro has built a platform that allows organizations across a variety of sectors to answer key questions regarding food security and climate change and to plan ahead for supply chain shifts.
This year’s Fortune conference, headlined Building Resilience, aimed to examine “some hard-earned lessons” from COVID, as well as “key innovations, technologies, and inspirational collaborations that emerged in the past year.”
COVID battered the world’s food supply chains with simultaneous supply and demand shocks, a rare occurrence that prevented food from getting to where it was needed, Menker told the panel, titled Revolutionizing the Future of Food: How Big Data Can Transform Our Health and Climate.
“We’ve built relatively weak food systems that are not as resilient as we thought they were,” Menker said. The impact of this continues to plague world economies in the form of elevated prices, domestic food inflation, and trade restrictions.
Menker compared today’s food systems to health care systems, noting that preventive medicine is more effective in the long run than reactive medicine. “In food systems, we’re in the reactive state. We need to take it to the preventive state, to plan better, and data gives you the real-time understanding of what’s happening to get you there,” she said.
Data can also help address problems that climate change is bringing to food systems, “whether it is growing the right crops in the right regions or reducing the time from farm to table because that reduces transportation costs and the carbon footprint,” Menker said.
“When we speak about climate change we speak as if the outcome is inevitable versus that the outcome is probable and we can change our behaviors,” Menker said. “Being very intentional in our decisions and using data to drive that can reshape the entire system.”