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From Davos: Gro’s CEO Discusses Food Security and the Food System Transition

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At a World Economic Forum (WEF) panel session on January 18th, Gro Intelligence’s CEO Sara Menker joined United Nations World Food Program executive director David Beasley, Bayer AG’s CEO Werner Baumann, Hanneke Faber, president of Unilever’s nutrition group, and CNBC anchor Steve Sedgwick to discuss the challenges facing global food systems, global food security, and what a credible transition to a resilient agrifood system will require. 

For the panelists taking part in the WEF’s Revolutionizing Food Security discussion, private sector involvement, enabling policies that take farmer profitability into account, and a long-term game plan centered on sustainability, decarbonization, and maintaining yields are the critical components of the resilient global food system that the world needs to build. 

While that is a tall order, Gro’s CEO Sara Menker said that there is a lot that agrifood systems can learn from the global energy market transition. 

“It has taken a lot of private capital to move to the conversations that we are having today about clean energy, and the catalyst for that has been data,” Menker said.  

In order to get people to pay attention to food system risk, the agricultural commodity market needs to be able to articulate risks more clearly, she said. Lenders and investors need timely, granular data to measure, price, and transfer risks more effectively, she added. 

Because relatively few agricultural commodities trade on exchanges, market participants currently have very few options for managing their risks, especially medium to long-term exposures. “If you take the most liquid agricultural product in the world today, it's corn in the US. And [today] if you can sell that two years forward, it's still a miracle,” Menker said. 

Yet to make actionable and credible long-term plans that align with sustainability and decarbonization objectives and feeding the world’s 8 billion people, market participants across the spectrum need real-time data and reliable projections. 

“[They need to] know how much of that supply exists. What the supply risks are, and what the demand is going to be” Menker said. “[Without that information] how do you actually systematically price that risk, not just for tomorrow, or for the next year, but for the next 10 to 20 years?” she asked. 

Menker believes that robust data and analytics can be a cornerstone of a global agrifood system transition that decarbonizes as it improves food security. Data and analytics that are methodically rooted in science can become the infrastructure that facilitates risk management, risk sharing, and risk transfer, and in this way, data and analytics can enable different stakeholders - banks, companies, and governments - to play their role, she explained. Bringing these stakeholders and forces together can spur a transition, while helping to address global food insecurity, she said. 

Between 2019 and 2022, the number of people facing acute hunger soared 155% to 345 million worldwide. Currently, 49 million people in 49 different countries are on the edge of famine. 

Even though food price inflation is cooling globally, food security must remain top of mind for world leaders, as the fallout from the last three years’ high inflation lingers, Menker said as the panel discussion concluded.  

To learn more about the tools that Gro has developed to help users track the growing conditions of crops that are not traded on global exchanges or to schedule a demo of the Gro Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture, please reach out to our sales team at sales@gro-intelligence.com

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