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Gro in Conversation With Former US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson

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We are living in volatile times — and both food security and climate change are at the center of it. It has never been more urgent for our systems and institutions to become more resilient so that we can address these challenges. 

Gro Intelligence’s CEO, Sara Menker, spoke with former US Treasury Secretary and Chairman of the Paulson Institute Hank Paulson on his podcast, Straight Talk, to discuss agricultural markets and food security as well as the impacts of climate change. They also spoke about how Gro is leveraging our platform to help financial institutions, companies, and public institutions measure and manage climate risk across various assets and asset classes. 

Listen to the full recording of their conversation on YouTube, Spotify, or Apple Podcasts

Founding the Gro Platform Across Agriculture, Climate, and the Economy

Gro Intelligence began building the Gro Platform in 2014 to answer core questions facing global agricultural systems. How do you predict supply, demand, and trade, and ultimately prices of every agricultural product on Earth every day? How can data and information drive systematic change in the industry? 

“If you think about what that means, that's not just for corn or wheat or soybeans or products that are traded on exchanges, but it's also for vanilla beans and black pepper and livestock and dairy,” Menker said. “It’s the full spectrum of the agricultural system.” 

The Gro Platform aims to provide unique analytics that help organizations understand the complex interrelationships between supply, climate, demand, and trade — the main factors driving price. Gro ingests large, disparate datasets from governments, satellites, and private companies for regions and crops worldwide. Included among the datasets are large amounts of environmental, weather, and future climate projection data. 

Gro then standardizes this data, enabling an understanding of the global system. Using machine learning and AI, Gro has built predictive models to provide actionable insights across agriculture, climate, and the economy. We also look at the past, the present, the immediate future and the long-term future to measure climate risks in agricultural supply chains. 

“Over eight years, we built a geospatially explicit framework to measure climate risk of any physical asset anywhere on Earth,” Menker said. “Through this very robust engine, we can really start looking at how to actually expand agriculture on the climate side, so that we can measure both the immediate as well as long-term climate risks for any type of institution that's managing any set of physical assets.”

Solving Challenges Across Industries

Gro mixes and matches our models for different types of decisions by financial institutions, corporates, and public institutions.

Financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies use Gro’s Yield Forecast Models, for example, to look at insurance policies or lending rates against agricultural products. Gro’s Yield Forecast Models estimate in-season yields at the county/district, state/province, and national levels on a daily basis for a variety of crops and regions worldwide.

For a CPG company, our Yield Forecast Models can be leveraged for better procurement strategies. CPG companies also use our Land Suitability Model, which looks at alternative regions where land and growing conditions are suitable for a crop’s growth. 

For governmental and multilateral organizations, our Platform helps clients better understand how to manage national food security risks, Menker explained.

What to Monitor in Gro

Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine exacerbated the pressures on our agricultural systems, given the Black Sea region’s contributions to world food supplies — especially, wheat, sunflower oil, and fertilizers. Gro closely monitors the impact of the Ukraine war on commodities and has created a resources page here to help organizations navigate the unprecedented supply chain shocks.

Persistent drought in many parts of the world — from East Africa to Western Europe and the US Midwest — also has weighed on global agricultural supplies and supply chains. The Gro Drought Index and Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture constantly track growing conditions worldwide to signal when drought events are impacting crop production.  

“That's a real shock and one that we have to still continue to manage. And it doesn't mean that if drought goes away, it goes back to normal. Our resilience factors have to be tweaked to how we think about inventories, how we think about our supply chains, because this is here to stay,” Menker said.

Beyond drought, Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture allows users to monitor growing conditions — including temperature, precipitation, as well as Gro’s indices for drought and vegetative health — highlighted for a specific crop’s planted area at the county/district, state/province, and national levels. The Navigator also can be weighted for demographic-based datasets to look at the effects of climate change on economies. 

“What always shocks me is the spatial distribution of outcomes on our platform of where the most affected regions are. The regions that are going to be most affected are the most populated regions in those countries. One of those affected areas is sub-Saharan Africa and the poverty rates are already very high,” Menker said. 

As governments, humanitarian organizations, and businesses across the agricultural supply chain try to adapt to these current realities, they need timely and transparent data from trusted sources. The Gro Platform is built to provide this data and help our customers see around the corner, enabling better, faster, and more informed decisions.

Reach out to us at support@gro-intelligence.com to speak to a member of our team or get a demonstration of our platform.

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