Earlier this month, Gro’s SVP of Agribusiness, Jim Heneghan, joined a group of global agricultural experts and leaders at AgFunder and Intellias’ roundtable discussion on LinkedIn LIVE. Alongside Julia Poroshenko of Agrohub, Dmytro Lennyi of Intellias, Himanshu Gupta of ClimateAI, Dr. Simi Thambi of FAIRR, and Maryna Kuzmenko of Petiole, Heneghan spoke about building a resilient agricultural industry amid geopolitical conflict and changing climate conditions.
Russia-Ukraine war adding fuel to the fire
The Russia-Ukraine war has driven extraordinary additional supply disruptions during a time of already highly uncertain and volatile global agricultural markets. Since 2020, the world has faced COVID-19 related labor shortages, droughts, and rising food and fertilizer prices.
Russia and Ukraine used to provide nearly a third of the world’s wheat exports and are in the top five exporters of corn globally. Combined, they used to export 75% of global sunflower oil supplies. Now, all Ukrainian ports remain closed, blocking traditional grain movements and cutting off key grain supplies. Russian exports, which also include fertilizer, are limited because of Black Sea maritime hazards.
The resulting food and hunger crisis calls for immediate global action.
“It’s one of the most extreme, if not the most extreme [situations] I’ve seen in my career,” said Heneghan.
An unprecedented confluence of contributing factors
Several major factors are contributing to the current food crisis. Fertilizer shortages, climate disruptions, record low inventories of key commodities, and logistical bottlenecks are occurring simultaneously and have already started to unravel decades of global economic progress. Data shows the food security challenges we face will last several years, as Gro Intelligence’s CEO, Sara Menker, noted in her briefing to the United Nations Security Council last month.
“The confluence of successive droughts, successive supply [chain] shocks, now a war, now fertilizer reduction in areas that produce the most and feed the world,” Heneghan said. “Stakeholders in the world need to be fully on this because it’s nothing like we’ve seen before.”
“I think there are some glimmers of hope,” Heneghan added. “La Nina breaking to some degree, US crops getting in the ground…there are some areas of better prospects. But we’re already coming off multi-year problems in the global supply of these products.”
Building a resilient ag industry with comprehensive global data
Data fills coverage gaps and connects seemingly disconnected issues, clarifying the path forward. During times of war or increasingly volatile climate conditions, deeper visibility and wider knowledge are vital to strategic planning. Access to trusted data helps governments, humanitarian organizations, and companies worldwide fully understand food security related risks and outcomes and identify the countries most at risk for food insecurity.
“When we had a surge in global food prices and we had issues in 2007 and 2008 - wheat, rice, globally - and even Arab Spring times in ‘11 and ‘12, the difference versus today is we’re onto the problems and situations and running the calculations so much better than we did back then,” Heneghan said. “So stakeholders recognize the magnitude of the problem much better now than they did a decade or more ago.”
While we live in an increasingly fragile, interconnected global food system, with accurate information and coordinated global effort, it is possible to build a healthy global economy and secure food system.
“Through technology, the answer can’t be ‘I didn’t know about it.’ Yes you can get the transparency on it through what we’re doing and what others here on this panel have done,” Heneghan said. “That speed to solution will be so much more beneficial on top of things, and you can avert big problems that might have occurred.”
See how the Gro platform can help your team navigate these pressing challenges by reaching out to us here.
As part of a broader response to this crisis, Gro Intelligence is collaborating with The Rockefeller Foundation to make real-time agricultural data on African countries publicly available to all. With support from The Rockefeller Foundation, Gro Intelligence has launched the Food Security Tracker for Africa, the first publicly available interactive tool that shows the supply and demand of corn, soy, wheat, and rice for 49 African countries. Visit the Food Security Tracker for Africa here.