Gro Intelligence – Food Security through Big Data

Kelsey Kane-Ritsch / Uni: kk3395

1) Sustainability Problem (Safety and Health): Food security is a serious global health issue that will only worsen with climate change. Approximately a quarter of the global population is food insecure and the World Bank projects that the world will need 70% more food to feed a global population of 9.6 billion people in 2050. Last year in the US alone, natural disasters like droughts and wildfires further disrupted our systems and caused $95 billion in damages. In order to plan growing conditions and project crop yields, many companies rely on mono-dimensional data. However, it’s necessary to consider entire agricultural and climate systems in order to improve accuracy of predictions and efficiency of production as the world grows increasingly interconnected.

2) Technology Solution (Article: “Gro Intelligence: Accounting for Climate Change,” Time, https://time.com/collection/time100-companies/5950007/gro-intelligence/; Gro Intelligence website: https://gro-intelligence.com/)

  • Gro Intelligence was featured in the 2021 “Time 100 Most Influential Companies,” for producing an application that pulls together global food and agriculture data and structures it into a common language on a single platform that produces data, analytics, and forecasts using human and artificial intelligence.
  • Gro’s application can process 650 trillion data points from over 40,000 sources and provides analysis and predictions for 15,000 agricultural products. Additionally, Gro is creating the “first real clean global data set on climate” to help investors account for potential climate impacts.  
  • Gro’s goal is to increase efficiency and productivity of the global food industry by reducing the complexity of agricultural and climate data. Using hundreds of customizable models, Gro provides information about price volatility due to supply chain impacts, planting intentions and in-season yield models, physical risks of climate change, and regional demand shifts.
  • The Gro for Good program allows growers, researchers, and non-profits to use Gro’s data and visualization tools for free in order to more equitably tackle food insecurity globally.

3) Organizational stakeholders: In an interview, Gro CEO Sara Menker said that “Gro works with everyone in the agricultural ecosystem but the farmer.” This is an interesting observation around a product that in many ways, is meant to help small farmers. Menker’s idea is that if you make the entire system around the farmer more efficient and decrease the cost of capital, then small farmers and agriculture benefit. Gro hopes to achieve this goal by working with a broad range of stakeholders, including: government bodies invested in national food security that can monitor and forecast changes in global agricultural markets; the financial sector (hedge funds, investment banks, asset managers, etc) which uses these markets to manage risks and predict future price movements; wholesale buyers who would benefit from trends predicting price disruptions in advance; and food and beverage companies concerned about supply chain disruption.

4) Implementation: Gro Intelligence already secured prominent financial backers like TBG Growth and Data Collective. Implementation of Gro will depend on the perception of need for these climate and ag data sets, and thus will require drawing the attention of the financial sector and big food and beverage companies to the risks posed by climate change and a lack of knowledge around it. Successful implementation of Gro also depends on availability and accuracy of data. Gro must secure access to robust and reliable data for every question it endeavors to answer. Such initial implementation steps are still far from the company’s goal of enabling market stability and risk-reduction benefits up and down the supply chain.

4 thoughts on “Gro Intelligence – Food Security through Big Data

  1. A point that I read in the article that caught my attention is the ability of this technology to show past and future effects of events and what it can do to agriculture. This particular quote was fascinating:

    “Curious about how the African swine fever impacted the Chinese pork market and its subsequent cascading impact on global commodity prices? Gro has a model. Or how a threatened trucker strike over the cost of diesel fuel could impact sugar prices in Brazil? That too. Gro even created a climate-risk score to assess the future of 300 ski destinations.”

    This tool could potentially help government entities and large corporations make decisions while also helping the average person understand complicated data in a digestible way.

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  2. Thank you Kelsey for sharing this, this is extremely interesting and exciting technology that relates to food data. Another interesting piece of information I found is that the Gro team uses satellite data to monitor and predict the path of the swarm to help figure out where best to deploy scarce pesticides and have worked with the Ethipian government on how to ramp up food reserves ahead of a projected increase in global food prices.

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  3. Hi Kelsey, thanks for posting about this really interesting technology. I think there will be more and more companies that can interpret and communicate satellite data for sustainable uses. Another use for this technology will be in crop insurance, specifically “agricultural index insurance,” which can be more effective for small scale farmers in developing countries and has been proven effective in sustainable development and building agricultural resilience. As opposed to traditional insurance which pays out indemnity for actual losses occurred (and can be prohibitively expensive for small scale farmers), index insurance ” payouts are related to an “index” that is closely correlated to agricultural production losses, such as one based on rainfall, yield or vegetation levels (e.g. pasture for livestock). Payouts are made when the index exceeds a certain threshold, often referred to as a “trigger”. Index-based insurance is not therefore designed to protect farmers against every peril, but only where there is a widespread risk that significantly influences a farmer’s livelihood. Many such indices now make use of satellite imagery.” Using satellite data for agricultural reslilence has been effectively done in Uruguay by a Earth Institute scientist named Walter Baethgen. and more info on that can be found here: http://www.ainfo.inia.uy/digital/bitstream/item/6730/1/Agrometeoros.-201724885-114679-1-SM-Baethgen-W.-et-al.pdf

    SOURCE: https://basis.ucdavis.edu/index-insurance-innovation-initiative-i4

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