Advancing Life & Work

What lessons have the pandemic taught us about securing our food supply?


By Curt Hopkins, Editor-in-Chief, Hewlett Packard Labs

Janice Zdankus, vice president for innovation and social impact at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, is leading a session at HPE Discover 2020’s Virtual Experience. This session is titled Protecting Our Food Supply: What We Can Learn from a Global Pandemic.

This session is an aspect of Tech Impact 2030, a program of cooperation between the World Economic Forum and HPE to use technological tools and processes and employee expertise to improve societal problems, in this case, hunger.

“We thought there was an opportunity where new technologies, research technologies, even some technologies that had not made it to market yet actually could contribute to these very complex social challenges in the world, and we didn't want to delay,” said Zdankus about her role pushing Tech Impact forward.

The Tech Impact 2030 program focuses on two selected United Nations sustainable development goals, according to Zdankus: SDG 2, and SDG 3. SDG 2 focuses on food systems and agriculture and STG 3 focuses on health, including pandemics, vaccinations and so forth, so the relationship between this undertaking and COVID-19 is timely.

Hewlett Packard Labs and HPE have a long relationship with agriculture, food systems, and health, including a long relationship with Purdue University

“What we're seeing is that that food systems supply chains have been disrupted because of the pandemic, says Zdankus. "When you don't have workers to harvest the food, when you don't have transportation mechanisms for transporting food, when you don't have the right quantities of food in factories being packaged, it creates issues around food scarcity and hunger all over the U.S.”

But pull back the focus to encompass the globe and the situation is even worse.

“The issue is magnified because the same transportation and supply chain issues are used to make sure seeds arrive to be planted, the proper crop additives like fertilizers and herbicides are available and applied at the right times in the growing season,” says Zdankus. “These are crucial to a successful crop and missing any of those windows can disrupt a major food supply, especially for the areas of the world that are most vulnerable. And when you think about who the most vulnerable populations in the world are, outside of the U.S., are the farmers themselves! It complicates the matter pretty significantly.”

“We have ported a CGIAR data pipeline workload onto our HPE sandbox so that we can accelerate what they're trying to do,” says Zdankus, who describes the group as “the gold standard global leader in data analytics for the global food supply.” This will include satellite data, LIDAR data, numerical data, “flat files that are articulating what's happened with the harvest and the current status of crop growth around the world.”

The HPE sandbox will help to rapidly calculate and analyze that data using the CGIAR algorithms.This project “really resonates in the heart and soul of the HPE employee workforce,” says Zdankus. “This is about providing a means to make an impact through what we know we can do.”

The session will feature specialists besides Zdankus, including a representativs of CGIAR.


Protecting Our Food Supply: What We Can Learn From a Global Pandemic (B451)

Speakers: Janice Zdankus, Vice President, Innovation for Social Impact, Hewlett Packard Labs

Date and time: Available on-demand beginning June 23. Live showcase hours will be optimized for the Americas, APJ, and EMEA, and demos will be attended by our specialists.

Abstract: By 2050, the World Economic Forum estimates that we will need 70 percent more food than is consumed today to feed our world. COVID-19 has significantly impacted our global food distribution and further strained producers. To help solve this challenge, HPE is partnering with the World Economic Forum and other organizations to apply technologies as a force for good. By implementing solutions like AI to harness the power of data, we can positively address our food production issues and help prevent future global crises.


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Managing Editor, Hewlett Packard Labs