How big data can help food systems in times of crisis

By Jonathan Jackson. Published at Oct 16, 2020, in Features

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The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for agile, dynamic food systems that can adapt quickly to changing circumstances and manage or avert future crises. Supply chain issues are increasing food prices in many countries, while job losses and falling incomes further affect people’s access to nutritious food: the UN World Food Programme estimates that an additional 130 million people could be faced with acute food insecurity by the end of this year.

This week Finfeed highlighted some of the ways the world can create better food security, what we didn’t touch on was how big data can help quell rising hunger issues.

Those questions will be answered in the coming CGIAR convention, which looks at innovations in digital tools and technologies, particularly ‘big data’ collection and management.

The big question is how to to(re)build systems and address food security issues more effectively across the globe.

The CGIAR convention on Big Data in Agriculture 2020: Digital Dynamism for Adaptive Food Systems, aims to help enable data analysts, programmers, agripreneurs, policymakers, food companies, civil society organisations and local actors to connect, level up, and co-create the resilient and adaptive food systems of the future.

“In a very short period the industry--worldwide--recognized the value of the agile, adaptable capabilities that only data and digital tools can enable,” said Brian King, coordinator of CGIAR’s Platform for Big Data in Agriculture.

“Over the past few months, we’ve seen accelerated forms of market intermediation, new methods for monitoring the unfolding food security challenges, transformed innovation processes, and a surge in new digital collaboration between diverse actors. The global food system became more digital; it became more dynamic. This is our chance to come together, consolidate that progress, take stock of what we have learned and translate it into action for resilience in global food."

The event which is being held online from 19-23 October, will be the first One CGIAR hosted convention and will feature insights from each of the CGIAR’s global research Centers.

“Innovation at the intersection of digital and life sciences is one of the most potent tools we have for addressing humanity's most pressing challenges to help transform food, land and water systems”, said Claudia Sadoff, Managing Director, Research Delivery and Impact, CGIAR System Organization.

“During this pandemic, on the ground digital projects from CGIAR provided high-frequency data, leveraged novel channels for disseminating information, and mechanisms for getting support like microcredits out quickly to vulnerable farmers to weather the crisis, demonstrating how digitally dynamic technologies can transform food systems to be agile and resilient in the face of crisis.”

The conference will explore four key themes: examining the promise of agile digital technologies, including the role of analytic frameworks and big data computation; exploring the interactions between natural and digital ecosystems; measuring and building food system resilience in times of crisis; and considering how to ensure that digital transformation in value chains is as inclusive as possible.

The event is free.

International stocks to watch

Here is eToro analyst Adam Vettese’s take on what to watch on international markets.

Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ: ISRG)

Intuitive Surgical’s stock has gained 27% this year, despite Covid-19 disrupting large numbers of medical procedures. The $86.7BN company delivered its latest quarterly earnings this week. Investors will be watching closely for news of how the pandemic has disrupted the firm’s ability to install its systems in medical facilities. Currently, 10 Wall Street analysts rate the stock as a buy or overweight, seven as a hold and three as a sell.”

Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS)

Hot on the heels of announcing a $7BN deal to acquire asset manager Eaton Vance, which immediately followed closing the acquisition of E*Trade, Morgan Stanley delivered its Q3 earnings report. Bank earnings so far have been a case of famine or feast, and investors will be watching trading revenues closely since they boosted the firm to a record profit in Q2. The strategic direction of the firm and how it plans to integrate Eaton Vance into those plans will also be a key point of focus. Analysts were expecting an earnings per share figure of $1.28 for Q3, an increase from the $1.08 they had predicted three months ago. Morgan Stanley stock is now effectively flat year-to-date.

Walgreens Boots (NASDAQ: WBA)

Pharmacy and retailer Walgreens Boots stock is down 39% year-to-date, while it is the first port of call for many looking for medicines, consumers have been steering clear during the pandemic which has hurt sales. Wall Street analysts were expecting an earnings per share figure of $0.96 with the quarterly report. Investors will be watching closely to see how the company’s sales have recovered as lockdown restrictions lifted. Currently, analysts heavily favour a hold rating on the stock.

2 Aussie stocks to watch

Los Cerros (ASX LCL)

Los Cerros has had a solid week, starting on Monday at 0.18 and finishing the weak on 0.22.

The market may still be reacting to the announcement late last week highlighting the progress at its drilling program at the Quinchia Gold Project’s Tesorito prospect in Colombia’s Mid-Cauca Belt.

The positive nature of the announcement and anticipation of further drilling to come, is working in the company’s favour.

The stock caught the eye of our parent company Next Investors back in April, who bought in at 0.0370. The current price is 0.2050, a gain of 454%. The stock has been as high as 495% in that time and with news to come is expected to go higher.

Vonex (ASX:VN8)

Vonex has also had a solid week, starting at a low of 0.150, hitting a high of 0.18 on Tuesday and finishing at 0.16.

It has been a while since they had any news, but this is a company whose numbers this year have continued to rise and there is no indication to the contrary that the trajectory will reverse.

The 2SG acquisition has been key to VN8’s growth this year.

When the acquisition of 2SG was made, management anticipated that fiscal 2020 annual recurring revenue would increase to approximately $14 million, highlighting the significant outperformance that has occurred since the acquisition was completed in March.

The company also achieved Total Contract Value of new customer sales in the six months from January to June 2020 of $3.7 million, an increase of 65% on the previous corresponding period, with growth accelerating in the June quarter.

Vonex has been as high as 36% in just the last month and is currently up 18% since September.

You can read more about them in the Next Tech Stock article: Meet Our Latest ASX Tech Portfolio Addition: VN8 is a Company Transformed

The best and worst performing sectors this week?

Information Technology was up over 4 per cent at time of writing late Friday, followed by Consumer Staples, Utilities and Financials, which were all up around 2.5 per cent. The worst performing sectors were Energy up 1.45 percent followed by Materials, which is just in the green and Industrials down 0.27 per cent.

Of the ASX top 100 stocks, the best performers include Link Administration up over 23 per cent while Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Bank of Queensland and Nine Entertainment Group are all up over 9 per cent. The worst performers include Aurizon Holdings down over 4 per cent, CIMIC Group down over 7 per cent and Flight Centre, which was down over 8 per cent.

What's next for the Australian share market?

Wealth Within’s Dale Gillham says, “Last week I was questioning whether the strong move up in the market was sustainable or whether it was just a sucker’s rally, which would be confirmed this week. Since 2 October, the Australian market has traded up for nine days closing higher than it opened on all but one day. Looking back, we have not seen such a strong rally since January and currently the All Ordinaries Index is trading at its highest level since March, and looking good.

“That said, it’s important to remember that October has a history of being volatile with wild swings up and down. Looking at the history of the Dow Jones Index, we know five of the biggest one-day falls as well as five of the largest one day rises occurred in October. While it is still possible that the All Ordinaries Index could display some short-term weakness over the next couple of weeks to fall away into an October low, I am confident the market will rise up into Christmas and into early 2021.”

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