WASHINGTON (February 2, 2021) – In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans encountered empty grocery shelves for the first time. Simultaneously, farmers were dumping milk, euthanizing livestock and plowing under vegetables they were unable to send to food processing sites, which were strained by COVID-19 outbreaks. This disruption between suppliers and consumers underscores the need for better real-time monitoring and reporting of the status of the food supply chain to prevent or mitigate food crises. The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) is awarding a $221,743 grant to Purdue University to create a series of open-access online dashboards that help quantify and illustrate potential disruptions to the food supply chain. The dashboards will focus on COVID-19 but have the flexibility to be tailored to suit future market disruptions. Microsoft is providing matching funds for a $506,743 total investment, in addition to supplying cloud technology, business intelligence, artificial intelligence and machine learning tools.
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for easily accessible data on potential vulnerabilities in the food supply chain. This research is exposing those vulnerabilities in real-time, providing policymakers and industry with the information needed to prevent bottlenecks and ensure food security.
Sally Rockey, Ph.D.
Executive Director Emeritus
COVID-19 had devastating effects on food processing workers in the spring of 2020. As the number of infections grew, some segments of the food supply chain, including beef and pork processing, were operating at one point below 40 percent capacity. Current, timely data on food supply chain disruptions is critical for policymakers and industry to know where and how to respond. However, relevant data is often scattered across different federal agencies and private companies and is used mainly by specialists or industry insiders.
Purdue University researchers led by Dr. Jayson Lusk developed a preliminary Food and Agriculture Vulnerability Index Dashboard that quantifies the potential risk to the US food supply of COVID-19 illnesses among farm and agricultural workers. Purdue University researchers are expanding the dashboard to include metrics displaying potential economic loss from outbreaks and county-level estimates of COVID-19-impacted workers. The expansion will also add data on specific produce. The researchers are creating new dashboards focusing on the location of food processing centers and local COVID-19 cases, commodity-specific data on changes in supply, and food prices and product availability at retailers. The dashboards will rely on curated, open-access data to increase transparency and collaboration.
“We are excited to work with FFAR and Microsoft to increase understanding about the food supply chain by creating easily accessible, easily digestible real-time dashboards,” said Dr. Lusk. “Moreover, by using AI and machine learning, we hope to provide insights into market movements.”
These dashboards will improve public understanding of the origins of food and provide critical information for enhanced policy and industry-level decision making. With the data, food supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19 and future disturbances can be identified before reaching catastrophic levels.
Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.
Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking
Microsoft enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
Microsoft’s Open Data Campaign aims to close the data divide and help organizations of all sizes to realize the benefits of data and the new technologies it powers.
Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural Economics
The Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University was founded in 1920. The department’s research and educational programming cover a wide array of issues from development, trade, macroeconomics policy implications, agribusiness, production, consumption, to environmental and resource issues. There are seven centers located in the department, each with a different focus including agricultural business, small-farm and family business, global analysis and trade, regional and rural development, K-12 economic education, and professional development for farmers and agribusiness professionals. Purdue Ag Econ is also committed to Extension education efforts both on campus and across the state of Indiana. Many of the department’s centers, as well as in-house faculty and staff Extension specialists, work directly with Indiana Extension educators to provide custom programs and educational content.
Connect: @PurdueAgEcon (Twitter and Facebook)