AgTech NEXT Now! Webinar Series Continues With A Look At The Impact Of COVID-19 On The Food Supply System

Chip Lerwick

St. Louis, MO (June 24, 2020) – The second program in the AgTech NEXT Now! webinar series hosted by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center held June 9 featured a conversation about the food supply chain weaknesses and implications for consumers, producers, workers, and livestock.

The program featured Aon Managing Director and SVP Chip Lerwick along with Tom Laurita, Danforth Center director of entrepreneurship.

Potential risks to the food supply chain didn’t get much attention until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Lerwick says.

“We certainly didn’t have a script to reflect this particular situation,” he says. “It is entirely unique and hard to prepare specifically for it.”

Lerwick notes that while the food system appears to be healthy, there are some real challenges with a deeper look at it. Risks have shifted related to concentration, specialization, and globalization, he says.

In many ways, Lerwick says the food system is not sufficiently resilient.

“While we can still get food in stores, the disruptions are enormous and, in some cases, catastrophic,” Lerwick says. “We have to balance efficiency and resilience. The industry will rise to create new ways of increasing resiliency.”

Lerwick adds new innovations are on the horizon to address the resiliency of the system. Other factors such as weather and climate change will drive the need for resiliency as well, he says.

The program was part of AgTech NEXT Now! Risks and Rewards in a Post COVID-19 World and the Impact on the Ag and Food Industry series.

Upcoming programs include “AgTech Innovations in the Post COVID-19 World” featuring insights from agri-food thought leader and author Mary Shelman about the “new normal.” Danforth Center Director Innovation Commercialization Claire Kinlaw will be the moderator for the program, which is scheduled noon-12:30 p.m. CT Tuesday, July 14.

That program will be followed by “Accelerated Trends in Food and Ag,” which is scheduled for noon-12:30 p.m. CT Tuesday, Aug. 11. Michael Swanson, Wells Fargo’s chief agriculture economist, will talk about how crises accelerate existing economic and industry trends.

Registration information is available.

The first program was held May 19, featuring a general discussion about the economic impacts of the pandemics. That session featured St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank Vice President David Wheelock and Sam Fiorello, CEO Cortex Innovation Community and Chair, AgTech Next External Advisory Board.

Written by Chris Lusvardi, Seed Today editor