You’re probably wondering why Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), the company that provides you with the latest in technology is entering into the global food chain.

Shortly after Walmart’s announcement of bringing its suppliers to the Blockchain in its efforts to address food safety, HPE made its own grand announcement.

Drawing on its experience from working with the Agronomy Center for Research and Education (ACRE) at Purdue University, HPE and Purdue have created a secure, connected wireless environment across a 1,400-acre research farm.

What they have dubbed as the “Tech Impact 2030” initiative, HPE has announced its partnership with the World Economic Forum (WEF), to begin planning for solutions to some of the planet’s greatest challenges, specifically by 2030.

Welcome to the Globe’s Biggest Challenge

In efforts to harmonize what they call “precision-agriculture”, HPE believes it’s time to really start addressing one of the globe’s biggest challenges—world hunger.

I was able to speak with Mark Potter, CTO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Director of Hewlett Packard Labs, exclusively about their latest partnership with WEF.

Andrew Rossow: As a millennial and overall technology enthusiast, I have to wonder what, if anything, does HPE and technology have to do with world hunger and “precision-agriculture?”

Mark Potter: That is a great question, and the question that we enjoy having everyone ask. It stems from the mindset from the days originating back to our founding, when Bill Hewlett and David Packard first instilled actions, funding, and activities into the company. HPE has since become focused on doing more than just building products for a market. Instead, we now have a distinctive culture, helping to make a positive impact in communities we serve across the world.

We have had a very profound impact in helping to be a catalyst for Silicon Valley, helping startups of all kinds find their way. But, fast forwarding here, as we talk to our employees, we talk about our core purpose. That purpose is to advance the way people live and work. We see the potential of technology to have really transformative benefits.

AR: Do you believe HPE has the ultimate solution to addressing the challenges our planet faces?

MP: Of course not. We don’t know with 100% certainty what the solution is. And, if we did, none of us would be here attempting to diversify ourselves. At the same time, being a company deeply rooted in technology provides advantages. It will require and does require various silos to harness that technology, bringing its full potential to light. We are used to collaborating across industries, specifically with our customers, and at times, our competitors. We recognize that together, we can always come up with better answers, helping to bring those silos and barriers down. That sets us on a pathway to make major breakthroughs.

TECH Impact 2030

HPE’s first of a kind program, Tech Impact 2030, was created to address how we as a society address world hunger.

AR: Do you feel that this challenge is too large to tackle, even with technology?

MP: Absolutely not. Take Walmart’s announcement, for example. They decided to address the issue of food quality by forcing suppliers onto the Blockchain, a new technology. Ultimately, this well help improve food traceability.

Like Walmart, by partnering with WEF we felt we can bring the technology industry — specifically our customers, industry allies, and some competitors — together, alongside the government, NGOs, academia, etc. to tackle these grand challenges.

The Numbers
Photo Credit: HPE, Purdue

Potter told me that the latest numbers out of the United Nations (UN) show that there are over 800 million people undernourished and over 2 billion with some form of nutrient deficiency.

MP: In understanding why this is so important, there are about 7.5 billion people on Earth. When we look to 2030 and even 2050, we see UN projections around 10 billion. Just to feed that population, we will need 70% more food. When you think of the state we are in today, the growth that is coming, and the percentage of food needed, it felt like HPE could step in and partner with a great organization like WEF, and tackle the problem.

The Goals

When organizations like HPE and WEF are facing these great challenges, maintaining pace is vital. Potter identified three major areas that the Company, along with Purdue University and WEF, are focusing on:

#1 –Using Technology to Change the Shape of Demand

On an agricultural path, we’ve constructed the notion of “24-month sprints.” While they may not seem like sprints, when you’re facing challenges on this scale, you need to pace it appropriately.

For example, how do we use technology to actually create other proteins for the malnourished?

How do we implement a better food system technology that addresses food safety and quality?

What if we implemented a personalized nutrition system, focused on individuals’ metabolism?

Consequently, how do we reduce the high percentage of food wastage?

#2 – Value Chain Linkages

Similar to Walmart’s announcement last month, we need to think about how the supply chain and advanced analytics can help to improve efficiency.

For example, how can we implement better food system technologies for safety and quality? When there’s an issue, how do we trace it back to the point of origin?

#3 –Production Systems

In our relationship with Purdue and ACRE, the ways in which we think about water usage, fertilization usage, and soil management can make a life-changing difference, for all of us.

Using the “Internet of Things” to Make Food ‘Smarter’

At the end of the day, HPE is focused on utilizing the “Internet of Things” (IoT) for the vast potential it brings to the tech sector.

“Just with our partnership with Purdue, we’ve done quite a bit of research instrumenting their farm systems,” Potter explained.

“Thinking about some of the foundational aspects from an IoT perspective helps to make our decisions smarter, literally. The farm produces 113TB of data per week. We are generating a massive amount of data. For purposes of advanced analytics, that data, alongside artificial intelligence (AI), can help to detect patterns and trends, guiding us to do things in a more efficient way.”