New initiative to make food systems more sustainable

Worldwide, unsustainable farming practices are damaging both the global environment and the health and wellbeing of people everywhere. At the same time, climate change is making our food systems more fragile, while the global population continues to rapidly increase. Solving both of these challenges requires more sustainable approaches to producing, consuming, and disposing of food.

A new campaign under The 100 Questions Initiative, led by the Governance Lab (The GovLab) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, in partnership with the Barilla Foundation, and the Center for European Policy Studies, aims to engage the wisdom of the crowd to drive innovative solutions. The Food Systems Sustainability domain seeks to identify the 10 most important questions that need to be answered to make food systems more sustainable.

Data will be integral to understanding where failures and vulnerabilities exist and what methods are needed to rectify them. Yet, the insights generated from data are only as good as the questions they seek to answer. Asking the right questions first is the key to smarter use of data for understanding current and future food systems.

The 100 Questions Initiative starts from the premise that to leverage data in a responsible and effective manner, data initiatives should be driven by demand, not supply. Working with a global cohort of experts, The 100 Questions seeks to map the most pressing and potentially impactful questions that data and data science can answer.

The launch coincides with a call for bilinguals--experts in both food sustainability and data science--to join a global cohort that will be used to collectively identify the top questions that can be answered through data collaboratives, a new form of public-private partnerships that harness data from different sectors for public good.

"In order to design and implement sustainable food systems, we need to better understand what concrete issues to respond to and how to effectively respond to them," said Andrea Renda, Senior Research Fellow and Head of Global Governance, Regulation, Innovation & Digital Economy at the Center for European Policy Studies. "Data science can be of enormous help in this crucial endeavor for the future of our people, planet and prosperity."

The 100 Questions Initiative approach is uniquely participatory, and engages with experts from all over the world, with various specializations in the food domain, to develop and curate the list of key questions.

We must tackle agricultural and food-related challenges from an environmental, economic, and social perspective. By using this three-pronged approach, we can better support the health of our planet and the people living on it. The 100 Questions Initiative's participatory approach to demand-driven data initiatives will help us learn from all stakeholders and hear many different perspectives."

Anna Ruggerini, Operations, Director, Barilla Foundation

Once the top 10 questions on food systems sustainability are identified, the public will then be asked to vote on which of these questions should be prioritized and solved.

"We observe increasing uncertainty and anxiety around the future of our agriculture and food supply chains. However, we are also living in a digital age that has witnessed the proliferation of data assets and data science methods" adds Stefaan Verhulst, Co-Founder, and Chief Research and Development Officer of The GovLab. "By first identifying the most pressing questions in food systems sustainability, we can more efficiently and responsibly funnel our efforts into answering them."

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