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Food

Daniel Redo: An eye on world crops and agriculture

Accurate, timely information on the world's most important crops reduces waste, aids food supply forecasting and helps fight global hunger.

Feeding the world’s population is no easy task, and it’s one that’s becoming more difficult. As reported by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates 60 percent more food would be necessary should the global population reach 9 billion, which could happen as early as 2050.

That means understanding what crops we’re growing, where we’re growing them and what’s happening once they are harvested is more important than ever.

Daniel Redo, Thomson Reuters head of agriculture research, leads a team that gathers information from multiple sources, from the fields themselves to satellites far overhead, to create a picture of crops around the world that’s as accurate and up-to-the-minute as possible.

Daniel Redo is Thomson Reuters head of agriculture research. He is based in London.
Daniel Redo is Thomson Reuters head of agriculture research. He is based in London.

How would you describe your role?

“It encompasses so much. No two days are really the same. At the very core, my job is to let our team of 10 analysts do their jobs. The ultimate goal is to have timely and accurate crop production forecasts and get them into the hands of our customers so they can do their work. We also monitor the flow of imports and exports, because the actual growing of crops is only part of the picture. They have to be able to get where they are going”

I understand your team focuses mostly on corn, soybean, wheat and canola production and shipment. Why those crops in particular?

“It’s for two fundamental reasons. First, because those are the major commodities that are traded on the futures markets. Second, they’re also the major commodities that are made into foodstuffs. Corn, soybeans, wheat and canola are turned into animal food, or they’re made into products for humans to eat directly. We don’t always realize it, but corn, wheat and soybeans are turned into all kinds of things. Almost all of the food products that we eventually eat will contain one or more of those products.”

“We’ve also begun expanding into looking at palm oil. It’s the predominant cooking oil in Southeast Asia and Africa, and of course, there are huge populations in those countries, so it’s something our customers want to know more about. ”

Plantation owner Tomaz Gregoric sprays fungicide on blooming peach trees in Vogrsko, Slovenia. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic
Plantation owner Tomaz Gregoric sprays fungicide on blooming peach trees in Vogrsko, Slovenia. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic

Is there are a particular continent or crop-growing region you focus on?

“It’s quite worldwide, because most of the crops we monitor grow in many countries or in very distinct regions. Corn, for instance, is grown in the U.S., South America, China, EU, and Ukraine. Palm oil is almost exclusively grown in Indonesia and Malaysia. A lot of canola is grown in Canada and Western Europe. So, we really have to look at what’s happening all across the world in order to get the most accurate and timely picture.”

With a perspective that wide, I imagine you need a lot of information. What sources do you use to get the material you need?

“We collect a lot of data. Most of our jobs are spent collecting data, processing data and analyzing data. A lot of what we collect is weather data. We collect and process a lot of satellite imagery. This allows us to measure the health of the crop as it’s growing. We also do a lot of field work. We’ve been to Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, wherever the crop in question is growing. We’ll rent a car and every 15 to 20 kilometers, we’ll stop and we will examine wheat heads and rapeseed, we’ll pull bean pods and corn ears, we’ll just look at what the crop is like on the ground. The photos and analyst commentary on Eikon is really popular with our customers.”

The shadow of a hand is seen on cracked ground during a drought in Brazil, REUTERS/Nacho Doce
The shadow of a hand is seen on cracked ground during a drought in Brazil. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

You use to work in Chicago but now report from London. Which do you prefer?

“If I had to pick one or the other –you know, I don’t know if I could. With Chicago, it’s a big city that was very welcoming to me when I was getting my start in the professional world. I think what I really like about it is it deserves its reputation as a hardworking city. My daughter was also born there so Chicago will always be special to me. With London, I think the fact that it’s so global makes it a really wonderful place to live. It’s been settled for 2,000 years, and to be immersed in history like that is really incredible. And after living here for a year, my family is truly settled so it’s home now”

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

“Traveling – traveling is big for me. Moving to London has opened up a new world of things that are close to me. My wife and daughter and I are really enjoying exploring Europe. Right now, I am teaching my daughter how to swim, so we’re going to swim lessons once a week.”

Beekeepers' mobile hives are seen on a field of rapeseed on the outskirts of Deveselu village, Romania. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti
Beekeepers’ mobile hives are seen on a field of rapeseed on the outskirts of Deveselu village, Romania. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

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