Food security is a global concern, with the world’s population rising, a struggle to meet climate targets and the war in Ukraine triggering particularly severe disruptions to global markets for critical raw materials. Food crises create human suffering and require emergency relief, which is why we must find ways to prevent them from happening. One route is safeguarding fertilizers, which are critical to enhancing agricultural productivity and crop yields. Another is using predictive analytics. This article discusses fertilizer production with reference to CF Industries Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CF), The Mosaic Company (NYSE: MOS), IBM (NYSE: IBM), and Sage Potash (TSX.V: SAGE).
Food security depends on raw inputs like natural gas or minerals like potash and nitrogen in fertilizer production. Fertilizers are crucial to enhance crop yield and quality, but the past eighteen months have been volatile. Indeed, geopolitical tensions, energy prices, and economic weakness have impacted the production rates and prices of fertilizer ingredients.
Agriculture is a sector that operates cyclically, where farmers need to plan for their fertilizer purchases. However, if fertilizer prices are too high, farmers may choose to delay their purchases in hopes of lower prices in the future. This delay could impact the quality of the following year’s harvest if the farmers have yet to acquire enough fertilizer.
Ensuring a reliable domestic supply of critical ingredients is essential to avoid such situations. This can reduce the likelihood of sudden and significant fertilizer price increases, providing stability and security to the agricultural sector.
The geopolitical unrest, sparked by Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine and the resulting sanctions that impact 40% of the world’s potash sources (originating from Russia and Belarus), has made the creation of a self-sufficient supply in the United States the only viable option. For instance, Sage Potash Corp (TSX.V: SAGE) is exploring a large-scale, high-grade potash resource within the Paradox Basin of Southeast Utah and pioneering a new scalable, environmentally friendly and more cost-effective method of potash production in the US which could ensure a short path to initial production.
Meanwhile, CF Industries Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CF), the world’s largest ammonia producer, is joining forces with South Korea’s leading chemical company LOTTE CHEMICAL Corporation. Together they will assess the development of and investment in a greenfield clean ammonia production facility in the United States. Ammonia is a key ingredient in the production of nitrogen-based fertilizers.
Securing a domestic supply of critical ingredients essential to producing fertilizers ensures a stable supply that should be more cost-effective than importing. It can also help support domestic industries and create jobs.
Predictive analytics can likewise help secure the domestic supply of fertilizer ingredients. By analyzing data on domestic production levels, consumption patterns, and market trends, predictive analytics can help identify potential supply chain disruptions and other risks that could affect the availability of critical ingredients. Decision-makers can use this data to develop contingency plans and take proactive measures to ensure a stable supply of these ingredients.
The Mosaic Company (NYSE: MOS), a global leader in the production of two vital agricultural nutrients, concentrated phosphate and potash, has been collaborating with PwC to leverage advanced analytics and climate modeling to help it make informed decisions, manage risk and support the stability of the global food system.
Meanwhile, a recent Science.org article discusses predicting food crises using news streams. Researchers used recent advances in deep learning to analyze 11.2 million news articles published between 1980 and 2020 that focused on food-insecure countries. By extracting high-frequency precursors to food crises that are both interpretable and validated by traditional risk indicators, the researchers were able to create more accurate predictive models.
The study shows that leveraging machine learning techniques to analyze news articles can help predict food crises with greater accuracy and timeliness than traditional risk indicators alone. This could improve emergency relief efforts and reduce the impact of food insecurity on vulnerable populations. Furthermore, farmers can also use predictive analytics to optimize fertilizer application, reduce waste, improve crop management, and enhance supply chain management.
IBM (NYSE: IBM) is a company heavily investing in predictive analytics. Its IBM Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture uses Watson AI to analyze data and provide predictive insights that support better-informed and more confident decision-making. Both fertilizer ingredient supply and predictive analytics play a crucial role in preventing food crises by contributing to sustainable and resilient food systems capable of supporting population growth. IBM and Latin American-based nonprofit Plan21 Foundation have partnered to support smallholder farmers in Latin America to increase their productivity and income. The partnership will create a phone app to help farmers learn how to use weather and crop data and calculate their carbon footprint. This will help them manage their crops more effectively and sustainably and make better choices in dealing with climate change.
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CF) is focused on providing sustainable energy to support global food and fuel needs. It aims to decarbonize its ammonia production network, the largest in the world, to produce green and blue hydrogen and nitrogen products for use in energy, fertilizer, emissions reduction, and other industrial applications. CF Industries delivered outstanding results in 2022, producing record financial performance for the fourth quarter and full year.
Sage Potash Corp (TSX.V: SAGE) is an American potash exploration company that has just launched on the TSX Venture exchange. It owns a large-scale, high-grade potash resource within the Paradox Basin of Southeast Utah. The Company is pioneering a scalable and cost-effective method of production that will also have greater environmental sustainability and a shorter lead time to initial production.
The Mosaic Company (NYSE: MOS) is one of the world’s leading producers and marketers of concentrated phosphate and potash crop nutrients. Mosaic is a single-source provider of fertilizers and feed ingredients for the global agriculture industry.
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