Food Twin
by The Plotline

What is this and why is it relevant?

This is a proof of concept digital twin of the United States food system. Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have revealed inherent gaps in the way food systems are modeled. Particularly, these events have exposed how these shocks cascade through food systems and impact food security at an individual and community level. Digital twins of food systems hold massive potential to fill the decision making under food crises, including those caused or exacerbated by climate change.

What is this tool showing?

This tool visualizes a model designed to predict where food is grown and connecting that food to where it is consumed. Each colored point moving on the map correlates to a set number of calories from that food group. In the consumer view the map shows how the food that is consumed in a county travels to that region; in the producer view it shows where food that grows in that county is consumed and how it gets to that region. It shows the roads which that food flows down from fork to fork, and how climate shocks in one region propagate through the supply chain and impact on the availability of food in consumers food baskets.

What is this model?

The model that powers this tool uses satellite data and survey statistics to generate an estimate of the types of crops that are grown in different regions across the United States along with data on imported foods. Food balance sheets and consumption surveys were used to model consumption. These two data sets were connected via a matrix that took into account routes between where food is produced and consumed. Reduced yield due to climate stress was generated using statistical crop yield models. You can find data and code we used here, and here, and here. If you’re interested in learning more, including a deeper dive into the data used check out our blog post on this project.

Who built it?

Food Twin is a collaboration between Zia Mehrabi and the Plotline. Application development was led by Development Seed.