|Alma mater||Mount Holyoke College, London School of Economics, Columbia University.|
|Member of||WEF/Young Global Leaders/2014|
|Interests|| • food speculation|
• Big Food
Former banker with the food speculator Morgan Stanley, who in 2014 founded the agricultural data and analytics company Gro Intelligence. WEF/Young Global Leaders 2014. Forecast in 2017 that a global food crisis may be less than a decade away.
In 2017 Menker delivered a TED talk A global food crisis may be less than a decade away, which has been watched over 1.5 million times.
Early life and education
Menker was born and raised in Ethiopia. She studied Economics and African Studies at Mount Holyoke College. She moved to the London School of Economics for her graduate studies, and eventually earned an Master of Business Administration at Columbia University.
Menker is a former commodities group Vice President at Morgan Stanley, one of the major players speculating on the world's food market. By on purpose causing volatility on food exchanges, the bank is able to drive up food prices and extract bigger profit.
During her time at Morgan Stanley, Menker became interested in farmland investments. She left her job in Wall Street to use her skills in data analytics for social good. According to herself, "she became concerned by threat" of a global food crisis, and started to investigate how Africa could mitigate the Earth's growing demands for food. She estimated that by 2030 food shortages could be as significant as the financial crisis or dot-com bubble crash. Menker predicts that the world could face a 214 trillion calorie deficit.
In 2014 Menker established Gro Intelligence, a data-driven platform which connects food market around the world. Gro Intelligence includes information such as the cost of avocado exports from Mexico and popular coffee beans, and uses artificial intelligence to make predictions about trends in food prices. Gro Intelligence offer software that attempts to make agricultural, weather and climate data easy to understand. The data is combined with satellite imagery and creates over 1,000 models a day. She has used Gro Intelligence to investigate the impact of natural disasters, including droughts, on food supply. The reports inform companies on what and where to sell products, as well as supporting policy makers and insurance companies.
Gro is looking to play a role by uncovering information and trends that send signals to the market. The company has two major investors — TPG Growth, an early backer of Airbnb, Spotify and Uber, and Data Collective, a California-based venture capital group with a penchant for big-data companies. Gro works with “everyone in the agricultural ecosystem but the farmer”, including from those who sell seed and other farm inputs, to banks, insurers and food and beverage companies.
In 2017 Menker delivered a TED talk A global food crisis may be less than a decade away, which has been watched over 1.5 million times. In 2018 Menker was named the Henry C. Gardiner Global Food Systems Lecturer. She has presented at the Rockefeller Foundation, X and The New York Times.
The crisis (or opportunity for some) Menker predicts is a global annual deficit of up to 214tn calories, or 379bn Big Macs, by 2027. A combination of young populations and economic growth in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa could create an unbalanced world in terms of food supply and demand. This could be exacerbated by a possible reversal of India’s long-standing self-sufficiency in food, according to Gro forecasts, with the country joining China and Africa as a net importer of calories. The implications of a planet unable to feed itself is why many are pushing for a change of attitude towards commercial farming in China, India and Africa, and to the approach to agricultural trading and shipping.
Menker is a trustee of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture and the Mandela Institute for Development Studies. She is also a member of The Aspen Institute African Leadership Initiative. Menker is involved with Cognition X, an artificial intelligence information platform. In 2021, she was included in the Time 100, Time 's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She is a trustee of the Mandela Institute for Development Studies.