CARY – Food supply and food safety are major global public health issues, but Cary-based software firm SAS says it’s committed to finding some solutions.

And as far as it is concerned, artificial intelligence and advanced analytics could hold the key.

To that end, the firm announced today that it is pursuing a string of initiatives to help secure a safe and sustainable food supply for a growing world population.

The first includes establishing a new agricultural technology business unit to help growers and agribusiness leaders turn an exploding amount of farm and agricultural data into insights that inform safe and secure food production.

SAS photo

Jim Goodnight (SAS photo)

Recent estimates suggest there will be more than 4 million data points generated each day by individual farms by 2050.

“We’re at a critical point in human history where the threat of widespread hunger is more real than ever,” he continued,” said SAS CEO Jim Goodnight, in a statement. “We have the opportunity to help farmers be more productive through the power of AI and analytics and get more food from fields to tables around the world.”

The second entails teaming up with NC State, Goodnight’s alma mater. It will support the university’s North Carolina Plant Initiative, which brings together experts from academia, government and industry to drive cross-disciplinary research.

The end goals: to increase crop yields, create new varieties, extend growing seasons, enhance sustainability, and produce new and improved technology.

“Our company’s heritage uniquely positions SAS to address these challenges,” added Goodnight, who co-founded SAS while studying at NC State’s agricultural department.

At the time, he was a graduate student analyzing crop yield data.

As part of its support, SAS will embed full-time data scientists within the NC Plant Sciences Initiative to collaborate on various research efforts.

“One of the initiative’s biggest challenges is our ability to collect and translate large amounts of complex data into useful information that can help researchers and farmers make better informed, real-time decisions,” said College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Richard Linton.

This new partnership with SAS will be pivotal in helping us harness the power of data to improve agricultural outcomes and provide global consumers a higher quality, more accessible food supply.

SAS has nearly 14,000 employees. More than 5,000 of those are located in Cary.