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30 September 2020 | 8:30 AM CST | 3:30 PM CET | Global Panel Event

Hunger for None? How COVID-19 Created the Need for a More Resilient Food System for Everyone

Feeding everyone requires, well, everyone. Unfortunately—from farmers to field workers, processors to retailers—COVID-19 has caused problems in the global food journey at a time when so much and so many are depending on it.



"How, exactly, can we prevent a health crisis from becoming a food crisis?"

To understand the challenges facing us all, leading experts and over 400 virtual attendees joined together to answer the question: “How, exactly, can we prevent a health crisis from becoming a food crisis?” Watch the session below to uncover how the following panelists are reimagining the food supply chain.  

  • Dirk Backhaus, Head of Product Supply for the Crop Science division of Bayer,
  • Heike Axmann, Expertise Leader in Supply Chain Development and Logistic Design of Fresh Food Chains, 
  • Manuel Otero, General Director at IICA, and 
  • John Kowalchuk, a farmer from Canada, sharing the impact of COVID-19 on the supply chain, production cycles, farm operations, and most importantly, how we can all play a role in ensuring a more resilient food system.





Dirk Backhaus

Based in Monheim, Germany, Dr. Dirk Backhaus serves on the Executive Leadership Team as Head of Product Supply for the Crop Science division of Bayer. Leveraging over 20 years of experience in different roles at Bayer, he now oversees the planning, manufacturing and delivery of Crop Science products and solutions worldwide. Dirk represents Bayer in the CropLife International Operations committee and the VCI (association of chemical industries) North Rhine-Westphalia, and often liaisons with other leading organizations, NGO’s, and initiatives. When he’s not coordinating a global supply chain of agricultural innovations, he enjoys spending time with his wife and their two kids, as well as sailing, mountain-biking and kickboxing.


Heike Axmann

Heike Axmann works as a senior researcher, international project leader and expertise leader at the Supply Chain Development group at Wageningen Food and Biobased Research, one of the applied research institutes from Wageningen University and Research. There, Axmann leads the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security project, the Task Force Against Food Loss and Waste in India and the Postharvest Network, among others. Over the last 20 years Axmann developed and implemented sustainable food and agriculture strategies for private and public organizations around the world. Heike holds an MSc degree in agriculture, natural environment and tropical land use from the Wageningen University.


John Kowalchuk

John Kowalchuk is a grain farmer from Central Alberta. He has farmed for over 30 years and grows up to 7 different types of grain in his rotation each year. He also served as a board member on the Alberta Pulse Growers and is active on social media promoting the ag industry and sharing his story.


Manuel Otero

M.Sc. in Agricultural Development from the University of London, a Masters in Animal Production from the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), headquartered in Costa Rica, and is also a qualified Veterinarian from the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). He began his career at IICA in 1988 at its Headquarters. He has worked as an Advisor to the Director General, Director of Programming and Evaluation, Director of the Andean Regional Centre, Representative to Uruguay and Representative to Brazil, a position he has held on two occasions. He has authored several technical documents on international trade, sectoral policies and agricultural modernization. Previously, he served in Washington D.C. as an Agricultural Attaché, attached to the Ministry of Agriculture of Argentina and was also Vice-President of Argentina’s Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria – INTA (The National Institute of Agricultural Technology). He was elected in 2017 as Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) for the 2018-2022 period. In his first few months in office, Dr. Otero focused on laying the foundation for the transformation of the Institute, the primary mission of which is to promote the agricultural and rural development of its 34 Member States through technical cooperation of excellence. With this objective in mind, he has succeeded in implementing an innovative policy on partnerships, by developing work agendas with multilateral, bilateral, national and local entities and with the private sector, with a view to strengthening agriculture, rural well-being in the Americas and the fulfillment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), based on new models of cooperation.


Melanie Alba

Melanie Alba is a current LATAM Ambassador for Thought for Food and associate at the Institute of International Studies of Bolivia (IDEI). She has been recognized through several prestigious appointments including as 1 of the 30 members to be part of the first replica of the International Security Council in Bolivia at the Plurinational Assembly Members Brigade; as a delegate, moderator, forum president and facilitator at several United Nation Models in Bolivia from 2012 to 2018; and as the Bolivian representative at the South American Business Forum in Argentina in 2019. Alba holds a B.Sc. in economics with a minor in sustainable development from the Bolivian Private University (UPB) with two post-graduate programs in Business Intelligence for Management at the Bolivian Private University (UPB) and Higher Education at the Mayor de San Andrés University (UMSA).