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This is a very interesting use of block chain technology, but one challenge I am very curious to see how they address is adoption, particularly on the farmers’ side. Although farmers have actually been quick to adopt new technologies in recent years, as their margins are heavily squeezed and benefits are clear, I expect that block chain will be a tough pitch to sell them on. On one hand, it seems like they might have the least to gain in this scenario. With full tracability of every item down the supply chain, once a problem arises downstream it will be easy for everyone to point blame back up the chain ultimately to the farmer. Furthermore, the complexity of this technology (versus a new tractor or other harvesting equipment, for example) will be a tough sell to make. Finally, this is going to add significant cost and complexity for the farmers, while set up and implementation for all the other stake holders seems to be cheap and easy.

There are a few different ways they could add incentive for farmers to implement this. One idea would be to expand functionality, so that farmers could use the data to improve yields on future grows. Another idea would be for processors, distributors and retailers to help subsidize the cost, in exchange for all the safety benefits they gain. Finally, perhaps farmers could be able to command higher prices for their crops with this service added, but these increases would likely be passed along to consumers. In any case, I believe this technology will ultimately be adopted, it just comes down to who will ultimately pay for it.

On December 1, 2017, DaveC commented on Disruption of Video Game Retailers :

I agree that Gamestop is under a lot of pressure, but I think there is nothing they can do to protect their future at this point. Outside of the challenges they are facing in the console gaming industry today which you have laid out, we can look to the past and see what happened when Steam started gaining traction with PC games. Once PC gamers were able to easily download games and have access to them from any computer in a cloud-style game library (and not to mention the massive sales that Steam offers), physical copies of PC games became virtually obsolete (https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2014/04/24/gamestop-dramatically-rolling-back-games-business/#347c4ce65e55).

Now that modern consoles have the same level of connectivity as PCs, there major benefits for gamers (cheap, easy access to games) and suppliers (eliminating the cost of physical products, cutting out distributor margins). Just as Gamestop was quickly pushed out of the PC game market, I believe they will soon be entirely out of business.

On December 1, 2017, DaveC commented on Starbucks: the future isn’t brew-tiful :

It is clear that Starbucks genuinely needs to plan for climate change to ensure the future of their coffee supply, but I am skeptical about how much they are focusing on just making good publicity for themselves. For example, while the experimental coffee grown in Costa Rica was able to show signs of resistance to fungus, it also only yielded 170 bags (from footnote [1]). Furthermore, although they publicly announced plans in 2008 to reduce energy consumption by 25%, in the span of 2010-2012 their carbon emissions actually increased by 25% (further down in article [1]). However, if you go to the Starbucks website on climate change today, they still highlight their greenhouse emission from 2010! (https://www.starbucks.com/responsibility/environment/climate-change/greenhouse-gas-emissions)

Starbucks is definitely making progress on reducing the effects of climate change, as they logically need to, but I hope they are able to do more for the world than just ensure a stable supply of coffee beans.

Plenty and other indoor/vertical farming companies certainly have high potential for business success and agricultural sustainability (e.g. reducing use of pesticides, protecting biodiversity by reducing the impacts of ‘mono cropping,’ etc.), but am curious to see if they will have a net positive impact on water consumption in agriculture.

With nuts like pistachios and almonds gaining popularity around the world, many farmers are already switching to these high margin crops. The problem is that these require an enormous amount of water to grow (the water necessary to grow 1 tomato can only produce 3 almonds, http://www.businessinsider.com/amount-of-water-needed-to-grow-one-almond-orange-tomato-2015-4 ). The effects of this shift are already being felt in California recently, where nut farmers continued to consume vast amounts of water through one of the worst droughts in the state’s history.

Since the types of crops that Plenty is growing only require a relatively low amount of water for outdoor growing, and a shift to indoor farming will free up more space for water-intensive crops, I wonder how the overall consumption of water for agriculture will pan out.

On December 1, 2017, DaveC commented on Driving into the Unknown: Ford Motor Company and NAFTA :

In the short term I agree that Ford should be pushing politically for the continuation of NAFTA. However, I would further double down on this strategy and argue that Ford, as a major ‘job creator’ in the US, should use their power to draw more public awareness and education on this matter.

With advancements in technology it is clear that the old manufacturing jobs of the Detroit Auto Industry are never coming back. If Ford is to invest in domestic manufacturing, regardless of trade policy, any new factories located in the US will need to be highly automated to be cost competitive and will not have a major impact on job creation (especially not the types of jobs that Trump’s base are looking for). Alternatively, if Ford continues to invest in Mexico or even overseas, if the US withdraws from NAFTA or other new tariffs are put into place, the public will only lose in terms of higher costs for automobiles.

As this change is inevitable, the best thing Ford can do is shorten the amount of time it takes until the public understands the future we are heading towards.

I agree that Ford should not be making short term moves, but in today’s political climate where no one can surely say where our trade policies will be even one year from now, I would argue that they should face this problem head on. Since Ford cannot be cost competitive with manufacturing domestically, free trade and globalization are essential to their future success and the jobs they create in the US. They cannot afford to continue being reactive to today’s isolationist trends.

In the US, there are few companies that can command as much attention to the topic of ‘jobs’ as Ford can, and they should be using this to their advantage. Rather than trying to work around trade policies, they should focus on educating the public in what new types of jobs they can create in the US with a global manufacturing strategy. The auto industry’s manufacturing jobs from decades ago will not be coming back, so the best thing Ford can do is help accelerate the public’s awareness and understanding of this matter; Ford’s job creation in the US depends on globalization.

Until companies like Ford fight back, they will be stuck with deciding between high cost domestic manufacturing or potentially high import tariffs and the bad press associated with ‘moving jobs overseas.’ Until reading your paper, I had not even heard that Ford’s excuse for moving the Focus plant to China was that they would be using those savings to invest in SUVs in the US. That part of the story barely made the New York Times article on this back in June! (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/business/ford-focus-china-production.html)