Justin Blumenthal

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On December 1, 2017, Justin Blumenthal commented on Syngenta: feeding future generations? :

Thank you Maria for the highly interesting article! I completely agree with Gregorio above when he says that Syngenta has a responsibility as an agricultural behemoth to take a leadership role on sustainability. I don’t believe they are currently doing an optimal job. The last pillar of their 2020 sustainability goals, “Look After Every Worker”, instantly pops out at me. This goal, as it is currently worded, is nondescript and vague.

Syngenta needs to be extremely deliberate about each of their stated sustainability goals. This entails ensuring that each goal can be measured quantitatively or against some qualitative standard. For example, Syngenta could become a signatory to a major industry initiative that promises to provide fair working conditions. If this does not exist, Syngenta could create its own. Until Syngenta is more clear and transparent on measuring its goals, they will not be seen as the global leader in agricultural sustainability.

On December 1, 2017, Justin Blumenthal commented on Brexit vs. Tesco: Will Britain’s Largest Grocer Stand the Ultimate Test? :

Great article indeed. Tesco is clearly in a rough spot at the present moment. The grocery industry is historically a super razor-thin margin business. Any added margin compression due to currency fluctuation may be catastrophic as it doesn’t take much to flip to negative earnings. What should Tesco do? A couple options include:

1) Roll-out automated technology to reduce labor costs. Tesco can then pass those cost savings to consumers. On the flipside, Tesco would have to consider the externalities of such a plan of action.

2) Reduce fixed costs. Perhaps Tesco can downsize its stores by reducing inventory on hand. Adopting a Justin Time system could be one such model to consider.

Thank you for a highly thought provoking article, JS. I agree with Sushant that the US government would likely limit the harm done to US natural gas companies in the event of a NAFTA renegotiation. Why? As the article mentions, the US supplies 60% of its energy exports (natural gas) to Mexico. The entire US economy could be jeopardized if the current status quo were to be adversely affected. It also begs the question of what US companies should do to mitigate the risks of a NAFTA renegotiation.

One band-aid approach is to advocate for companies to aggressively lock-in future cash flows via commodity hedging in the market. Firms can obtain greater certainty over future cash flows by doing so. Therefore, firms can limit downside risk should a NAFTA renegotiation fail to protect the status quo in the natural gas market.

Very interesting read indeed. I agree that blockchain tech could make players in the art auction space less valuable. However, I struggle with the notion that blockchain could ever replace the critical role of authenticating art. How would a decentralized network authenticate an art piece that it doesn’t physically interact with? For this reason, I am skeptical that Sotheby’s or a similar company would ever die. However, I do think there are valid use cases for blockchain in the art market. As Daniel alludes too, one such use case is maintaining immutable proof of authenticity on the distributed ledger. Counterfeits and fakes are huge issues in the global art market — imagine a blockchain system that could deliver with 100% accuracy the authenticity of an art piece. One would likely be able to see previous owners, prices paid for the artwork, history of where the art was transported, etc.).

On November 30, 2017, Justin Blumenthal commented on Lettuce Consider Indoor Farming: Plenty’s Plan to Scale the Kale :

This is a great topic. As ES mentions, vertical farming would be of great value to the public if it could produce food at a competitive price. The jury is still out on whether this is doable. It does seem, however, that vertical farming would be valuable in areas suffering from water stress. As the author notes, vertical farming utilizes a mere fraction of the water that is normally consumed in an outdoor farm. If vertical farming uses less water, I could envision adoption taking off. Water deficit is primed to reach 30% globally by 2030 as chronic supply mismanagement continues to accelerate.

Great topic. I’m doubtful Bitcoin will change its current habits though. As Alberto mentioned, Proof of Stake is a massively upgraded consensus protocol over Proof of Work that largely limits electricity expended by miners. POS also provides upgraded functionality and security (removes threat of so-called “51% attacks” that hackers hypothetically could employ).

HOWEVER, it is not so easy to just switch from POW to POS. By nature of Bitcoin’s decentralized governance, it is quite tough to build consensus among various stakeholders (i.e., core developers, open source developers, miners, traders). Ethereum has successfully built consensus for POW and is in the midst of scaling this solution into its operating code via its Casper network upgrade.

As Ryan alludes to, one solution to limit energy expenditures is to make the network more efficient. One of bitcoin’s main deficiencies (or positives depending on whether you ask a Bitcoin technologist or evangelist) is its limited block size. In simple terms, block size is correlated to the number of transactions the network can process. Bitcoin only has a 1-megabyte block size, and thus can only process around 6 transactions per hour. Bitcoin has intentionally decided to keep a slower network as there are already tons of other cryptocurrencies with larger block sizes and faster transactions times (Ethereum, Litecoin, etc.). But Bitcoin is unlikely to bulge as its value proposition is to be a store of value (“digital gold”) rather than a store of utility.

Exciting times in the crypto world…