Patrick Gordon's Profile
Bruce highlights some critically important issues in the links between precision agriculture and sustainability. The opportunity within the US to reduce agricultural waste and inefficiencies is huge, and there appears to be low hanging fruit as many practices have not evolved significantly with the times.
Having lived in California for much of the past decade, an area that is near and dear to me is water usage. In the US, most crops are watered through flood irrigation – the name says it all in terms of how efficient this method is for water consumption. Israel has pioneered drip irrigation, a significantly more efficient use of water in an extremely cost effective way (the technology is essentially holes drilled into PVC piping that is buried underground), but it remains largely out of use in the US . A significant driver of this is farmers’ unwillingness to spend upfront capital on technology, despite demonstrated savings down the road. My question is, while Deere is developing sustainable products, how can we incentivize farmers to change their ways and implement solutions that are likely more expensive upfront?
1. Roth Schuster, “The Secret of Israel’s Water Miracle and How It Can Help a Thirsty World”, Haaretz, accessed November 2017, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/science/1.698275
One area that I find particularly interesting in Leigh’s discussion of Tenet Health is how health care models need to evolve in order to combat changes to healthcare needs posed by climate change. While this is clearly an appropriate path forward, I wonder how Tenet can be incentivized to make these difficult, expensive, and likely risky changes. We have seen time and again that the healthcare system in the US has not adapted to the realities of climate change today, let alone 10+ years from now . Are hospital systems even the right players to be providing care in a more dynamic environment, and if so, what concrete steps can we take now to ensure that they are incentivized to adjust their practices?
1. Gary Cohen, “What does Climate Change Have to Do With Health Care?”, Forbes, accessed November 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/skollworldforum/2013/04/07/what-does-climate-change-have-to-do-with-health-care/#11a6f9287915
As HJ writes, there certainly appears to be significant room to improve the supply chains of health care providers. I wonder, however, what the root cause of this inefficiency is, and whether digitization will be able to address it. I continue to be struck by our conversation with Jim Koch, particularly when he mentioned that technological innovations have not been the core driver of increased efficiency in his supply chain – rather, it has been a shift in forecasting and delivery tactics, a decidedly low tech solution. Would increasing technological firepower at hospitals and healthcare providers really solve their problems, or do their issues require a fundamental shift in basic supply chain management?
I completely agree with Josephine that the specter of quantum computing’s impact on cyber security is deeply concerning, and that most organizations, including the NHS, are woefully underprepared. While I also agree with her recommendations for the NHS to improve security, I wonder when the potential costs of digitizing sensitive information outweigh the benefits. As a somewhat extreme example, the US nuclear force is run on technology that still operates disconnected from the internet using floppy disks (granted, this is going to be replaced in 2020), in large part because they cannot be hacked remotely .
In my view, the costs of digitization are often understated, particularly in the case of healthcare. Mass General, for example, has spent over $1B implementing Epic, a digital records management system, and it is still not fully operational . I question whether we will truly be able to adequately safeguard digital information, and whether we should place limits on the extent of our reliance on digitization.
1. Merrit Kennedy, “Report: U.S. Nuclear System Relies On Outdated Technology Such As Floppy Disks”, NPR, accessed November 2017, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/05/26/479588478/report-u-s-nuclear-system-relies-on-outdated-technology-such-as-floppy-disks
2. Kristen Lee, “Epic’s EHR: Challenges and lessons learned at Mass General”, TechTarget, accessed November 2017, http://searchhealthit.techtarget.com/video/Epics-EHR-Challenges-and-lessons-learned-at-Mass-General
I agree with Sarah’s contention that protectionism has played a significant role in shaping the history of Monsanto, but I do not think that the company’s shift to an IP driven business model fundamentally alters the dynamics of protectionist policies on the company. Rather, I would argue that the heart of the innovation problem that the agribusiness industry is facing lies in extreme consolidation. As the number of market participants has shrunk dramatically, some are able to operate as effective monopolies . While isolationism does perhaps pose increased risks to Monsanto, for example as local investments in innovations may be lost (as Sarah mentions), this is still counterbalanced by the powerful effects of subsidized economies. The real threat of protectionism on the company is if nations begin to place disproportionate burdens on foreign companies.
 Brad Plumer, “Why the Debate Over the Bayer-Monsanto Deal is so Important for the Future of Farming,” Vox, accessed November 2017, https://www.vox.com/2016/9/20/12988616/bayer-monsanto-dupont-dow-agriculture-mergers-innovation.