Rob Parson

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I love the idea of using robotic technologies to increase efficiency and improve safety at mining sites. During our Cynthia Carroll case, I couldn’t help but wonder why we are still sending humans down into the dangerous mines when we could legitimately reach “zero harm” if we sent small robots down there instead to mine and analyze geology to make sure everything is safe. Thus, Kespry could continue to expand its technology from drones to include “rovers” that would have all of the necessary physical and analytical tools.

On November 20, 2016, Rob Parson commented on Rosie the Robot in 2016 :

I own one of the old Roombas without the navigation camera. I have often been frustrated with its random movement pattern, and you would frequently find me yelling “BAD ROOMBA!” across the room as it tried for the 15th time to inhale my iPhone charger. The presence of a scary loud robot combined with my yelling confused my poor yellow lab, who would cower at my feet every time I needed to vacuum the area where I spilled the Cheerios and M&Ms I was eating for dinner.

Thus, I really think that the navigating camera will be a huge improvement in customer experience, and Roxy (my dog) will really appreciate it too.

On November 20, 2016, Rob Parson commented on Going Once… Going Twice… Sold to Technology! :

Over the past 20 years, luxury items (collectible cars, vintage watches, one-of-a-kind artwork, etc.) have appreciated more than any other asset class. Thus, the role of large auction houses will continue to expand as buyers from around the world attempt to convert their excess cash to luxury assets. I really like the idea of the virtual reality headsets, as I think that being “immersed” in the auction experience would increase participation and final selling prices.

On November 20, 2016, Rob Parson commented on Future of Clothing = Renting? :

I agree that Rent the Runway would be vastly improved if it allowed for digital fittings and expanded its technological capabilities. With more accurate sizing, RTR would no longer have to send 2 sizes for every order, which would cut down on inventory costs and NWC. This would also allow RTR to purchase a larger selection of designer brands and to stay more up-to-date with the current fashion trends.

On November 20, 2016, Rob Parson commented on Lights, Camera, Cannibalization? The NetFlix-ication of Broadway :

While the idea is an interesting one, I’m not sure that the art of Broadway translates to screen-based viewing. As a Broadway investor, I’m often sent videos of production “workshops” before investment rounds open, and the experience is far inferior to a live performance. To most people, the true value in Broadway is the experience of dressing up to go to the theater, reading the Playbill, seeing the actors in-person, witnessing the amazing sets & decorations, and giving a standing ovation for a fine performance. For home-based viewing, most people would much prefer to just watch a movie. Nevertheless, I do think the idea has legs when applied to shows that everyone wants to see but can’t, such as Hamilton. I’m just not sure that the idea is commercially viable for only a couple of shows.

King, you’ve just raised one of the most pressing issues in the effort to create more sustainable food sources: the human desire for variety. Unfortunately, I believe that we will have to make some sacrifices in the quest for more environmentally friendly protein production, and we will see some big changes in the lineup of fish that we commonly consume.

While many fish varieties will remain accessible, the choice of what to eat will become an economic one: commonly farmed fish species will be cheap, and rare species will be expensive. You’ve already started to see this happen in grocery stores… haven’t you wondered why every grocery store seems to be hawking giant bags of tilapia? That’s because they’re super easy and cheap to farm!

On a similar note, the economics of fish farming will likely lead to increased consumption of fish that are relatively uncommon on our plates today; for example, I’d guess that the Silver Perch (very temperature insensitive), Trout (reach maturity in 6 months), and Pacu (will eat anything) are just a few years away from being ubiquitous on restaurant menus.

And to directly respond to your worry about bluefin tuna… they aren’t going anywhere. But you can bet that that delicious slice of sashimi will be a hefty line-item on your check.

P.S. Google Image search the “Pacu” fish that I mentioned above. In particular, take a look at its teeth.

Hi Michael, thanks for the question.

Lots of research has been done on the carbon footprints of feeding various types of livestock, and cow diets unequivocally come out on the bottom while fish diets come out on top. Cows also pose a double threat to the environment, as their vegetarian diets make them so gassy that their flatulence is responsible for over a quarter of global methane emissions each year… and as we saw in our EcoSecurities case, methane is much worse for the environment than CO2. Also, in contrast to what you posit above, farmed salmon are generally fed a mix of soy, wheat, corn, beans, and vegetable oil (i.e. rapeseed or sunflower) and not herring, anchovies, or sardines.

Nevertheless, you’re probably still wondering what could possibly lead to such a startling disparity in feed conversion ratios between cows and fish. One interesting reason for the difference is that land animals must combat gravity in their daily lives, which leads to a lower percentage of energy available for muscle conversion. Fish, on the other hand, benefit from their natural buoyancy within the water.

Very insightful comment, ABCD. Thank you.

I mentioned genetically modified salmon as part of Marine Harvest’s plan to “invest in R&D to improve fish genetics.” I really don’t think it’s a question of whether Frankenfish will hit our plates (or, most importantly, our bagels!) soon… the question is when ALL fish we consume will be Frankenfish.

And when GMO salmon “are created in labs” as you mention in your post, it’s important to note that these “labs” will look just like an aquaculture farm. Whether farmed salmon reach harvestable maturity in 3 years or 1 year does not change the fact that they must be sustainably raised in tanks of water.

Thanks for the comment, Andrew.

To respond: the farmed salmon in question are currently raised in the same bodies of water as the wild salmon stocks, and they are therefore subject to the same “increasing effects of el nino” that you mention above. My point is that neither wild salmon nor farmed salmon (as they are currently raised) are sustainable in the long-run, and in the future only farmed salmon raised in controllable environments can be relied upon as a food source.

On November 7, 2016, AGR commented on Fish in troubled waters :

Great post about an industry that is near and dear to my heart. I agree with CP’s comment above that American Seafoods Group (“ASG”) is just too small to have any meaningful impact on its own. The Tragedy of the Commons is at work here, and it will continue without the influence of a strong-handed regulator. As a result, ASG can’t bet its business on the cooperation of other seafood companies or the education of end consumers. ASG must take a step forward in its own processes to totally end reliance on the climate and even the ocean. How? Novel aquaculture techniques that take fish production from large, unmanageable bodies of water to isolated, manageable ponds or large indoor tanks. Until that happens, I fear that ASG’s business will always be in danger.

It’s clear from your post that the wine production process requires some serious changes in the coming years. My first thought is that other regions of the world may take over as viticulture leaders as their respective climates evolve from their present conditions to levels that foster simultaneous sugar and physiological ripeness. My second thought is that perhaps it would be a really great investment to start buying some great French vintages while they still exist … I just hope that nothing affects your cheeses!

On November 7, 2016, AGR commented on Climate Change and Colombian Floriculture :

It was interesting to hear about climate change from the floriculture perspective. Has the industry begun to consider any methods that don’t rely on the climate at all? For example, hydroponic farming would bring production indoors and use 90% less water than traditional farming. The only downsides would be a slight learning curve for existing labor and the need for new physical infrastructure. But, given that hydroponic setups can be constructed using PVC pipes and styrofoam rafts, the upfront investment wouldn’t be particularly large and would likely pay for itself very quickly.

I always ask myself the same question when I hear about publicly-funded environmental initiatives: how are we going to pay for it? Your post is quite informative with NYC’s plans, but I’m not sure that the municipal government will be able to get its act together to fund such an endeavor. Additionally, it’s often the case that a retrofit (as NYC plans to do with current NYCHA buildings) is more expensive than a new construction, as technology needs to be designed around existing architecture.

With that being said, I’ve heard alternate plans posit the following… Given that much of NYC public housing sits smack-dab in the center of prime (and super expensive) real estate, NYC would be better off selling the buildings to developers and using the proceeds to build state-of-the-art public housing facilities in less expensive areas of the city. The developers purchasing the existing buildings would have environmental mandates with which they must comply. Similar projects have already been undertaken (such as Stuyvesant Town & Peter Cooper Village on the Lower East Side of Manhattan) with great success. Of course, this plan brings up the obvious questions of whether it’s fair to force long-time residents out of their homes, even if the facilities would be an upgrade.

Cathal, I found this post quite interesting from a currency trading standpoint. Given New Zealand’s reliance upon dairy exports, the Fonterra data was always a huge indicator of the health of the NZ economy and any deviations from expectation would cause large fluctuations in the NZ dollar (aka the “Kiwi”). As a result, if there were an 8-30% decrease in operating margins for the dairy farmers (which, one would expect, would lead to lower output), I’d foresee quite extreme ramifications for the NZ macroeconomy and a severe weakening of the Kiwi. While this might be a good thing for some of the NZ exporters, it seems like an issue that would require significant structural change within NZ.