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On November 19, 2016, Wincent commented on HBX – Disrupting the Business Education Delivery Model :

Nikhil, I definitely agree that MOOCs are in and will continue to disrupt the education industry. By adopting the HBX platform, Harvard is essentially saying it is willing to cannibalize its own conventional classroom-based service offering for students who do not value the other aspects of the on-campus experience. That said there will be key differentiation in the service offering, just to name a few: (1) relationship with peers, alums and faculty and (2) coursework that requires the team or in-person interactions e.g. negotiations or Shad sweatshop exercise. Eventually the job market will be the one to decide if the MOOC education can substitute the 2-year full-time MBA experience.

On November 19, 2016, Wincent commented on April Fool’s joke or dash buttons taking over your home? :

Adding to the improvement list here:
1. Set a simple password and confirmation button so that people don’t have to wait the next day before they are allowed to order more toilet paper
2. Add ability to (re)order basket of favorite items, the analogy would be your favorite playlist on AppleMusic or Spotify
3. Have smaller package sizes (think Dollarama) perhaps thereby allowing Amazon to increase margins as well. Value for consumer will be less cupboard space. Given the prevalence of shoebox apartments, millenials living in big cities will appreciate more space; I believe this will be insanely popular

On November 19, 2016, Wincent commented on Combining Agriculture and Technology :

Hi Maria, as you have described, precision agriculture and this wave of AgTech has pushed machines to be more accurate, capable and automated. Could future farming machines displace the role of farmers? Would farms be ultimately operated by robots? The article also mentions farming machines collecting data. Who owns these data? Are farmers protected from potential exploitation of data generated from their farms? I would love to hear some of your thoughts on these issues.

On November 19, 2016, Wincent commented on Wimbledon: Technology Meets Tradition :

Nicole, totally agree that it is not clear what Wimbledon’s aim is, in getting a supercomputer to recognize facial patterns in the audience in order to ‘Tweet’ on social media?? Paradoxically they still do not offer wifi on their grounds! I would think that this technology can be put to better use in other realms of entertainment where we want to identify the “emotionally rewarding” moments and use the information gleaned to improve the product/service or market to potential customers. Take for example Watson’s trip to the movies. Watson’s facial recognition technology was used to pinpoint the most bone-chilling seconds of a horror movie, coincidentally about artificial intelligence, to piece together a trailer. Check it out! #spine-chilling

Hi Erik,

I think it is a great article that highlights the different ways in which Whole Foods’ adoption of digitization allows it to be more competitive. In line with the mission to provide quality foods, I think Whole Foods can definitely respond to the likes of Amazon Fresh by marketing short lead times from farm to table. As rightly mentioned above, while consumers care for price and convenience, they care a lot about quality too. For fresh produce like meat and vegetables, people still want to look at the product before making the purchase. I think this is where WF may be able to differentiate itself. Taken to the extreme, WF may even track which farm each slice of juicy ribeye originates from and how that particular farm has fared in terms of environmental footprint before the steak arrived on the table. As sensor technology gets cheaper, I wonder if total inventory within the supply chain may be tracked, not only the ones on the shelf but also the ones in transit, on trucks and trains. Extremely high grade, temperature-sensitive perishables may also benefit from sensors that record the environments they were subject to while on the road. The future of digital groceries is exciting indeed!

On November 7, 2016, Wincent commented on Swept Away: Municipalities drowning in the flood :

Hi Ron, interesting that you should write about this. As a tiny, flat island that is not self-reliant in water supply, Singapore is very concerned about rising sea levels and floods. So the forward-looking government built dams and pumps on the Marina bay area; the bay also doubles as a reservoir.

Matt thanks for writing this article. I have been involved in the cocoa processing business in Indonesia – one of top 3 global producers. We have been seeing more intense fluctuations in cocoa prices in recent years because as you said these are weather-sensitive crops. In recent years, Indonesia’s supply of cocoa is insufficient to meet processing capacity so it has had to import from Africa – bad news for last wave investors like Cargill and Barry.
Happy to meet up to talk guys!

Erik, thank you for writing this. I have spent some time working for an agricultural commodity company that has palm and soybean on its portfolio. The company manages palm oil plantations, processes the oil into food/biodiesel/chemicals and trades it globally. Certification and trace-ability is a big part of the conversation now. Palm is chemically versatile and more economical than many other oilseeds such as coconut/rapeseed which is why it has found uses in almost all products from cookies to laundry detergent. Having said that, I admit there are many opportunities for the certification standards to improve. For example RSPO uses some of the same criteria that FSC uses – HCV forest, which experts agree should not be cleared. HCV is in itself debatable because it is not a scientific metric that can be measured and is not the same as “primary or secondary forest”. There are also many advocacy groups pushing for other standards of certification which makes vetting the supply chain all the more tedious. Given the situation in 2015, the previous company I worked for has put a moratorium on further land development. In addition, many existing plantations have adopted a “forest buffer zone” so endemic wildlife have a chance to survive. Many initiatives such as these are work in progress so I hope to keep you posted!

Hi Austin, I am going for a creative response to your write-up here. What if we can engineer flights to combat global warming? Check these articles out: contrails and particles emitted by planes at different times of day/year affect atmospheric heat trap.

Also, can’t wait for solar impulse technology to become commercial!

NJG, I think this is a very exciting time for Agtech and thank you for the puns!
I agree that sensors are an important component of precision agriculture but as you pointed out in your article, to make meaningful sense of the data collected, we would need statistically significant number of adopters. Reading weather patterns and correlating these with best practices would be the logical next step before we can start seeing improved yields.
To get enough adopters of the technology, price point would be a key consideration. I think a $500 price point would be prohibitive for small farmers. Perhaps Arable could target players higher up the food chain (traders such as Cargill or Bunge) who would stand to gain from predicting crop yield. High margin crops such as select wine grapes or cocoa which are sensitive to weather are also potential good targets.

Very interesting article Nik. Before reading this article, I couldn’t think of the direct impact climate change would have on the olympics and how the IOC would tackle this issue. Your article highlighted the intrinsic link between outdoor endurance events with rising temperatures and the risk that would pose on athletes’ health. You also artistically iterated IOC’s role in changing mindsets and publicizing the urgency of the situation. I would be keen to understand how the IOC’s operations (facility design, procurement and building) is helping to minimize environmental impact. For example, how green is the stadium and how much greenhouse gas was conserved because low-impact building materials were chosen? To what extent can the message be controversial? Can we organize a marathon along a beach where rising sea levels have eroded the coastline or something to that effect?