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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Sustain#30: Sow – Water – Wait – Yield

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Sustain Weekly —  Sow -> Water -> Wait -> Yield

“Execution, Execution, Execution” — Andy Grove

Hello and welcome to the 30th issue of the Sustain weekly newsletter. Last week, I wrote mostly on the increasing number of urban farmers and organic produce.

BalconyProduce

Then during the week, I found out that one of my friends grows a lovely bunch of vegetables on his balcony. Through him, I discovered new things and places that can guide me to build a small garden. Apparently, spinach is a great start. So, I’m going to try that. Here are some beautiful chilies and spinach from his balcony! But before that, I have to introduce a company to you. A company that is heavily associated with industrial farming, but is discussed rarely on social media. We should all know who Monsanto is and what they do. But, hardly few of us do. This is because the industry it operates it is far from what is daily fed on social media. Probably because Buzzfeed doesn’t cover it. Also, you know how they say — if it’s not on Facebook, it’s not news.

AgriBiz_BSG_20160322_updated

But if you’re in Food & Beverages and Agriculture, you will know Monsanto. Or, if you’re even remotely close to politics, you will know them. So this week, I’ll only introduce them. Monsanto is a 150 year chemical giant that makes weed killers and fertilizers. Their biggest product is called Roundup. Basically, a pharma veteran John Queeny started Monsanto Chemical Works in 1901, named after his wife Olga Monsanto.

The company’s first product was chemical saccharin, which was sold to Coca-Cola as artificial sweetener but actually poisonous.But they real action began in 20s, when they introduced Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) — an industrial wonder chemical that is now banned.

A century of chemical works. A decade of cotton in India

In the 1930s — they introduced the first hybrid corns, soaps, plastics, cleaning products etc. 1940s — Uranium used in the first atomic bomb. 1960s — Monsanto + Dow made Agent Orange and sold to Government — sprayed on people during Vietnam War. 90s — Launches Synthetic Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), produced from a genetically modified E.Coli. In 2000s — Monsanto split its chemical business and repositioned itself as an Agricultural company, due to the rapid rise and use of its fertilizer Roundup. During these years, it spread globally. Monsanto today is one of the biggest names in Agri. Its Glysophate, the main ingredient in Roundup, is found in a lot of plants and products. For eg: in Wine.

In India, Monsanto introduced the bt cotton in 2002. Since then, it has been one of the biggest agri players here. But over the years, the failure of GMO crop and seed lock-in has resulted in 100,000+ farmer suicides. Monsanto controls 90% of cotton seed supply. Here are three charts that show Monsanto changed cotton farming in India. This month, Monsanto threatened to leave India over the government’s efforts in capping and cutting of bt cotton seed prices. The government in a welcome move, called the bluff and welcomed Monsanto to leave the county. This comes at the heels of the announcement that the government will develop its own genetically modified (GM) cotton varieties early next year to end Monsanto’s dominance. Here is the WSJ article on why Monsanto’s biotech food business hasn’t grown much here.

But, enough about Monsanto.Let’s wait and watch this space on food and agri players. Monsanto faces the heat and lawsuits everywhere. Over seed saving, glysophate, PCBs.

In the meantime, if you are passionate about terrace and urban farming!

reach out and we can learn this together from guys who’re already on the ground, balconies and terraces doing it and doing it well. Maybe even start a small slack group to discuss ways to get started. Maybe sow charts and cycles.

A few sus-tech news I found interesting last week

Also, tech side — here is my summary of the Apple vs FBI backdoor saga.

Round 1
FBI: Want to fight?
Apple: OK, let’s fight.
FBI: Oh yah? Let’s fight.
Apple: Sure OK, bring it on.
Crowd: Great! Fight, Fight, Fight
FBI: Hey, got something else. ttyl. bye.
Apple: OK, launching new iPhones and iPads.

Some other things that can read right now.

The current state of Indian E-commerce

NextBigWhat summed up what was happening in the Sachin Bansal vs Kunal Bahl saga in Indian e-commerce market in 1 GIF. On Alibaba and subsequent devaluation. Probably, Shopclues and Paytm are waiting in the rounds.

News @Arcluster

Arcluster is pleased to announce that the commercial drones forecasts from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) report are in line and reflective of market demand and expectations that we had published in a report in February. More information on our commercial drones market study is here. Here is the FAA report if you’re interested. For the latest news from the company, follow us on Twitter here, LinkedIn here and Like us on Facebook here.

Sustain#29 – 21Mar2016: Crops and Karma – As you sow so shall you reap

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“Man serves the interests of no creature except himself” — George Orwell

Ok, women too. It’s going to a short one this week. Maybe even sweet. At least carrot level. Last week, I wrote mostly on positivity and the need to pause and reflect. Then during the week, I read an article on Monsanto, going through a tough time in India because of price capping and another article on 6 tiny robots pulling a car. Both are relevant for one industry. Farming

There are now different types of it: vertical farming, underground farming, fully automated farms, and urban farms among others. This is a trend that is increasingly prevalent in the urban environments. In fact, millennials have a compulsive feeling of trying their hand at farming.

Quite a few of IT workforce have started small suburban farms creating organic produce. Meanwhile, a lot of farmers have sold their farm lands and have landing up in metros for work. Their kids have taken up or want different job that doesn’t entail the heavy labor/less money situation that is plaguing farming.

The people interested in this field want to do it because it is an honorable. To grow your own food and make enough for the community to share and interact is a lifestyle choice that many will get and yet many won’t.

But there are other alternatives if you want to continue your day job. Look to Japan for learning new skills in farming. Robotic farms have emerged to compensate for their rapidly ageing population and an inherent lack of successors.

You can consider taking on an agrarian lifestyle and just do it at home as a hobby. Maybe even grow your Blueberries or carrots, probbably not the heavily machined ones like these.

The best way to start a home farm is to start with good seeds, non-GMO. For eg: Tomatoes are an easy option.

Maybe you can grow enough to make Pizza. You can even grow a pineapple from its crown. Just don’t add it to the Pizza.But there are multiple elements to farming and some key companies that we need to be aware of. The first one being Monsanto. So, the next weekly will include a section on first company you need to know before you take on this. If you are an aspiring farmer (including rooftops or gardens) — email me. I know a few people who are also equally enthusiastic in growing their own produce or some of it. If you need inspiration to work hard or cook, watch this video of noodle making by hand.

Some other things you can read from last week.

News @Arcluster

Arcluster is hiring a research intern and associate, involved in industry developments and basic market analysis. A qualitative role that will incrementally prepare for a long career in research and consulting. If you know of a suitable candidate, please direct them to our careers section or have them email their resumes to careers@arcluster.com. For the latest news from the company, follow us on Twitter here, LinkedIn here and Like us on Facebook here.

Sustain Weekly Newsletter-14Mar2016

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“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the world belongs to you” — Lao Tzu

Last Monday, I wrote mostly on the influence of robotics and capitalism on jobs. I was travelling the most part of last week. During which, I read an article on Pure Human, a company that wants to print human skin and sell it to consumers.

GlassBeerI felt something that was beyond what I usually do. Every time we think it’s over consumerism, companies prove us wrong. But if people want to use it, who am I judge what is right or what is wrong.

I felt it is was time to take a moment, pause and reflect. Why are we concerned about what is right and wrong for others? Why do we analyze scenarios and situations in binary for others?I am sure I am not alone in this situation. We judge others for their actions. We judge co-workers for their work and office behavior. We judge everyone for everything every time.This attitude is rampant. We are all limited in a self-defined and self-restrictive physical and mental space. We should be mindful in getting out of it. Let people be. Let things be. What will be, will be.

Then on Sunday, I found out something interesting.

Picture6It looks like Twinkle Khanna and I think alike about high tech in fast fashion.Picture7High Tech Heals A few weeks back I wrote in a newsletter about Internet of Things, buttons and high heels and had stated how helpful it would be have a button controlled high heel. And well, what do you know, Mrs. Funnybones feels the same way.

Would this be over consumerism or a simple technology solution to a prevalent problem? I’ll let that be. But, Twinkle is funny, smart and writes what she thinks. Read her book and column.

A few sus-tech news I found interesting last week

News @Arcluster

Arcluster is looking to hire a sales intern and executive in business development and account management. A challenging role with performance based incentives. If you know of a suitable candidate, please direct them to our careers section or have them email their resumes to careers@arcluster.com. For the latest news from the company, follow us on Twitter here, LinkedIn here and Like us on Facebook here.

Sustain Weekly Newsletter-7Mar2016

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Sustain Weekly — I’ll take 2 eyes and 2 thumbs to go please

“I love the way capitalism finds a place — even for its enemies” — Banksy

We’re in the 10th week of the New Year. That went by quickly. Last week, I was in a conversation with my sister where we discussed a bit on the Robotics and AI newsletter I sent out. She shared an interesting podcast by Sam Harris, where he talks to a physicist who dismisses the fears of AI. Try it.

She also mentioned that she was in a deeper thought after a discussion with a colleague who felt that the rise of the robots not only leads to more job losses but also fits in the growing negative influence of capitalism. This negative growth of capitalism resulting in the loss of the American dream.

Basically, how a male salary isn’t enough to afford the usual dream of owning a car, house etc. any more. She is a believer that technology creates more jobs than it destroys and actually makes life better. She felt that the loss of jobs is limited to the mundane ones and this will create the opportunity for people to devote more time on things they love and focus on passions.

I agree with her and the numbers also back her up. We are looking at losing 5 million jobs and gaining 2 million from the advancement of technology. So, technically there will be new jobs as physicists, engineers and doctors and fewer factory workers and log keepers. But this is good, we are losing jobs but gaining careers.

So, will the cycle of invention start to spin again?

Imagine if people are micro cogs in a wheel. Then when we all have jobs and don’t create, the wheel is static. When cogs start getting free, they move. When this wheel rotates and is hung on a vertical axis, what follows is the creation of spin angular momentum and torque.

SpinAngularMomentum

In this case, while the torque is force behind the collective speed and time to invent and create, the spin angular momentum is the number of inventions and discoveries that follows the torque. What we expect is a faster spinning wheel of inventions. Maybe one day, it’ll be fast enough for us to find a black hole and warp through it and lose ourselves in the cosmos.But back on earth, she felt that this trend will create a wider rich poor gap with shortage of money for the lower strata. Capitalism and Socialism have to work in tandem.

She told me “there is a something magical in socialism but it might not be sustainable but I may be wrong”. This I have to agree with her 100%. Capitalism might kill life, but socialism will cripple it. I don’t know which one will be bad in a silo. What we need is conscious capitalism or productive socialism. Both of which are hard and involves governments.

So, what is the new American dream? What happens when the wheel slows?

I expect the next American dream to be life itself. A clean life. Just breathing cleaner air, eating cleaner food, living on cleaner energy. That’s the new dream. From a capitalist view point — the business model is life-as-a-service. Companies will solve life problems of senses or the lack of. For example: Ocular prosthetics for the lack of sight. Similarly, artificial contemporaries for taste, smell, touch etc.

Basically, I lease ‘X’ number of years, with ‘Y’ of body parts and ‘Z’ number of habits and number of habitats. The consumeristic and capitalistic angle of healthcare might usher in a pick, choose and live model. To get there, we have a few decades at least. In the meantime, I think we should be mindful of life as a factor of time and habits.

But before that! What about future governments? Trump and US?

The most famous presidents today are big orators. Their elevation to the post was driven by people and what they like to listen. The upcoming American election is a reality check and a reference point for this.

I haven’t followed it much and I also don’t intend to. But it looks like it’s Trump is stealing the limelight. Based on what he says, his hair, his mannerisms and how funny it all is. But, what media is missing is that his supporters like him because they think he is real, rich and actionable. The parodies by Jimmy Fallon and‘Make Donald Drumpf again’ skit by John Oliver are excellent but then they remind of the famous Gandhian quote “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win”. I couldn’t help but apply this to Trump. I’m not a political analyst nor do I aspire to be one. So, like most of us, I’ll have to see how this pans out.

A few sus-tech news I found interesting last week

  • The smallest dragonfly is the world’s longest-distance flyer. An inch and a half long flies thousands of miles over oceans to travel from continent to continent.
  • Google’s self-driving car hit a bus. That’s interesting. Apparently, it anticipated that the larger vehicle will slow down and yield. But, it’s young and still learning. So, we still have time to go before it’s ‘intelligent’.
  • Norway is getting the world’s largest onshore wind farm. Will double its wind power capacity. Europe and wind are in a very happy marriage.
  • MIT researchers developed the thinnest solar film. It looks like a tiny square patch. The solar industry will definitely benefit and hit mass market if not for politics, international trade and technology transfer.
  • A company is developing bricks that are grown with sand and bacteria. Biomasons, the bio brick company, expects the product to hit mass market soon, Yet to cross the product market chasm.

News @Arcluster

Arcluster is ramping up its cloud and enterprise IT infrastructure market report offerings. Our upcoming report in this space is the first study in the new series of upcoming enterprise IT market studies. It is also the first of its kind in the industry. Watch this space for the publication intimation. For the latest news from the company, follow us on twitter here, LinkedIn here and Like us on Facebook here.