SkyStyne

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On November 20, 2016, SkyStyne commented on iSow and iReap – the automation and digitization of farming :

From a high level, precision farming seems like a great use of the advancement in technology. Efficiency gains on the farm means a greater supply of food and lower food costs across the country. However, the unfortunate loser in this case is the smaller and local farmers who can’t afford the new expensive equipment, and who are going to have an even harder time competing against big AG. This seems to be another classic example of the rich getting richer, which is particularly disturbing when Dupont and Monstanto own 70% of the total market share in the US.

I found the concept about the privacy rights related to the use of the collected data to be particularly interesting. I wonder if this is a case where it would make sense for government to step in and create legislation to ensure that individual farmers’ data is protected. If not, this seems like an opportunity for john deer to aggregate the largest data set of farming data in the world, which can be used to further improve efficiency gains going forward, but could unfortunately again come at the expense of individual farmers (who can afford the equipment) whose trade secrets may become exposed.

I think that Whole Foods had no choice but to offer an online platform for grocery delivery, and I think that the partnership with Instacart makes alot of sense. More and more households and millennials are relying on grocery delivery, and it is important for Whole Foods to find a way to remain relevant with the growth in grocery delivery services like Amazon Fresh. To me, it seems like traditional brick and morter grocery store industry is going to find itself in a structural decline – similar to what is happening right now to the clothing retail industry.

I agree with your perspective that it may make sense to deploy smartphone enabled checkout technology that make the process of purchasing your groceries easier. I wonder if there could be some type of ‘tag’ on each item which gets automatically identified and automatically charges a credit card while passing through a checkout line, similar to how retailers have ‘tags’ on clothing that alert an alarm to prevent theft. Whether nor not this specific solution is feasible, I agree with you that this space is ripe for further digital transformation.

On November 20, 2016, SkyStyne commented on Bringing Robo-advising to the World, One Bank at a Time :

It has been amazing to see an industry such as private wealth management beggining to be replaced by digital technology. Private wealth management has been an industry driven primarily by trust in the broker in managing your life savings, with very high commissions paid. The fact that robo-advisory AUM is growing so rapidly is a testament to how our society is embracing and trusting technology with managing something as important as our entire life’s savings. My thoughts about the likelihood of digital technology transforming the real estate broker sector also apply to the robo-advisory sector. I would suspect that individuals with relatively lower net worth will be the first to adopt and embrace robo-advisors because the stakes are generally lower. Once the industry is able to demonstrate that it can produce higher overall returns across portfolios over time (partially because of its lower management fees) than I believe that more sophisticated and wealthier individuals will being embracing the technology. In the very long term as the software that runs robo-advisors becomes smarter and competition in the space causes fees to drop, I would guess that physical private wealth managers will all but be entirely replaced.

On November 20, 2016, SkyStyne commented on Why Real Estate Brokers Exist in 2016 And Beyond :

It is admirable how resilient the real estate broker market has been to online disruption. I would argue that nearly all of the “possible to automate” and “difficult to automate” functions can indeed be replaced for digital technology. I suspect that lower to medium end rentals in large cities like New York City will be the first to transition to an online platform, and that high end, multimillion dollar home sales will always require the human touch of a physical broker. I believe that trust is the primary function that real estate brokers serve, and it is only a matter of time that we begin to trust the technology that bring buyer and sellers together. Lower to medium end rentals in NYC inherently require less trust because they are less meaningful transactions because renters typically don’t rent the same apartment in NYC for a very longer period of time. The broker market has already gone by the wayside for short term rentals because of AirBnb or VRBO, and I anticipate that this trend will continue to creep into the longer term rental market as well.

On November 20, 2016, SkyStyne commented on Unlocking Human Performance through Digitization in HealthTech :

There is a lack of consensus in the digital wearables community as to whether fitness trackers are simply a short term fad or here to stay [1]. I believe that the technology embedded in these types of trackers are going to improve over time. As these trackers embed more sensors and technology, I believe that it will be able to provide useful and actionable data for both high performance athletes and average joe’s looking to stay healthy. In your post you mention that Whoop’s core value add will be amassing data at scale, however, I am having a hard time understanding how Whoop will be able to amass more data than Nike or Fitbit, which are already established players? I wonder if there should be some type of public-private-partnership that aggregates all of this data instead of having it stores in silo’s of different companies as the combined power of this data has a greater potential to improve individuals health and performance and society as a whole.

1] http://time.com/3934258/fitness-trackers-fitbit/

On November 7, 2016, S commented on A World without Hershey Kisses? :

Great post Parker! It seems that the problem posed by droughts as a result of climate change are not only going to affect Hersey’s and its sweet kisses, but the entire $5 trillion agriculture business. The combination of growing populations and increasing droughts and floods caused by climate change are inevitably going to have a massive impact the availability of food globally. I believe that we are going to need to adapt as a civilization to be able to feed the world’s population. I think that developing more drought resistant seeds would be a great innovation to keep food supply high and prices low for the world. As evidenced by the variety of perspectives of GMO’s in the above posts, they are a very controversial topic. I think that developing GMOs that enable crops to thrive under heavy use of pesticides (i.e. Roundup), is a very different conversation than developing GMOs that require less water consumption. If Hersheys goes down this path, I think it will be important for them to communicate these differences. Finally, simply making smaller kisses (they are already so small) doesn’t help our climate change induced looming global agriculture crisis.

On November 7, 2016, S commented on Reimagining The Grid :

Great article! However, I didn’t understand your point about above ground ‘traditional’ infrastructure, vs. below ground infrastructure have to do with the sustainability conversation. I agree that below ground transmission lines are more reliable (because I tree can’t fall and knock it down), but to me it seems like how the electricity is generation, whether from traditional coal or natural gas plants, or wind and solar plants, is a different conversation from whether the utilities decide to build overhead or underground lines. I am assuming the underground lines are much more expensive to build and the reason why there are more overhead lines. I realize this wasn’t the focus of your article, but I was curious as to how you were thinking about this.

Very interesting read. This article makes me wonder whether Unilever should shift the conversation from sourcing sustainable palm oil to replacing palm oil with an alternative that is more fundamentally sustainable. It is clear that Unilever is having a difficult time in tracing the origin of all its palm oil, and I don’t think that they will ever be fully confident that its sourced sustainable given the scale of their operation and the decentralized nature of the palm oil industry. As long as there is strong global palm oil demand, there will be farmers in developing countries incentivized to slash and burn indigenous forest to grow palm oil satiate that demand so that they can better provide for their families.

On November 7, 2016, S commented on Can H&M Make Sustainability Stylish? :

Apologies in advance for the cynicism, but I agree with the above comments and believe that H&M sustainability initiatives seem very gimmicky and more of a marketing ploy than anything. The idea of encouraging and conditioning consumers to only wear clothing a few times goes against sustainability in every sense of the word. Having a goal to source organic cotton doesn’t even make a dent in the damage they are doing as a result of wasted resources associated with the increasingly massive amounts of clothing that are ending up in the landfill because of H&M’s fast-fashion model. Further, H&M is a leader in the fashion industry, and is causing more company’s to pursue the fast fashion model, resulting in far more indirect wasted resources than directly created by their wasted clothing. I don’t think being slightly less bad is a admirable goal for H&M.

Great article outlining what Duke is doing to reduce its carbon footprint. You mention in the last paragraph that Duke has been pursuing the acquisition and ownership of wind and solar project and decommissioning of coal plants “in response to climate change and in preparation for future CO­2 emission reduction requirements”. I wonder how much of this activity is driven by preparation of potential future CO2 emission reduction requirements, versus being driven by current economics. It seems to me that it would be unlikely that Duke would shut down a coal plant, a major capital investment, if it still made economic sense in today’s markets. I wonder if the plants that they are shutting down are simply because they have run their full life cycle and are no longer economic to run because of the high amount of capital expenditures required to keep the plant running and/or if they are no longer profitable given that they are competing with historically extremely cheap natural gas and power prices. I also wonder how much of their investment in renewable projects are driven by state mandated RPS requirements and lucrative tax benefits.