Being BOLD to Save the Planet

Being BOLD to Save the Planet

There’s a new generation of BOLD entrepreneurs stepping forward. They see themselves as change-makers, activists building businesses to save the planet. Like Greta Thunberg, they recognise that time is running out. Annoyed by what they see as ‘corporate inertia’, they’re creating breakthrough ‘change-maker business’.

These change-makers are part of the Sharing Economy, but not the Sharing Economy as we know it.  Until now, the phenomenon which has garnered much media attention since its birth a decade ago has focussed on peer-to-peer, technology driven, VC backed start-ups, but this new breed of ‘changepreneurs’ are not only commercially savvy, but hell bent on delivering social and environmental value too. They know that the companies of the future are those who can become activists and change-makers themselves.

Take Ruth Anslow, co-founder of Brighton-based rebel supermarket HISBE (How It Should Be) in the UK.  Together with her sister Amy and Jack Simmonds they’re reinventing the supermarket experience. “We’ve built an alternative supermarket model through collaboration and caring. We got fed up with the way supermarkets do business, it has a negative effect on people, communities and local economies. We’re about keeping profits in communities and in the hands of the producers”.

Being BOLD to Save the Planet
Ruth and Amy Anslow, founders of HISBE rebel supermarket

For these changepreneneurs, commercial success only follows social and environmental wins. HISBE broke even in a record-breaking twelve months, six months ahead of their targets. The founders believe this financial success is down to their values and approach.

“We help a lot of small suppliers get going, we share the profit with them, so out of every pound that gets spent in HISBE, 68p goes to suppliers. The equivalent figure in supermarkets is 9p. If they’re given the right price and the right conditions, they can make the products that contribute to a better food system.”

The real key to their success is the philosophy that lies at the heart of changepreneurship – the contribution they make to the industry as a whole. ‘Our big vision is to transform the food industry by reinventing the way supermarkets do business”. This, they believe is the biggest lesson for corporations: focus on creating value for the wider sector and society at large and you’ll win.

Ruth Anslow is one of 200 change-makers I interviewed for my ground-breaking visual book Generation Share. Generation Share is the world’s largest collection of stories of change-makers building a caring, sharing economy; it’s the result of a three-year collaboration with photographer with purpose, Sophie Sheinwald, to bring these positive stories of change-makers to worldwide attention. It comes from a realisation that to change the world, we need to change the narrative and give life and prominence to these positive stories of breakthroughs.

Being BOLD to Save the Planet
Malik Yakitini, founder of Detroit Black Food Security Network and D-Town Farm (US)

29-year-old Daan Wedderpohl from Amsterdam embodies what it means to be a breakthrough change-maker. When his house burned to the ground, he lost his home, his belongings and his job, which proved to be the catalyst for creating goods-sharing platform Peerby, because, he says “the stuff we consume is the biggest contributor to our environmental footprint.”

His bold approach permeates his business approach. “The ultimate goal is that consumer goods will never be designed for one person, but for a community and if goods can be passed from person to person, then the manufacturers will have to create a business model for sustainability, reparability and reuse.”

Being BOLD to Save the Planet
Digital equality campaigner, Nanjira Sambuli (Kenya)

So how can you unleash the change-maker in your business and help power breakthroughs for people and planet?’ First, answer these three all important questions.

  1. What actions are you as a company taking to immediately and directly address climate change?
  2. How are you as a company currently contributing to the wider sustainability of your sector?
  3. What can you do now to put the sharing of resources at the heart of your business model?

With over £3.5 trillion worth of idle resources and enough surplus food to feed 10 billion people worldwide, the true power of the Sharing Economy is becoming evident with activist entrepreneurs like Dan Wedderpohl and Ruth Anslow demonstrating how positive changepreneurship can make a difference.  And, with time not on our side, it’s time to unleash the change-maker in all businesses.

About the author: Benita Matofska is an international speaker, working with businesses to become change-makers. She’s the founder of charity The People Who Share, a global Sharing Economy expert and author of Generation Share: The change-makers building the Sharing Economy, published by Policy Press for Global Sharing Week, June 2019.

Image credits: Sophie Sheinwald

BOLD Awards 2020

These changepreneurs are definitely BOLD. Are you? Have you been working on a BOLD challenge or a project that represents a real breakthrough with potential to transform a sector or a market? Let us know, entries for the BOLD Awards are open now until December 31 in 12 categories, just click here. You could find yourself at the black-tie awards ceremony in Venice, Italy, on March 27, 2020.

BOLD Developments in Agritech

BOLD Developments in Agritech

Projections show that feeding an estimated world population of 9.1 billion people in 2050 will require raising overall food production by some 70% from 2005/07 levels, reported the High Level Expert Forum – How to Feed the World in 2050

This prompts an imminent need to maximize the food supply through both traditional field production and new farming techniques. Many farmers use a high degree of hard-earned individual experience on which to make judgement calls on how to grow adequate amounts of crops in a financially viable manner. New technology is improving this by collecting the sum total of farmers’ decisions; matching them to a database of their unique climate, soil, crop and topography circumstances; and making the end results generally available to other farmers, government agencies and commercial suppliers.

Here are insights into three different ways in which technology is being used for the benefit of food production, and thus for the benefit of all of us.

A government-led initiative

In South America, Colombian farmers in the mainly maize-growing region of Cordoba increasingly found their livelihoods at risk due to the growing unpredictability of weather patterns. The government collaborated with the National Cereals and Legumes Federation (FENALCE) and big data scientists at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to use data crowdsourced from many farmers. Across a four year period those farmers became more efficient and productive.

BOLD Developments in Agritech
A weather station used to capture information for data-driven farming in Colombia

The farmers who had immediately started to follow new guidelines found their maize yields  increased from 3.5 tons to 6.0 tons per hectare. They were also able to reduce their fertilizer costs and the negative impact of heavy rainfall, including valuable topsoil being washed away.

The livelihoods of farmers’ families, and food security for the wider population,  were improved without major infrastructure expenditures. Wider data collection through apps used by the farmers, ground-level sensors and drone and satellite technology can continue to support further improvements.

Now that the government has led the way, Daniel Jiménez, a data scientist at CIAT at the time, looks forward to when the private sector gets more involved to develop sustainable systems to capture, analyse and distribute information to help farmers manage their crops and resources better. A full case study is here.

An expanding commercial venture

An example where commercial enterprise is involved is the Greek agritech startup Augmenta, which earlier this month received €2.5m backing from two VC funds. It has developed smart robotic hardware that can provide the information to ultimately deliver significant cost savings and performance improvements for farmers.

Augmenta’s hardware can be mounted to a tractor, spreader or sprayer and collects vital data as each farmer goes about their normal work. There’s little extra for them to do other than plug it in and switch it on.

BOLD Developments in Agritech
An Augmenta data capture unit mounted on a tractor

After two years of testing prototypes, Augmenta’s co-founders George Varvarelis and Dimitri Evangelopoulos received seed funding in July 2018 from Athens-based Marathon Venture Capital. With it, they built their first 20 units with a camera to collect visual information and sensors that detect fungus in the crops and monitor fertilizer levels. All the data for each individual field is stored on a web platform to which participating farmers have unlimited access.

They have shown that access to their data can increase crop yields by up to 12%, reduce fertilizer costs up to 15%, and improve product quality by up to 20%. The latest investment in October 2019 from a San Francisco-based VC fund will fund expansion in North and South America beyond the eight countries where Augmenta is already being used.

Alternative farming technology is developing globally

Vertical farming involves food production in indoor facilities where crops are grown in a controlled environment on a series of levels. It is at an exciting stage of development that is attracting entrepreneur startups and investment from major corporates. 

Bloomberg estimates the sector will be globally worth $5.8bn by 2022, with Asia-Pacific (APAC) expected to have the largest share of the vertical farming market by then owing to population growth and limited fertile agriculture land. There are numerous farms in Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and other such technologically-advanced countries which is driving the market in the region. Japan is one of the key countries in which over 150 plant factories are equipped in operational form with artificial lights.

Ocado is a market-leading online grocer and food home-delivery company in the UK. It has invested £17m in a joint Venture called Infinite Acres with a Dutch industrial systems provider and US vertical farming firm 80 Acres. It also has a 58% stake in Europe’s largest vertical farming operation, Jones Food Company based in Scunthorpe, UK.

BOLD Developments in Agritech
Basil growing in a vertical farm in a polytunnel

Still at a startup stage, Shockingly Fresh in Scotland, UK, is currently seeking funding to develop five vertical farming centres using special hydroponic towers to grow multiple crop cycles. A key point of difference is that they will grow their produce in semi-climate-controlled polytunnels rather than inside buildings under expensive lighting. Ultimately they plan to have dozens of sites, capable of growing up to five times the volume of vegetables as a traditional farm. Their aim is to compete for business at regular wholesale prices, director Garth Bryans told us, rather than target the premium grocery sector.

BOLD Awards 2020 has a new Agritech category, and you can take part in a number of ways.

  • Entries in any of the 12 categories can be can be submitted here.
  • In January there will be a round of online public voting that you can take part in, followed by an assessment by a panel of international judges to determine the winners.
  • There will be a black-tie award ceremony on 27th March 2020 in Venice, Italy, and you can apply here to request an invitation to attend. 

The Next BOLD Step in Business Audio? Ask the Crowd!

The Next Step in Business Audio? Ask the Crowd!

By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, co-founders of Barefoot Wines and co-authors of the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand.

When humans listen to a story something amazing happens. Each individual in a crowd reaches into their own personal memories to create and complete the scenes in which the action takes place. In other words, they source the props from their own mental inventory. When this happens, they tag the story to be more easily recalled. Why? Because they had something to do with its telling. They were interacting by embellishing the scenes with their imagination, they were involved in a process of co-creation.

Pre-literate indigenous people would hand down their history and the principles they had learned  about survival, the environment, medicine, and even virtues through story. Fast forward 8,000 years, we are rediscovering the power of story to convey principles. We, the audience, hear the story and draw out the take-aways, principles, and lessons. Through using our imagination to complete the scenes, and even identify with the characters, we can recall and use the lessons in our own businesses and life! This is a type of experiential learning.

Prescriptive Text

Without story, business books, especially, can seem one dimensional, prescriptive, and even patronizing. The principles are all laid out for you in a logical construct-like outline. “Here are the 3 things to do, the 5 things never to do, and the 15 things your customer wants from you.” Even if the points are made using examples, the mind glazes over by the end of chapter two. And the retention and application of the principles being shared is questionable.

With the renaissance of story, we are reconnecting with what our ancient ancestors instinctively knew all along: if you want your listeners to remember and use the message, wrap a convincing story around it with compelling characters overcoming challenges using the principles you wish to convey.

Audio Tech History

Forty years ago, all the cars came with audio cassette players. So did most portable radios. It seemed like everybody had a Walkman. You see, back then people appreciated the freedom of audio recordings. They could drive or jog and still listen to a book or a lecture on their favorite topics. We would listen and learn on our way to another city, hoping that some of the lessons learned along the way would stick. We hoped to employ them at the upcoming business meeting. The cassettes were very helpful in our business.

So, fast forward again to the present and we are enjoying the evolution of audio to MP3 as a learning tool. Unlike video, it does not immobilize our mobile devices. Radio-like interviews for iPods evolved into podcasts. Podcasts became wildly popular. What’s not to like? They are informative, in relative short formats, and they are almost always free!  At the same time, paper books became eBooks, and eBooks became audiobooks, all conveniently downloadable and digital.

Now What?

About a year ago, we asked our crowd, “What’s the next step in business audio books?” The answers we got were surprising.  They wanted more story and less prescription. They wanted to be able to draw their own conclusions. They wanted several short stories all linked together with principles demonstrated by action. Due to the increasing popularity of dramatized fiction, they wanted to hear non-fiction dramatized as well.

The Next Step in Business Audio? Ask the Crowd!And so we thought about the radio theater of the 1940’s with actors playing roles in skits. We thought about NPR’s “Theater of the Mind,” and we even thought about A Prairie Home Companion, all dramatized audio productions presented in a theatrical format. Why couldn’t we do this with a business audio book? And why couldn’t we use our own book as a guinea pig?

Next thing you know, we’re off to Hollywood! We partnered with an acting ensemble, converted our New York Times bestseller, The Barefoot Spirit, into audio script, and invested in some serious studio time and a whole lot of editing. We wanted to produce what we think is the BOLD next step in business audio books. We call it, “Business Audio Theater.” After a year of hard work, we are happy to announce our true story of how we built America’s #1 wine brand was released in this new business theater audiobook format on September 12th at the CSW Global 2019 conference in San Francisco!