Follow Friday: Vierde Vrijdag and Susanne Pieterse

Scrolling through my Twitter feed, I saw “The Blockchain Tiramisu – Tech Stacks and Pragmatic Engineering,” and thought to myself I like tiramisu, and also blockchain!

Upon further investigation, I discovered that this event was not, in fact, serving tiramisu, but it ended up being a great experience anyway.

Vierde Vrijdag at The Hague Tech is a gathering for people in business and tech to socialize and learn from each other about various trends and developments in the industry. I didn’t know much about the presenters, but the programming sounded quite educational (for myself, at least). People spoke about intellectual property laws, blockchain, and digitizing the city.

Unfortunately I was not able to stay for the whole program, but I had the pleasure of listening to Susanne Pieterse talk about what blockchain is and how it can be useful to a variety of businesses.

Susanne Pieterse and her company Pieterse Innovate

Pieterse started her presentation informing us that she will give this presentation at an event for the Powerful Business Women’s Network, and we were a test-run audience. The PBWN asked her to present not only because of her prestigious status as a powerful business woman, but also because their audience wanted to know more about how blockchain technology can improve their companies.

As a woman interested in networking and being powerful, I was already intrigued.

She went on to tell us about her work experience as a legal consultant who worked in digital zoning for ten years. She had always been interested in computers, so she studied programming last year and then started her own business, Pieterse Innovate. The company advises clients on how to innovate and evolve their processes.

But her enthusiasm doesn’t end there. She also runs blockchain030, a blockchain co-working event every Monday in Utrecht, and she started the podcast Block Rock, which focuses on Dutch blockchain news and projects.

How Blockchain technology is being used

Pieterse gave a great explanation of blockchain technology (safe, immutable, shared ledger), emphasizing that its use is based in trust. While it’s not a solution for everything, it is extremely helpful when

  • More than two parties are involved
  • If there are conflicting interests
  • In the presence of shared common trust

She also gave a few examples of how blockchain technology is currently being used. Pieterse mentioned the Port of Rotterdam collaboration with Blocklab, as well as automated micro-transactions for package deliveries, and an experimental effort to tag social welfare benefits. (Though it was noted that the kindpakket project decided it was too difficult to implement blockchain this way at the moment.)

But blockchain can be used for so much more.

Supply Chain Management: An experiment with a fishery found that everyone in the supply chain had conflicting interests. When an app was developed to solve the problem, many in the supply chain rejected its use because they felt it didn’t represent their interests.

Energy Usage Data: With Oehu, smart meter owners submit their energy usage data to the website. Users remain owners of their data, but the shared access to the information will help improve the technology.

Theater Tickets: GUTS Tickets uses blockchain to create a fair ticket resale market. As a result, it fights ticket fraud while giving fans a better opportunity to attend shows.

Document Verification: The University of Nicosia uses blockchain for certificates, which means future employers or organizations would not need to contact the University to verify the authenticity of the document.

Final Thoughts

Vierde Vrijdag was a great opportunity to participate in a discussion about the tech industry, rather than just reading about it. At first I was nervous because it seemed like everyone already knew each other and was familiar with each other’s work (that’s always the case at networking events, right?).

But when I got pulled into a conversation, it turned out that other people attending also didn’t have a background in programming. My greatest takeaway from the event – as well as Pieterse – was that it doesn’t hurt to just go: go to a networking event, go to a panel, go hard on the paint and start your own business. Just go.

Follow Friday: Token Coffee

Around the time I wrote about BlueCity, I also listened to the Food Heroes Podcast about Wize Monkey, a company making tea from coffee leaves.

Because the bean harvest is only three months long, the majority of the industry’s labor does not have steady work for the remainder of the year. By making a product from the coffee leaves, farmers have steadier work, which means more income, which means growing prosperity with rippling effects.

As the third most-consumed beverage in the world, Wize Monkey is just one of the many businesses starting to take responsibility for the coffee supply chain. In fact, some companies are even using blockchain technology to create a radically transparent product.

Token Coffee and FairChain Foundation

More than just a certification and a label, FairChain Foundation provides visibility not just to the businesses involved in the supply chain, but also the consumer. In this way, everyone can be held accountable (as discussed in my article explaining blockchain and logistics).

Token Coffee was born from a partnership among FairChain Foundation, Moyee Coffee (who also works with Rotterzwam at BlueCity), and Bext360, which bolsters sustainable practices and ethical supply chains using technology. Together, they created a solution to the coffee industry’s questionable practice of fair trade.

FairChain’s objective is “all about sharing the value created in production chains fairly.” And coffee, with layers of unfairness building on top of each other, is a great place to start.

So how does blockchain make coffee consumption better?

It starts when you visit their website. We’re all used to being prompted to sign up for newsletters, but pay attention: Token Coffee asks you to be a CEO. By purchasing Token Coffee, you become a custodian of the company. You agree to be part of this blockchain, and to contribute to the radical transparency of this supply chain.

And as a result of this radical transparency, no one in the supply chain can double-back on their commitment without everyone else knowing it. They admit that they haven’t quite yet reached their goal of a 50/50 split in value – they’re only at 32/68.

But as more people make the commitment to buy Token Coffee, they will continue to close the gap between what consumers pay and what farmers earn.

Final Thoughts

Currently they are focusing efforts on developing coffee farms in Ethiopia, where 25% of the population depends on the coffee trade for a living.

As of November 2018, Token no longer has any bags left for sale, but you can still sign up to be notified of the next opportunity to invest.

What makes this more radical than any other blockchain endeavor is that the whole business is about shedding light on the entire industry. Efforts have been made to move carrots, almonds, and lettuce using blockchain technology, but Moyee, FairChain, and Bext360 have made the choice to build Token entirely around the need for visibility.


Do you like how I talk nerdy? Let’s get coffee!

Follow Friday: Connecterra

Previously I wrote about whether we can save the environment while still consuming cow products. One of the best ways to reduce our impact on the environment (while still eating beef and dairy) is to improve farming methods.

As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) points out, grazing cattle require less than a kilogram of feed to product one kilogram of meat. And as Frederic Leroy highlights, certain forms of grazing methods may actually “contribute to climate change mitigation,” primarily because it can promote the presence of soil organic carbon (SOC).

Glen from Happy Cow recently wrote about soil nitrogen content in his newsletter. He makes the point that biodiversity – cows, legumes, veggies and all – is necessary for the earth to thrive.

So how do we maximize our return on cows and ultimately make the world a better, less hungry place?

Connecterra: Environmental Sustainability through Artificial Intelligence

Connecterra is using technology to encourage sustainable food growth. Their first major product, Ida (the Intelligent Dairy farmer’s Assistant), helps dairy farmers around the world track and maintain the health of their herds.

With tracker collars for the cows, a farmer can monitor their herd’s behavior. Using the collected data, Ida can detect anomalies before any evident signs of distress are expressed.

For example, Ida can detect heat stress levels in different cows so that farmers can take action to prevent their condition from worsening. Users can also prioritize behaviors so that Ida can rank the cows accordingly (example: tracking milk yield compared to rumen efficiency).

This kind of technology is transformative in so many ways. To start, it can mean not just fewer sick cows, but more healthy cows. As a result, the dairy produced is better for us, and the farmer’s resources are better allocated to preventive care instead of reactive.

Ida is also a learning technology, which means it will improve with use over time. This can help the farmer – and ultimately the entire dairy supply chain – become more efficient.

Final Thoughts

Ida is a remarkable application of artificial intelligence to improve a sector of the food industry, one that currently has a bad reputation in regards to environmental sustainability.

Of course, this doesn’t quite answer the question of whether we should stop consuming beef. It does, however, provide at least a standard for consuming dairy products, and maybe this same technology can help cattle farmers raise cows for beef in a more sustainable way.

There is no public list available of farmers who are using Ida, but maybe in the future, consumers will be able to scan their bottle of milk to learn where it came from via blockchain. (Ha! Didn’t think I’d sneak blockchain into this, did you?)

Feel free to ruminate on these thoughts next time you eat a cheeseburger.

The Hardest Part of Being a Freelancer

As an extrovert, I have found that the hardest part about freelancing is being alone.

This may not seem like much of a revelation, but as someone who has always been proud to be an independent worker and self-motivator, this came as a shock to me.

Being independent is, of course, a very important aspect of working for yourself. But what makes it different from working for a company is that you have no team, no daily motivator other than yourself.

Freelancing: A Team of One

With almost every project I receive, I think to myself “What if the company did this instead?” or “If I include these elements in the graphic, it can be used all these ways throughout their marketing efforts!” or “Didn’t someone tell them that their logo doesn’t translate well in black-and-white?”

But that’s not my job as a freelancer. My job is to be a specialized outsider. My job is not to be part of the team. The company and their work will continue on without me once my project is finished.

That’s hard for me.

I want to give everything I can to a client because I want them to succeed. It doesn’t help either of us if their business isn’t the best it can be, right?

But I’m not supposed to do or be everything for them. It’s not what I’m hired for.

Setting Boundaries and Limits for Yourself

That mindset – it’s not my job – is a toxic way to work when part of a company. As an employee, you may be expected to do more than what was explicitly described in the job posting.

And why not? You’re part of a team, and sometimes the pitcher has to cover home plate to make the play.

But not as a freelancer. As a freelancer, that’s how you can get taken advantage of.

You are hired to create graphics for an annual report, but maybe the client also needs a photo or two to be edited. You’re already using Photoshop, so why not? Or maybe you are formatting the layout, and you notice a couple typos in their copy. It’s easy enough to just swap “they’re” for “their,” or to highlight the extra “s” at the end of a word for your client to review. Why should you allow for these errors?

But that’s how your work takes a wrong turn. You overreach into aspects of the project that aren’t your responsibility. You take it upon yourself to “fix” or “help” when you haven’t been asked. Or if you have been asked, you comply, because for whatever reason, it seems like a worse outcome to say no.

As a freelancer, you are hired as an outsider to complete a specific task. If another task requested, then you accept it only if the client agrees to pay for it. Alternatively, you discuss these options upfront so that an appropriate rate can be determined.

Final Thoughts

Often it seems the best outcome for everyone is to stay in your lane. As a freelancer, you’re the base runner that subs in for the player with a bad knee so that you can score the run. It’s a limited yet important job for the team.

And that’s OK. As long as you do your part and do it well, you can (and will) help the business achieve its goals.

Follow Friday: Shypple

I’ve written extensively lately about blockchain, and for good reason.

What if you are ready to digitize your freight and logistics needs, but aren’t ready to invest in this newly explored frontier?

Digital Shipping Solutions

Our lives have been transformed by convenient technology, from hailing a cab to having razors delivered monthly to our doorstep. And with so many options within a service industry, comparing prices has also become significantly easier.

But that technology only recently came to the logistics industry. Why?

Shypple: Booking.com for Freight and Shipping Solutions

You’re tired of keeping track of all the papers on your desk or in your file cabinet. In can be days before you have all the information you need to make a final decision about how you will move your product from point A to point B. And once your product is in transit, it takes multiple emails and phone calls to pinpoint its location.

As I learned at Intermodal Europe 2018, lack of visibility is a concern for everyone in the supply chain, yet the industry has not widely embraced solutions to this problem.

Shypple addresses these issues and more.

It’s been touted as the “Booking.com for sea freight,” and rightfully so. If users are already familiar with the concept, why not apply the model to your own industry, especially one as layered as logistics?

In response to the ancient methods of the freight industry, Shypple founder Jarell Habets started Shypple to make transportation easier. With so many options and providers in the market, this dashboard allows users to compare quotes, consolidate documents, and track shipments from one application.

Furthermore, Shypple offers financing options, insurance, and customs management. It offers the whole freight package from start to finish!

When I read about Shypple, I was surprised to learn that no service like this existed for logistics. A digital platform for planning every branch of a shipment’s journey seems like an obvious need. (Again, how is there such a lack of visibility?) But as I have come to learn, the industry has not been quick to evolve.

How does Shypple improve the shipping industry?

With Shypple, customers can make responsible, fully informed decisions in less time, saving their companies valuable resources. But how does it pressure the logistics industry to change?

On one hand, this type of ranked comparison makes it easier for customers to choose the cheapest – but not necessarily highest quality – option. This may further encourage the “race to the bottom,” which is something that many agree is not good for the industry.

On the other hand, it may pressure the supply chain to improve in other ways in order to be competitive. How does your company fair when compared side-by-side to your competitors in a platform that allows customers to book in one click? What do you have to offer customers other than a low price?

Final Thoughts

I’m still an advocate for blockchain technology in the logistics industry. Those who had the resources to invest in trials and research should absolutely do so.

But Shypple solves a different problem for users on the supply chain. Shypple is for the one who initiates the chain but the last link on the line. It makes building the chain simpler and more visible. And the industry could use more visibility.


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Intermodal Europe 2018: What I Learned

I learned about Intermodal Europe 2018 while scrolling through my LinkedIn newsfeed. It was two days way – I knew I had to register!

I was only able to make it to one of three days of the conference, but I thoroughly enjoyed the the panels I attended. As someone who doesn’t currently work in the industry but wants to serve the industry, it was quite enlightening.

Intermodal Europe 2018 Review

Change Is Coming to the Logistics Industry (or at least it should be)

I constantly heard that one of the main factors slowing progress is the resistance to technology and change.

Today, we can download an app to hail a cab and watch it approach our location, while also turning the heat on before we arrive and ordering food to be delivered to our home. In contrast, logistics companies can’t tell a customer where their shipment is or how it disappeared.

One speaker noted that one of the highlights of last year’s conference was a type of tracker that goes inside the shipping container. That was 2017.

Why hasn’t the industry progressed? Why does the supply chain seem to encounter the same problems it did 100 years ago?

The resistance to technology is not just a change of inertia – it’s also a fear of job losses. People are constantly afraid that artificial intelligence will replace them, rather than approaching it as a tool.

And this resistance to technology has ripple effects. The Women in Logistics panel highlighted not only the absence of women in the industry, but the absence of any interest from the upcoming workforce. Logistics and supply chain has not proven itself to be a forward-thinking industry compared to other fields currently embracing the unknown technological frontier.

While there is some innovation is coming from within the industry, other fields are also developing solutions for the inefficiencies of logistics.

Digital Platforms: Baby Steps into the 21st Century

I still find it shocking that the logistics industry hasn’t, as a whole, made the shift to digital platforms. How does anyone trust that their items will get from point A to B? How is anyone held accountable? How do companies stay competitive if they don’t have a user-friendly interface or website? Who has the time?

Companies like FreightBro offer great solutions for customers and freight forwarders to reduce their paper use, communication delays, and time spent connecting the dots. By centralizing all their freight operations in one application, companies and customers  waste less time searching for solutions and create a better workflow.

But while digital platforms may help streamline administration, they do not address all the challenges facing the logistics industry.

Blockchain: Take the Plunge

Another universal sentiment seemed to be the need for collaboration. No one functions alone as part of the supply chain.

Dr. Rolf Neise echoed an idea that the Blocklab white paper also suggested: players in the logistics industry need to specialize or focus on what they do best.

Being really good at administrative tasks isn’t enough. Shouldn’t everyone be able to file paperwork correctly and communicate efficiently? By specializing in a field or aspect of the supply chain, a company can secure its position in the industry and prove its value as a partner.

Nico Wauters from T-Mining, Tom van Dijk from CGI, and Clinton Senkow from ShipChain were all passionate advocates for using blockchain to improve the supply chain. By implementing its technology, companies can shift their focus from “fire fighting” to providing premium customer service.

Currently, blockchain trials are being conducted in small, private networks. If (and when) the technology takes off and becomes commonplace in the industry, transactions and payments will be visible to everyone on the blockchain.

Building Trust within the Logistics Industry

Change isn’t easy for everyone. Blockchain is not only a change in a company’s workflow, but also its mindset. You have to trust others in the industry that they will make good choices, too.

Van Dijk said that blockchain is disruptive by creating a layer of trust between points on the supply chain. It seems like such a strange definition of “disruption,” but with the lack of visibility in the industry – another universal complaint – it’s easy to see how that trust between partners is not easily earned.

Sharing is Caring

As part of trust-building, some people call for data sharing. It feels risky – why would anyone want their competitors to know how well they move product?

Currently, everyone operates based on the information they are given and the data they produce. This, however, is an incomplete picture of the supply chain.

Thomas Bibette demonstrated how DCBrain is helping companies put their own data to practical use. But with more data available, new trends may reveal themselves, which may lead to better solutions, which may lead to less churn for you.

Without sharing data, it will be increasingly difficult to pin-point issues in the industry so that everyone can improve. Remember: no one functions alone in the supply chain. (At least, if you don’t want giants like Amazon and Alibaba putting you out of business.)

How to Get Decision Makers on Board

It’s the million-dollar question. From what I saw, it seems that many leaders in the industry are focused on making today’s sale, or on the number of shipping containers lost last week. It’s hard to plan for the future when there’s a fire that needs to be put out today.

As step one of his value-based 5-step method, van Dijk suggests starting with creating awareness among key stakeholders before experimenting and creating a pilot.

But how do we create awareness that will change the mindset of this ancient industry?

Maybe start with a few examples of how blockchain has proven its positive impact on the supply chain. The ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam have shown interest in it. Companies like Walmart have experimented with shipping lettuce using the technology, and IBM and Maersk developed a blockchain partnership:

Through better visibility and more efficient means of communicating, some supply chain participants estimate they could reduce the steps taken to answer basic operational questions such as “where is my container” from 10 steps and five people to, with TradeLens, one step and one person.

One step with one person. The efficiency is almost unimaginable. Why would your company want to be left behind in this technological advancement?

These, however, are industry powerhouses. They have the resources to invest in this type of research and experimentation. The blockchain infrastructure doesn’t fully exist yet – it is still only comprised of private networks.

But even so, ShipChain is running pilot programs with Perdue and CaseStack, and has had its work recognized in the DHL white paper on blockchain and logistics. While these names, again, are heavy hitters, the growing investment and interest in the technology cannot be ignored.

As Senkow said, this is just the “dial-up” stage of blockchain. It has so much potential and there’s no denying that it will be here to stay.

Final Thoughts

At the moment, it seems that offering services at the lowest cost is everyone’s priority. With giants like Amazon and Walmart offering free shipping, it’s no wonder people expect low costs, regardless of quality of service.

But that just can’t be the case.

At the moment, clients may be willing to pay a low price for the risk of the item getting lost. But if you could guarantee that their product could be tracked all the way from point A to B with your stellar customer service, wouldn’t that be worth the risk of investment?

And, as I mentioned before, the future of logistics is also dependent on the type of talent that the industry attracts. Don’t you want the best and the brightest? Because as the logistics industry strands, it’s not looking very attractive.

Logistics is the backbone of the global economy. Why isn’t it a leader in advancement?


Interested in nerding out about supply chain logistics? Talk to me!

Bamboo Juice and the FDA: Are the Hazards of Fresh Juice Real?

Food Safety News reported that the juice company Bamboo Juice received quite the scolding from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Included in their strongly worded letter was a list of violations, such as:

  • misbranded food (calling a juice “spinach apple” when it also includes other ingredients)
  • unapproved new drugs (claiming a juice is an “inflammation tamer” or is a “natural remedy for kicking colds and clearing sinuses”)
  • inadequate 5-log reduction plan (not enough steps taken to eliminate microbial hazards)

While the first two are more about phrasing choices, the last item may cause harm to consumers. A 5-log reduction plan should be included in the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan, which is a collection of procedures that the business implements in order to prevent outbreaks of food illnesses.

While it was initially required for seafood and meat manufacturers, HACCP plans are now a requirement for almost every aspect of the food manufacturing industry. So what does that mean for juice?

HACCP and Pasteurization

When I worked for a different Georgia juice company, one of my first tasks was to create the HACCP plan.

In addition to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and Sanitary Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs), the 5-Log Reduction is a major component of food illness prevention. For those who are not food safety or math savvy, a 5-Log Reduction refers to what steps the business takes to reduce the number of microorganisms (read: bad bacteria) in their final product.

Until recently, that usually meant pasteurization, which is the process of heating up the product in order to kill bad bacteria. As a result, however, the flavor may change and some of the nutritional value may decrease.

HACCP and Pasteurization

 

But with high pressure pasteurization (HPP), the bad bacteria is eliminated through a cold pressure process, therefore preserving the nutrients and flavor while still eliminating the bad bacteria.

But there are many who believe that pasteurization isn’t entirely necessary. Think about it: do you wash your apple in water that’s 160° F for six seconds before eating it? If you juiced that apple instead, why would you heat it up to that same temperature for that same time period?

This example, of course, is not to scale. Juice companies receive huge quantities of produce from a variety of suppliers. It is, however, something to consider when you read about the dangers of drinking fresh juice.

Overall, pasteurizing juice is one of the best and most common ways to prevent food borne illnesses – a “better safe than sorry” situation. Its primary purpose is to prevent the highest risk microorganism, which in most cases is E. coli, clostridium botulinum (botulism), and salmonella.

But there are other steps businesses can (and do) take to prevent the occurrence of bad bacteria: properly washing the produce, culling for “bad apples,” and having good relationships with produce suppliers. That trust of sources can be crucial.

With the establishment of GMPs and SSOPs, some juice companies have two lines of juice:

  • A fresh juice line, which is only sold directly to customers in retail locations
  • A pasteurized juice line, which is only sold to consumers via a retailer such as Whole Foods, Publix, and other local markets

By having two product lines, a juice company can increase its business while also staying true to their mission of spreading good health.

Bamboo Juice and the FDA

According to this letter from the FDA, it seems that Bamboo Juice may not have two separate product lines, even though they sell juice both directly to consumers as well as through third parties.

The letter specifically states:

while your plan includes three critical control points as processing, bottling and cooler packaging and delivery temperatures, none of the critical control points identify and/or include a microbial reduction step. In addition, your “5-log reduction program”, attached to your HACCP plan, indicates the juice is not subject to any treatment that would ensure a 5 log reduction and is therefore not a suitable process to comply with the minimum 5 log reduction requirement for any of your juices.

While there are no details as to what “processing” includes, I read this statement as saying “you’re not pasteurizing your juices to prevent microbial growth.”

Bamboo Juices has made a commitment to not pasteurizing in order to preserve their products’ nutrients. This means, however, that they are not permitted to sell their juices to third party retailers.

Final Thoughts

I do not know whether Bamboo Juice has considered HPP as an alternative to traditional pasteurization. Because HPP is a newer technology, the financial barrier to access it is high – possibly higher than Bamboo Juice is willing to invest.

Hopefully, however, Bamboo Juice will find a way to meet FDA requirements while still producing the healthiest juice they can.


I love to simplify concepts so that customers can make informed decisions. Need help with that? Let’s talk.