Three of the Most Impactful Panels at The Next Web Conference

I had the distinct pleasure of attending The Next Web Conference at NDSM 9-10 May, 2019. When I first looked at the workshop and speaker panels, I was so excited that I felt like one of those “heavy breathing” GIFs. There were so many types of tracks offered – marketing and branding, trade, the future of work, the art of tech – that I really had to consider what I wanted to get out of this conference in just two days.

And on reflection, what I learned was how tech affects every corner of our daily existence and has the potential to improve our lives as well. I attended numerous panels at The Next Web Conference, but there are three that continue to impact the way I think about technology and how I approach my future.

Check me out at 0:37! But also watch the whole video

Combating Human Trafficking Through Data Science

After reading Kevin Bale’s Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, I constantly think about how I can be a better consumer to fight human trafficking. On average, between 40-60 slaves work for the average person, due to the nature of the modern supply chain. And this isn’t just about sex slavery. Modern slavery happens in restaurants, on farms, in construction, and in clothing factories, just to name a few industries that depend on human trafficking.

So what are the best ways to fight modern slavery with our money? As it turns out, simply banking with ABN AMRO may be an option. While survivor testimony is compelling, financial records are hard evidence against human traffickers. The University of Amsterdam, ABN AMRO, and the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment work together to locate survivors and arrest their traffickers.

left to right: Jill Coster van Voorhout, Jeroen Hermens, and Raila Abas
  • 📑 The University researches patterns of behavior, such as traffickers forcing their workers to withdraw or transfer their entire salary deposits
  • 🚩 The University presents these findings to ABN AMRO, who then flags a variety of unusual activity that could indicate a trafficker or survivor
  • 🕵️‍♀️ The bank then has its people look at the activity to separate truly suspicious cases from false positives, and passes the information to the Ministry
  • ⚖ The Ministry then examines the information even further to determine whether they have a viable case, and if so, they pursue an investigation

From the time the Ministry receives the information, it can take anywhere from one month to two years to make an arrest.

Human trafficking – as well as invasion of privacy – is a serious crime that should not be taken lightly. This process may slow and tedious, but since they’ve started the program, they’ve discovered 50 survivors who may not have been found otherwise.

How Open Innovation Fuels Ground-Breaking Tech Solutions in Food and Agriculture

Another favorite subject of mine is food – specifically how technology helps farmers around the world. I enjoy reading reports and listening to podcasts about food supply, food waste, and ethical supply chain management. It seems that, while many food manufacturing companies want to emphasize and strengthen their relationships with farmers, the farmer will always get the raw end of the deal.

But people don’t become farmers for the money. “Farming is something you usually inherent from your family,” Yasir Khokhar from Connecterra said. Farmers see themselves as growers, and they stay with it because they love the lifestyle.

left to right: Patrick de Laive, Yasir Khokhar, Rassarin Chin, Erdem Erikçi

But, as I learned at this panel hosted by Rabobank, the way they are farming has to change. There simply aren’t enough skilled people to continue farming the way we have been for hundreds of years. And this is where artificial intelligence plays a vital role.

Connecterra, Tarla.in, and Listenfield are all gathering data to help farmers around the world run more efficiently. Tarla.in collects climate data to help finance companies and farmers conduct risk assessments, while Listenfield uses environmental data to help farmers determine best planting times for greatest yields and profits. And Connecterra is helping dairy farmers maintain healthy herds, but you already know that from my previous post.

While they are all using various forms of AI to help farmers, the farmers don’t actually care about the data itself. Farmers want someone to interpret the data for them and then tell them what needs to be done. For Connecterra, this means Ida has to not only collect the data, but interpret it, and present a solution to the farmer, all without the farmer’s interaction or prompting.

But the million dollar question is, as always: can it scale? All three companies have experienced incredible growth and change over the past few years, but as Erdem Erikçi of Tarla.in says, “The decision-making process is slowed” as the number of decision-makers increases. But without their efforts to reduce food waste, increase food supply, and improve the lives of farmers, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to have these conversations.

Marie-Elisabeth Rusling talks about the importance of female investors in entrepreneurship

Virtuous Circles, Snow Ball Effects and Golden Opportunities – The Case for Female Investment with Marie-Elisabeth Rusling

And after attending this panel hosted by The Next Women, I’m seriously considering switching from freelancing to investing. Not because I have money to invest, or because I have any understanding of investing, but because so few women are investors, and without female investors, female entrepreneurship will never grow (#powerofthepack).

As I’ve learned with the International Women’s Networking Group Rotterdam, when women are in positions of power, they are more likely to support other women. We like to think that we will all succeed based on our merits and dedication, but at the end of the day, everyone tends to help those who look like themselves.

Business Angels Europe did a study to learn more about why women aren’t joining the industry. The most common response was that women don’t know where or how to start investing. Women depend on their networks for guidance and support, which doesn’t really exist in the investment world. And they don’t seem to have access to knowledge resources that could encourage them to invest.

It’s easy enough to become an entrepreneur: you feel like you’re good enough at something that you can sell it. Taking a risk in yourself seems easier than taking a risk with someone else’s idea. Business Angels Europe found that, if women build a foundation for other women to learn how to become investors, women are much more willing to join the industry.

Georgina talks about what her team learned by changing the Big Spam newsletter

BONUS: The Big Spam on the Big Stage

I love the Big Spam newsletter. I subscribed because someone who didn’t offer me a job told me it was one of his favorite resources for tech news. And ever since that company rejected me, I have found endless entertainment and occasionally great information in Big Spam.

What I didn’t realize, however, was that the newsletter was a bit of an experiment. Georgina Ustik talked about what they learned when they changed Big Spam (apparently it used to look boring). Some insights included:

  • 🤔 Subject line is key
  • 📊 People love polls
  • 😨 People like to engage with confusing and disgusting things
  • 👏 Having an engaged community is better than having a big one

I loved this panel not only because I was part of it (see photo below), but also because I can apply these insights directly to my own work. And that was really the joy of attending The Next Web Conference – connecting with and learning from people who are doing incredible things.

This was my contribution to The Next Web Conference
My classy contribution to the Big Spam slides at The Next Web Conference

Follow Friday: International Women’s Networking Group Rotterdam

One of my biggest reservations about moving abroad was how difficult it would be to meet people.

First of all, as a freelancer, I’m not interacting with many people (if anyone) on a daily basis. I may occasionally meet with clients, but as it stands now, most of my work is remote.

And second, even if I do happen to leave my house, most of the people I interact with are Dutch. Don’t get me wrong – the Dutch are lovely. But I don’t speak Dutch, and even though they speak English, sometimes it’s nice to speak with people who have similar experiences.

International Women’s Networking Group Rotterdam

Like most people, I turned to Facebook to find people I may have something in common with. The International Women’s Networking Group Rotterdam was one of the first I found.

As I mentioned in my previous post about Vierde Vrijdag and Susanne Pieterse, networking can be nerve-wracking. It’s not easy to walk into a room full of people you don’t know but seem to already know each other.

Meeting the women of this group was different, primarily because the first time I met them was at a café, and every person that attended the event seemed to awkwardly approach the table and say

“Is this the International Women’s Networking Group?”

As a result, the conversation would break in order to welcome the newcomer and conduct a round of introductions, and then conversation would continue with this additional person.

And that’s how almost every event has been: anywhere between 6-10 women will attend a lunch or dinner to socialize and network. It’s been such a pleasure to meet women who work in different industries than I do, and to learn about their experiences moving from their home countries to Rotterdam.

Recently, we shared our stories about doctors and hospitals in the Netherlands, and we found that our experiences – good and bad – were not unique to just our individual selves. We all agreed that doctor visits are much easier in our native languages, but we’ve all accepted the inconvenience as part of living abroad.

There are also Dutch members who, in addition to being great company, help us navigate cultural customs, correct our pronunciations, and broaden their own horizons in our interactions.

I’m extremely thankful for this group of women who motivate me not just to leave my apartment, but to push the possibilities of friendship and professional opportunities.

Starting the New Year with a Strong, Driven Network of Women

As much as I praise my personal experience, making the decision to attend an event can be difficult for many people. Beyond simply collecting business cards, people want meaningful connections in all aspects of their lives.

At the end of January 2019, the International Women’s Networking Group Rotterdam is hosting an event at Progress Bar to help women network in order to achieve growth. Unlike other networking events, we hope to learn as much as possible about our attendees before they arrive in order to jump-start their networking process.

click on the image above to visit the Facebook event, or purchase your ticket here

We will provide a low-key ice-breaker activity to help attendees start conversations with each other, with the goal of establishing at least one meaningful connection.

There will also be speakers covering topics such as personal branding and capitalizing on the “A-ha!” moment. There will also be a chance to win goodie bags. And, of course, beverages and snacks will be provided to help ease every introvert into this social situation.

And on top of all that, guests have this unique opportunity to see what Progress Bar offers as a co-working space. Unlike others in the city, Progress Bar’s intimate space encourages members to interact, as well as enjoy meals or coffee together (at no additional cost). Their mission is to promote progress, and they believe that interaction with like-minded people outside of your normal circles is key to success.

I highly recommend you join us, not just because I want this to be a successful event, but because I believe we can all benefit from meeting new people (but in this case, women).


Are you looking for a strong, independent woman to get shit done? Let’s talk!

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!

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.

Can We Save the Cows and Eat Them, Too?

Another report has been released stating that climate change will be the end of us if we don’t act fast and drastically. Reducing our carbon footprint is imperative to slowing the effects and prolonging humanity’s time here on Earth.

One of the quickest choices that many promote as a way for individuals to reduce their impacts on the environment is eliminating meat – specifically beef – from their diets.

Can We Save the Cows and Eat Them, Too?

Stop Eating Cows

In order to produce beef, cows require 28 times more land, need 11 times more irrigated water, produce 5 times more greenhouse gases, and use 6 times more fertilizer than pork, chicken, dairy, or egg production. In the United States, beef requires 7-10 kilograms of feed to produce 1 kilogram of edible protein. 13 billion hectares of land are deforested every year in order to create space for both livestock and feed production. Approximately 65% of livestock greenhouse gas emissions are from beef.

And besides the resources it takes to maintain cows, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report in 2015 to say that meat isn’t terribly great for our health.

So it follows economic principle that by decreasing demand, the supply will decrease, right?

Maybe.

Incentivizing Everyone in the Foodchain

The recently released report encourages governing bodies to implement stronger regulations in order to substantially curb the impacts of global warming.

So how does that happen with the beef industry? What happens to the cows? What happens to the farmers? What happens to everyone whose livelihood depends on beef?

People and businesses have dedicated themselves to supporting the beef industry. As a result, some could left with a limited set of skills, while others would be left with a failing business, both of which are vulnerable to the ever-changing landscape of consumerism and innovation.

So how do we incentivize people and businesses to change their practices?

This would be the perfect time for governments to set an example of how to help their people transition from a toxic industry into a thriving one. It won’t be easy to simply shut down farms and processing facilities and convert them into crop-producing farms.

What is the environmental impact of raising beef?

Healthier Cows, Healthier Planet

If the majority of the beef-eating world were to stop eating beef tomorrow, there would still be cows. It isn’t really responsible (or possible) to just let the cows loose on the land, nor can we slaughter them all at once.

One option for farmers raising beef is to convert their land to pastures – grazing cattle require less than 1 kilogram of protein from feed to produce 1 kilogram of edible protein in the form of both meat and dairy. The resulting product from grazing cattle is also higher quality than industrially farmed beef. Alternatively, they could convert their land to raising crops (hydroponics or otherwise) instead of cows.

All of this is easier said than done, of course. Farmers would need to off-load equipment, purchase new equipment, re-train employees, and meet a new set of standards. They would essentially be starting a whole new business.

They could, however, at least work towards healthier, more ethical forms of farming. Tech start-up Connecterra developed the app Ida for dairy farmers to track the health of their herd. By tracking patterns and behavior, the app can provide insights into abnormalities in order to prevent widespread illness. Connecterra has also recently teamed up with the Internet of Food and Farm to improve sustainable farming practices for The Happy Cow Project.

Final Thoughts

States are making a pledge for renewable energy, and cities are encouraging zero-waste efforts, both of which are admirable and important. But it’s time for the major players to step up and commit to decreasing our contributions to global warming. Creating incentives for beef farmers is a great place to get the moovement going.


SOURCES

LIVESTOCK AND LANDSCAPES” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Raising Beef Uses Ten Times More Resources Than Poultry, Dairy, Eggs or Pork” Rachel Nuwe, Smithsonian Magazine Online, July 21, 2014.

More Fuel for the Food/Feed Debate” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Is the Livestock Industry Destroying the Planet?” Alastair Bland, Smithsonian Magazine Online, August 1, 2012.

Edible Insects – Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security.” Food and Agriculture Orgainization of the United Nations

Land, Irrigation Water, Greenhouse Gas, and Reactive Nitrogen Burdens of Meat, Eggs, and Dairy Production in the United StatesGidon Eshel, Alon Shepon, Tamar Makov, and Ron Milo, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Summer 2014.

Tackling Climate Change through Livestock” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations