Archive | April 2012

Closed-Loop Industrial-Scale Composting Coming to a City Near You!

While not exactly a new concept, using earthworms to process food waste quickly and efficiently was taken to the next level by an Arizona-based start-up: http://seedstock.com/2012/04/18/in-feat-of-alchemy-phoenix-az-based-startup-transforms-food-waste-into-organic-produce-and-profit/

I have a few doubts about generating $1 million in annual profits, but if that’s really the case, VermiSoks is doing something right. I especially like their business approach of employing beneficiaries of food banks and homeless shelters and partnering with large hotels in the area. However, one of the unique points with VermiSoks’s method is using their fermented “worm wine” in combination with their earthworm-filled soil packets (the Soks), which may be an obstacle for people trying to do this in apartments and small houses (or in developing countries, for that matter), who don’t necessarily have the resources to pay for repeated shipments of the “wine,” which seems to act like a growth catalyst by supplying nutrients. (Though this would explain high profits from partnering with hotels and large grocery stores like Whole Foods, which can afford to pay for the “wine.”) At any rate, it’s a promising start, and a company (and business model) to watch out for.

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Predicting the Future of the World Bank

Most people have now probably seen the news that Jim Yong Kim, the president of Dartmouth College in the US, has been elected as the next president of the World Bank. As a professor and former WB employee noted, the appointment is mostly political, and was never going to take merit into account.

“The Obama administration would almost certainly have withheld support for Lagarde’s appointment to the IMF if European nations had not agreed in advance to support whomever was Washington’s candidate for the World Bank.”

Even when I was still working at the Bank, we were told that a process was taking place to nominate eligible candidates from within the Bank. However, given that this has never yielded an actual Bank president, we knew that the whole process was only for show; the president always comes from outside the Bank. As a result, I think that the Bank will continue to stagnate and lose influence as a player in the international development sphere, and will likely become a lender of last resort rather than of first priority. While it is debatable whether the other two candidates would have done a better job than Kim, someone would have still been offended if one and not the other was elected.

Pro: Kim is foreign-born, and not Caucasian–definitely a change from Zoellick. He would also likely attract more investment from Asia than other candidates.
Con: Kim isn’t actually that different from Zoellick. He’s the president of a US university, and therefore works well in big bureaucracies and in the American/European business context.

Pro: Kim has a public health background and isn’t just going to look at financial returns.
Con: Kim doesn’t have an economics background… though arguably, the president never does economic analyses himself before making decisions anyway. Kim also likely would prioritize health issues over other problems (i.e. environment, agriculture/food security, infrastructure, etc.) even though these problems are often intertwined and can’t be approached in isolation (which is how the Bank continues to work.)

P.S. – Sorry for the long delay! I’ve been traveling and have sadly neglected the blog because I’ve been putting off putting up photos from Spain, Turkey, and France. Will get to it soon…