Plantagon Building New Indoor Farming Office Building

Business and sustainability are becoming increasingly linked as innovative companies begin to focus on our carbon footprint and potential contribution to the environment. At the same time, the world’s population is growing rapidly, and especially in urban areas, leaving cities in need of creative solutions for feeding all of those people.

Plantagon, a Swedish food-tech company, is currently developing what they believe to be the future of farming: enormous office buildings which combine work spaces and giant indoor vegetable farms. The first of such structures is being built in Linkoping, Sweden.

According to experts, the building will operate hydroponically, which means that the plants will grow without soil. Instead, they will be based in a water solution which is enriched with the nutrients the plants need to flourish. Plantagon has said that the farm will be mostly automated, to cut back on operational costs.

According to Plantagon CEO Hans Hassle, the generate more food while using less land and water than an outdoor farm of the same size, while saving 1,100 tons of CO2 emissions and 13 million gallons of water each year.

The tower will feature a wide range of office spaces, conference rooms and eateries, as well as a market where people can shop for fresh vegetables. The farm will also supply produce directly to local restaurants and other food retailers.

Plantagon has designed similar buildings in other shapes, in hopes of appealing to cities all over to world.

Adidas Leading Sportswear Industry with Significant Yearly Growth

Adidas recently revealed a 31% increase in yearly sales in North America, while its competitors have reported losses of up to 3%.  According to Nike and Under Armour, the athletic market is becoming more difficult to navigate, but Adidas’ gains indicate that that isn’t the case.

Mark King, head of Adidas North America, explained that the company’s successful strategy is not complicated. “We’re focusing on what the consumer wants,” he said.

It’s all about timing: getting the right product out at the right time. One example is the brand’s athletic-styled lifestyle running sneakers, which are proving more popular than the basketball and other sport-centered shoes that competitors have built their businesses on. According to Business Insider, some of Adidas’s trendiest shoes include Ultra Boost, Alpha Boost, Pure Boost and the Stan Smith. King has confirmed that the brand’s running category has doubled its market share.

He has also revealed that Adidas works hard to keep up with their customer trends, following the scene online and spending significant resources on ecommerce.

Facebook Launches New Cash Advance Project for Small Businesses

Facebook has been working on a new service for small businesses that advertise on their platform: business loans. Working with Toronto-based Clearbanc, the social media network has created a plan called Chrged in which Facebook Ad accounts can be linked with the firm for offers of up to half a million dollars in growth capital.

The funds, which are cleared by Clearbanc, are merchant cash advances instead of traditional loans, which gives the firm the ability to tap into a certain percentage of revenues until the money has been repaid in full, as well as charge a fee of around 5-20%. The latter is determined based on daily cash flows and the small business’s abilities.

Andrew D’Souza, Clearbanc co-founder and chief executive, said nearly 1,000 small business owners have reached deals since the program launch. Many people view this option as better than traditional loans due to its more lenient requirements.

“We don’t think you need to risk your house and everything else if you’re trying to build a business,” D’Souza explained.

Facebook does not take a cut from the proceedings, though it sees the ongoing ties between the network and small businesses as beneficial.

“At Facebook, we are in the business of helping small companies become large and local companies become global,” explaind SMB North America director Katherine Shappley. “The Chrged program by Clearbanc provides an exciting opportunity for business to access they resources they need to grow.”

The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner

Launched in 1945, the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner (also referred to as the Al Smith Dinner), raises money for US-based Catholic charities which support New York’s “neediest children… regardless of race, creed, or color.”  Since Al Smith himself grew up poverty-stricken, but became a huge success in life as a four-time NY Governor (and the first Roman Catholic to ever be nominated as a Democratic candidate in 1928), the event also has a somewhat political flavor.  Moreover, it is “generally the last event at which the two U.S. presidential candidates share a stage before the election.”

This year, Castle Harlan’s John K. Castle received the 2017 Happy Warrior Award at the dinner, for all the charitable work he has done over the years in the realms of health and education. Described as a “ritual of American politics,” the dinner is a fundraiser for many of New York’s worthy charities.

This year’s keynote speaker is Paul Ryan and MC is Patricia Heaton.  The Harlan “Happy Warrior” is given to those who demonstrate a capacity to maintain a positive outlook while confronting very real social issues.  This was the character and leadership of Alfred E. Smith and today, this is what is exemplified by the winner, this year, John K. Castle.


Staying Up To Date on Environmental Issues

It’s always important to stay up to date with environmental issues in the area in which you live. One of these issues is about landfills and how people are taking care of potentially threatening issues with them. In a recent opinion piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri State Senator Bill Eigel wrote a thought-provoking piece. He explained to the public how the West Lake Landfill does not have the same situation as a location like Coldwater Creek.

He explains that, “It is important to note that the two sites are not the same, although some protesters and politicians have used photos, illnesses and data from the effects of Coldwater Creek and said they were from the West Lake Landfill. Again, no local, state or federal agencies have found that the landfill has had a negative effect on the health of area residents.”

He continued to say, “Disturbing the soil at West Lake Landfill is actually more dangerous to our local communities than leaving it where it is.”

He continued by explaining that a permanent cap is the safest and fastest solution. The idea of a cap would be something that could be started immediately and the cost of excavation would be more than $600 million to taxpayers.

Certainly, State Senator Eigel offers many compelling arguments and it is in the best interest of the public to pay attention to these points and to formulate educated opinions about the issue.

Toys ‘R’ Us Expanding in Asia

Children’s retailer Toys ‘R’ Us is currently looking to expand its Asia business. As income levels in the region increase, the demand for higher-end toys is growing. The U.S. company has teamed up with the billionaire Fung Brothers to further their dealings in the Asia Pacific sector.

Bloomberg reports:

General Motors Going All-Electric

As the transportation and auto industry evolves, many manufacturers are working to remain competitive. In a dramatic move, General Motors recently revealed its plans to shift into all-electric cars by 2023. Over the years they will launch at least 20 cars, both battery-electric and fuel-cell-electric vehicles.

“General Motors believes the future is all electric,” said Mark Reuss, Executive Vice President of Global Product Development for GM. “These aren’t just the words of a press release.”

Indeed, GM has been working on zero-emission and self-driving cars for a number of years, including its Chevy Bolt EV, its Maven brand and the acquisition of Cruise Automation. According to Reuss, GM will be releasing two more all-electric cars to follow the Bolt by 2018.

General Motors has also announced a new battery design which is aimed at providing additional design flexibility to car and truck manufacturers, adding that “getting to a zero emissions future will require more than just battery-electric technology.” As such, the company is launching a new vehicle platform called SURUS, which stands for Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure. The new platform will be powered by fuel-cell and dual electric motors.

“With its capability and flexible architecture, SURUS could be used as a delivery vehicle, truck or even an ambulance- all emissions free,” GM said.

18 Year Old Develops App to Recognize Clean Water

Business is not only for adults, as more and more teens are entering the workforce with innovative ideas and solutions to a wide range of problems. 18-year-old Sharon Linn is one such example. An MIT freshman, Lin just won the #BuiltByGirls startup challenge thanks to an app she is working on that aims to help people recognize clean water in underdeveloped countries. CEO of her own company and Youth Poet Laureate in NYC this year, Lin is in a position to significantly impact the tech industry.

Her app, which relies on her company White Water, for support, will analyze photos of water samples and recognize the different strains of bacteria in them- especially those which may be harmful. The app is currently being developed, and is creating a database with the help of water sample photos from China.

“It’s given me the confidence of knowing that there are people who care about issues such as water analysis, and that there is genuine interest in developing enterprise software for developing nations.”

Lin’s interest in clean water solutions is personal; she has family in rural China and has been exposed first-hand to the importance of recognizing and accessing clean water. Through her studies at MIT, she hopes to continue to work on these issues and promote awareness throughout the tech world so that new ideas move forward.

From Soldier to Asset Manager: Reade Griffith

In a recent entry for Institutional Investor’s new series War Stories Over Board Games, Polygon founder Reade Griffth discussed how his experiences as a soldier in the First Gulf War have contributed to his leadership skills and ability to perform within the often volatile global market.

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Becomes Bank of America’s Largest Shareholder

Warren Buffett has bought 700 million shares of Bank of America at a significantly reduced price, gaining more than $11 billion. The move comes after his $5 billion investment in 2011 when the bank was floundering, which left him with the option to purchase discounted shares by 2021.

“I am impressed with the profit-generating abilities of the franchise and that they are acting aggressively to put their challenges behind them,” Buffett said at the time.

In a press release last week, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan stated:

“In 2011, we welcomed Berkshire Hathaway as a shareholder, and we appreciate their continued support now as our largest shareholder.”

The press release revealed that Buffett’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway had claimed its right to purchase the shares at $7.14 per share- a dramatically reduced price from the $23.58 closing price. This investment has made Buffett the Bank’s largest shareholder.

Buffett had indicated his intentions earlier this year by stating that he would act on his right to buy the shares if Bank of America successfully increased its annual dividend 44 cents or more by 2021. Since his initial investment in 2011, Bank of America’s stock has climbed 209%.