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There’s Amazon Prime, and Then There’s Shipping by Schooner

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There’s Amazon Prime, and Then There’s Shipping by Schooner


The clouds swirled, the wind roared and the waves beat at the hull of the schooner Apollonia, but the ship stayed its course down the Hudson River in New York. Captained by Sam Merrett, it was carrying ayurvedic condiments from Catskill; spelt flour, hemp salves and malted barley from Hudson; wool yarn from Ghent; and other local goods for the hundred-mile trip south to New York City.

“It’s a case of start-up syndrome, the issue of saying yes to everything and seeing what sticks,” Mr. Merrett, 38, said over the phone from somewhere near Peekskill, the waning winds of Tropical Storm Henri roaring in the background. “In this case, it was delivering 3,600 pounds of malted barley to a port in Poughkeepsie in pouring rain.”

In the age of flight shaming, car shaming and even meat shaming, conscientious consumers with disposable incomes are growing ever more aware of their carbon footprints and interested in buying local. Producers are experimenting with cleaner, greener packaging and delivery methods.

With his new, “clean shipping” venture, Mr. Merrett hopes to help them all.

In 2015, he and two business partners bought the Apollonia, a workhorse of a 64-foot steel-hulled sailboat, on Craigslist for $15,000. Built in the 1940s, it had been out of the water for 30 years before the crew sailed it from Boston to its new home in Hudson. They then spent three years rebuilding the sailing rig and adding creature comforts, like a composting toilet and bunks, some of which are 20 inches wide.

The made-over ship had its maiden voyage in May 2020, and in 2021 it will have sailed almost every month from late spring into fall, forming an ecologically conscious supply chain to connect the Hudson Valley and the New York Harbor. Carbon neutrality is built into every aspect of its operation, down to its last-mile delivery plan, which involves solar-powered e-bikes and sometimes — thanks to partners at the Prospect Park Stable in Brooklyn — horse-drawn carriages.

For centuries, wind-powered boats carried cargo along this same route, and while there is a certain old-fashioned romance to the business plan, Mr. Merrett says the venture isn’t a play for nostalgia.

“It’s not that I wish it was 1823 again,” he said, after helping hoist an 1890s tabletop printing press into the cargo hold. “I think there were ways we used to do things that were really right, and we can learn from those. But today’s version is going to look different. And it should look different.”

As in the old days, the products transported in the ship’s 20,000-pound hold are limited (nothing that requires refrigeration, nothing too perishable), and the logistics unpredictable (they are subject to factors as mercurial as the breeze and as difficult to navigate as the port politics of municipal slip rental in upstate New York’s small waterfront communities). But Mr. Merrett and his partners are hoping to provide a model for the future.

“We’re providing a counternarrative to that dominant narrative of ‘more, better, faster,’” said one of the partners, Ben Ezinga, 42. He previously worked with Mr. Merrett converting car engines to run on vegetable oil in Oberlin, Ohio. “Some things need to be overnighted; most things don’t. There’s an incredible carbon footprint to that speed. We’re giving people a way to think about that.”

Consumers may feel virtuous buying stuff that hasn’t been overnighted, but some producers say it is simply good for business. Dennis Nesel, a 61-year-old maltster in the town of Hudson, said he was “dead serious” about this method of shipping his local malt to beer makers in the area.

“Shipping today, post-Covid, is a nightmare,” he said. “With tractor-trailers picking up our freight, sometimes the stuff that we have scheduled to go to Brooklyn ends up in Herkimer or Syracuse, and the stuff that was supposed to go to Syracuse ends up in Brooklyn. That doesn’t happen with the Apollonia.”

Laura Webster, a 35-year-old entrepreneur who makes hot sauce, uses the Apollonia to send her fermented, probiotic pepper products downriver from Hudson.

For all the effort her Poor Devil Pepper Company puts into ecologically responsible practices — like sourcing from regenerative-focused farms and making zero-waste packaging from upcycled pepper pulp — she said adding wind-powered shipping to her distribution methods “was a no-brainer.”

Likewise, Nika Carlson, the proprietor of Greenpoint Cidery, described the Apollonia as “the opposite of Amazon.” She grows apples and forages for other cider ingredients, like mugwort and goldenrod, on property owned by Mr. Merrett near Hudson.

“I think people are looking for connections like that, especially as the world is really transforming from climate change and whatever the hell is happening with Covid,” she said. “They’re looking for community, they’re looking for stories and they’re looking for whatever ethical consumption can look like these days. That feels like a luxury, but it shouldn’t be.”

The Apollonia’s small crew — members include a woodworker, a set-builder, a schoolteacher on summer break and a colleague of Mr. Merrett’s at the Hudson River Maritime Museum, his other nautical part-time engagement — has its work cut out for it. For starters, it isn’t easy being a captain. “If it’s going well I don’t have to do anything, but that’s never the case,” Mr. Merrett said, sitting beside the helm while docked on the Red Hook waterfront and eyeing a long to-do list scrawled on a whiteboard on the companionway door: “Seal gaff cracks; touch up varnish — downwind chafe; provisions.”

The exhilarating freedom of a life on the water is interrupted by the realities of not showering for a number of days, eating pasta with salty olives for dinner several nights in a row or being thrown off-schedule by a lack of wind or an unexpected squall.

And while the Apollonia’s crew members have not endured bouts of scurvy or taken up the art of scrimshaw to pass long, isolating voyages, the unconventional work schedule — two weeks on, two weeks off — can negatively affect their personal lives, Mr. Merrett says.

There is always work to be done, even in the off-season, when the Hudson freezes over and there is no money to be made. As of 2018, the owners had put upward of $110,000, raised from a few investors, into refurbishing the Apollonia — and the spending never ends. This winter, the craft will need to be sandblasted and have its jib repaired; it will also need adjustments to the cockpit scuppers, which surround drains on a back part of the deck.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that a number of organizations have previously set out to resurrect wind-powered shipping on the East Coast, and are no longer around to tell the tale.

The Vermont Sail Freight project raised $13,000 on Kickstarter in 2013 for its first cargo expedition but folded two years later, lacking sufficient funds. An effort in Maine met a similar fate. Of course, there are worse ways to go down in this business: In 1979, a former high school English teacher set out from New York for Haiti in a lovingly restored 97-foot schooner with a cargo of canning chemicals and lumber, and a dream of wind-powered shipping. But the craft sank in 20-foot waves about 190 miles off the coast of Long Island; the nine people aboard were rescued.

These failures haven’t dampened enthusiasm from those who believe in clean shipping’s business potential. Around the world, new operators are fixing up vintage vessels, building new boats from scratch and aligning their efforts under banners like the Sail Cargo Alliance. In Europe, some climate-aware sail freight operators have managed to stay afloat for more than a decade. Out of Brittany, France, the Grain de Sail, a 72-foot aluminum cargo schooner, sports a state-of-the-art seafaring wine cellar designed for carrying pallets of biodynamic wines across the high seas. (This year, it brought coffee and cacao from the Dominican Republic back to France on its return voyage.) In Costa Rica, Sailcargo Inc. is building a plan — and a fleet — set to launch in 2022.

Even shipping giants, like Maersk, the world’s largest operator, are exploring wind-powered shipping. The company just last month committed $1.4 billion to carbon-neutral innovation.

“Is this profitable? Absolutely not,” Mr. Merrett said. For now, he says he is staying focused on achievable goals like establishing trade routes, making deliveries “to see if it works” and “trying to pay the crew” a $20 hourly wage.

Mr. Ezinga, his business partner, said: “This is the new green economy. These are green jobs. Even two years ago they didn’t exist. We’re making them exist.”

But Mr. Merrett said that “it doesn’t work as just one boat doing one thing.” “We as a country need to start reinvesting in waterfront infrastructure for this to work,” he added. “One boat is never going to do that. It needs to become a pattern.”



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Covid-19 is a ‘wake-up call’ to act on Southeast Asia’s food waste crisis, experts say

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Covid-19 is a ‘wake-up call’ to act on Southeast Asia’s food waste crisis, experts say


Fruits and vegetables thrown into a waste bin

Peter Dazeley | The Image Bank | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Covid-19 is a wake-up call that’s highlighted the urgency to fight the world’s food waste crisis, experts and industry players told CNBC.

Amid global lockdowns and halted travel, the pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of supply networks, as disruptions created bottlenecks in farm labor, transport and logistics and sparked global food shortages and price hikes.

“The pandemic is a very good wake-up call,” said William Chen, director of the Food Science and Technology Program at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

“Before Covid-19, people took climate change less seriously because food came by easily. But now this issue starts to surface in people’s minds,” he added. “I don’t see it as a lost cause, but a good opportunity to do a house-cleaning of the current system.”

Food waste remains one of the biggest global challenges.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that one third of all food produced — or 1.3 billion tonnes — ends up lost or wasted every year. Food waste also accounts for 8% to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, another UN report showed.

Reducing food waste could yield $700 billion in savings, according to Boston Consulting Group. And businesses in Southeast Asia are jumping on the bandwagon and going into food waste prevention, as well as redistribution and recycling of excess food.

Growing appetite to tackle food waste

In 2020, Singapore generated 665,000 tonnes of food waste, making up about 11% of the total waste generated in Singapore 

Coming out of the pandemic, more hotels and airlines are now tackling food waste and putting sustainability “front and center” on their priority list, said Rayner Loi, co-founder and chief executive of Singapore-based AI food waste management start-up, Lumitics.

This was a stark change from a few years back when food waste was “barely on the radar” and it was “incredibly challenging” to have conversations with industry players, said Loi.

The growing receptiveness is thanks in part to increased education, new government regulations and sustainability being high on the corporate agenda, he said.

The firm developed an artificial intelligence-powered tracker installed in dustbins to measure and track all food waste. By learning in real time what and how much food waste was generated, chefs could take action to reduce the amount produced for certain dishes on the buffet line.

This reduces food waste by up to 40%, and food costs by up to 8%, Lumitics found.

From 2024 onwards, owners and occupiers of commercial and industrial premises in Singapore that generate large amounts of food will be required to segregate their food waste for treatment, according to a new legislation.

Lumitics partners large hotel chains like Accor, Hyatt, Marina Bay Sands, as well as carriers such as Singapore Airlines and Etihad Airways.

It plans to expand to 1,000 locations in the next five years across Asia-Pacific starting with Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia.

“The entire industry is starting to wake up to this idea that food waste is one of the largest untapped cost saving opportunities for any kitchen,” said Loi.

Turning food waste into ‘surprise boxes’

Most of the food businesses we’ve met think they don’t waste much. When they start making quick calculations of what 6% to 14% of extra revenues mean, we usually get a call back.

Louis-Alban Batard-Dupre

founder, Yindii

Industry players themselves have highly underestimated the problem.

“Most of the food businesses we’ve met think they don’t waste much. When they start making quick calculations of what 6% to 14% of extra revenues mean, we usually get a call back,” he said.

Mindsets of merchants are changing too, as more brands prepare for a sustainable post-Covid tourism future, he said.

Back then, they were “shy to say they generate food waste because it reveals their stores don’t sell out every day or because it’s a dirty word,” said Batard-Dupre. “But telling the world you’re fighting for the planet is so much more powerful than trying to hide such a systemic problem every business has.”

Watermelons discarded near the Brahmaputra river, Bangladesh

Andrea Pistolesi | Stone | Getty Images

To date, Yindii has seen over 20,000 surprise boxes bought up. Redistributing the food that would have been thrown out also helps many living under the poverty line, he said.

Yindii’s partners include hotels such as Hilton Sukhumvit Bangkok, Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok, Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit and JW Marriott. Over the next few months, it is looking to expand to other cities in Thailand and South East Asia.

Technology as a way forward

Technology is starting to play a bigger role in tackling food waste.

Southeast Asia is particularly vulnerable to food waste because it has many small-scale farm holdings that rely on intensive livestock farming and lack the means to invest in more efficient agri-tech, said Chen from NTU, who is also a consultant to the Asian Development Bank.

The growing middle income class also consumes more.

One of the UN Sustainable Development Goals aims to halve food waste by 2030 at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest. 

The slower we are to take action on climate change, the more we will see extreme weather and the greater the likelihood of zoonotic diseases — that could consequently increase food waste.

Audrey Chia

associate professor, National University of Singapore Business School

More private-public partnerships will be key, where “enthusiastic small start-ups” can scale up with the help of technology and funding from the government, or work with big multinational corporations to plug the gaps, said Chen.

Another lucrative venture is “upcycling,” which refers to taking ingredients that would usually be thrown out and processing them into new high-quality, marketable products.

For instance, plant-based seafood firm Sophie’s Kitchen is using soybean residue okara as a culture medium for microalgae cultivation in the fast-growing alternative protein market space.

Other examples include adding higher valued ingredients like salted eggs to normally discarded fish skin or using black soldier flies to transform food waste into fertilizer, said associate professor Audrey Chia of the National University of Singapore Business School.

Likewise, predictive technology could also help restaurants and retailers estimate demand or produce for food.

“Ironically, it is a vicious cycle. The slower we are to take action on climate change, the more we will see extreme weather and the greater the likelihood of zoonotic diseases — that could consequently increase food waste,” said Chia.



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The Job Market Is Hot: Now Is The Time To Build Your Career

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The Job Market Is Hot: Now Is The Time To Build Your Career


The job market is hot right now, making this a perfect time to build your career. Employers are struggling to find and hire great talent—and as a result they are offering increasing pay, perks and opportunities. You can take advantage of the tight job market to grow in your job and get on a path to your best professional success.

Opportunities Abound  

A new report from ManpowerGroup surveying 45,000 employers across 43 countries found organizations are hiring. And in 15 countries, their hiring plans are the highest-ever—since the survey began in 1962. In addition, a report from Monster found 82% of US employers are planning to hire in 2021.

ManpowerGroup’s report found that globally, the strongest hiring is projected for the US, India and Canada and in North America it will be greatest in the US (up 48%), Canada (up 40%) and Mexico (up 39%). In addition to these top-hiring areas, the following countries also expect increased hiring: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The countries experiencing the greatest difficulties in finding the right talent are India, Romania, Singapore, Bulgaria, France, Japan, Belgium, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Spain.

The ManpowerGroup report found the industries experiencing the greatest difficulties in hiring are manufacturing as well as finance/insurance/real estate/business services. The Monster report found the greatest job growth will be in the areas of transportation and warehousing, technology, healthcare, professional services and construction. “This recovery is unlike any we have seen before with hiring intent picking up much faster than after the previous economic downturns,” says Jonas Prising, ManpowerGroup chairman and CEO.

Career Implication: Companies and countries are looking for great talent. Consider focusing your search on the countries, markets and industries in which there is the greatest demand for talent. Now may be the time to strike out beyond your current country or industry—and grow in new ways and new places.

Fulfillment

According to data from Monster, 86% of workers say their careers have stalled due to the pandemic. And a survey of 500 Millennial and Gen Z workers by Elements Global Services found 78% of respondents said the pandemic made them question what they want to do for their job and career. In addition, people are looking for new opportunities and Monster job searches prove the point: They were up 18% in June and another 18% in July.

Career Implication: Now is a great time to regroup and re-assess your career goals, your organization, your culture and even your co-workers. You’ll be in good company as you consider what you love to do, what work provides the greatest fulfillment and the people with whom you want to work. According to Ruth Harper ManpowerGroup chief communications and sustainability officer, “Across the world we’re seeing talent shortages at their highest and rising including here in the US. These record-high hiring intentions as we emerge from the pandemic mean it really is a workers’ market right now.”

Work is a fundamental way we find meaning, express our talents and contribute to our communities. No job or career is perfect—there will be things you love about it and things that aren’t ideal, but you’ll experience greater happiness when you can align—as much as possible—what you love to do with what you have to do. And now is the time to reset and reimagine your career growth.

Skill Development

The need for skills on the part of employers is significant. According to the ManpowerGroup study, 69% of employers said they are having trouble filling roles because of a lack of candidate skills. And this was a 15-year high the data. As a result, 20% of employers are reducing their requirements for skills and experience, and 41% of employers are offering training, skill development and mentoring as a way to attract and retain employees. Claire Barnes, chief human capital officer, Monster, offers perspective on skill development, “Being able to upskill and retrain talent that you already have demonstrates career progression. It also demonstrates that if you are a strong performer, you have potential in the organization.”

From the employee point of view, the Monster study found 29% of employees say they are quitting their jobs because they don’t feel they have adequate growth opportunities, and 45% of workers said they would be more likely to stay with their employer if they were offered skills training. Specifically, workers want more development in technological skills like coding, machine learning, word processing (ex. Word, Google Docs), analysis (ex. Excel) and updating of professional credentialling and licensing. For those seeking new work, 54% say they don’t feel they have the skills they need to take them into the future.

Career Implication: Now is the time for you to consider the skills you want to build and the ways you can stretch to a new role, new job or new career. You may be able to enter a new-to-you field and obtain training from your employer. Or you may be able to enter a company leveraging your existing skills and expand within the organization through skill development, learning and mentoring.

Scott Blumsack, senior vice president for research and insights, Monster, offers this perspective, “The return to work poses a great opportunity for job seekers to leverage their skills for career advancement. Tech skills are always in demand across industries, but so are softer skills such as customer service and collaboration.”

Salary Increases

With the tight job market, ManpowerGroup’s study revealed 31% of employers are offering increased wages and 23% are offering incentives such as signing bonuses. This is consistent with what employees want as well. According to the Monster data, 77% of job candidates define “career growth” as salary increases and the Elements study of several hundred career-related Google searches found one of the top searches was “jobs that pay well”. In fact, searches for jobs offering higher pay are up 120% between February 2020 and July 2021.

Career Implication: Your pay could be on the increase. Look for jobs that pay well and don’t be surprised if the pay range for your job or career has increased. In some cases, key skills or credentials are especially scarce, so pay ranges for those roles have increased substantially. Do your homework so you know what you’re worth.

Popular wisdom suggests you shouldn’t change companies for less than a 20%-30% increase. In addition, consider today’s pay, but also tomorrow’s income growth. When you’re assessing a new job, ask employers about signing bonuses, pay progression and what you can expect in terms of regular pay increases.

A caveat: Don’t consider wages as your only criterion for a new job. Income can be intoxicating, but you should also consider your fit with the culture, the content of the job, the leaders with whom you’ll work and the colleagues from whom you’ll have the opportunity to learn. There are a lot of factors which contribute to your happiness at work—remember wages are only one of them.

Remote Work and Flexible Work

One of the newest considerations for your career choices is where you’ll work and the hours you’ll work. Increasingly, employers are offering flexibility in these areas to attract and retain in this tight job market. ManpowerGroup found 39% of employers are offering more flexible working schedules and 28% are offering more flexible working locations. A study of 420 decision makers by Atlas found 95% of companies believed some portion of their workforce would work remotely, either full time or part time. In addition, companies predicted 1/3 of their workforce would work fully remote and ¼ would work in a hybrid model.

Remote and hybrid working arrangements are increasingly what employees are demanding. The Elements study found the searches for “jobs that are done remotely” was up 114% between February 202 and July 2021. And the study from Monster found 69% of employees who don’t work remote today are considering switching jobs if a new job would offer the opportunity for remote work.

Says Scott Gutz, chief executive officer, Monster, “…the world has changed in 18 months. Employees have changed their approach to work-life balance and the relative importance of being in an office setting versus a home office setting.” And according to Harper, “It’s clear that people have been changed by the pandemic and have higher expectations of their employer to align with their values, enable work-life blend and positively contribute to our communities.” 

Career Implication: You will likely have increasing opportunities to work your way in your location. Consider how and where you like to work, and seek choices and options from your employer. You may be able to move to a new region or community and do a job which would previously have been unavailable. Or you may be able to flex your schedule so you can find the just-right mix of the rewards of your work and rewards of activities outside of work (children, family, volunteering, etc.).

Consider flexible work as one aspect of the set of advantages your career choice offers. In addition, give thought to how much you’ll want to be face-to-face with colleagues to build your relationships and present in the organization to ensure visibility and future career growth.

In Sum

Now is the time to grow your career—in whatever way it is most meaningful for you. From more fulfillment and flexibility to greater pay and enhanced training, the opportunities are significant. The “fresh air effect” suggests that something new may seem ideal—and the grass may seem greener in the next role. But consider all you love and have invested in your current success before you make a jump. Chances are you’ll have plenty of new alternatives to choose from, and this may be the moment for a stretch, a new beginning or a new adventure in your career journey—in your current organization or in a new one.



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Buyer demand nudges up asking prices for UK houses: Rightmove By Reuters

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Buyer demand nudges up asking prices for UK houses: Rightmove By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A row of houses are seen in London, Britain June 3, 2015. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

By Andy Bruce

LONDON (Reuters) – Asking prices for houses in Britain resumed their upward trend this month as buyer demand far outstripped the supply of houses coming to the market, a survey showed on Monday.

Real estate website Rightmove (OTC:) said asking prices rose by 0.3% in its September survey to reach a new record high of 338,462 pounds ($466,671), reversing a 0.3% drop in early August.

Overall the survey added to signs that the housing market has retained some of its upward momentum even after the gradual withdrawal of temporary tax breaks on property purchases.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak cut stamp duty, a tax on house purchases, in July 2020. But in July it started to return to its pre-pandemic level and the tax break fully expires this month.

The tax cut aimed to reverse a slump in property sales at the start of the pandemic, and helped fuel a surge in property prices and some new construction. Many households were already seeking more spacious housing suited to working from home, a factor which has led to big price rises in other countries too.

“The high ratio of buyer demand to properties for sale means that the property market remains stock-starved despite the summer lull lessening overall activity,” said Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s director of property data.

The company said the number of prospective buyers per property had more than doubled compared with pre-pandemic levels – chiming with a similar report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The August survey covered property first advertised on Rightmove between Aug. 8 and Sept. 11.

($1 = 0.7253 pounds)

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Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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