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February 24, 2019
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Tech investors see bugs as a big business as Ÿnsect raises $125 million

in agriculture/aquaculture/articles/Artificial Intelligence/bpifrance/Co-founder/Delhi/Food/food and drink/France/greenhouse gas/greenhouse gas emissions/idinvest partners/India/north america/Paris/Politics/Talis Capital/TC by

A company using advanced technologies to grow and harvest mealworms (larval beetles) at scale is on track to become one of the venture capital industry’s oddest billion dollar investments.

Ÿnsect, (pronounced ‘insect”) is a Paris-based producer of insect protein that has just closed on $125 million as the company looks to expand into North America selling bug-based nutrients to fish farms, animal farms, and the everyday harvesters of vegetables. 

The company isn’t worth $1 billion… yet. But that’s clearly the goal as it bulks up for a global expansion effort.

According to the company’s chief executive Antoine Hubert, a former agronomist turned bug farm maven, the company grew out of efforts to promote sustainability in the food system at foods and companies across France.

“We thought we could make a bigger impact by developing not only education but production,” in the realm of novel proteins for agriculture, Hubert says. 

Since agriculture is a leading producer of carbon dioxide and methane emissions that contribute to global warming, then any steps that are taken to reduce those emissions by making supply chains and production more efficient would be good for the environment.

The food system has an impact on greenhouse gas. We decided to develop a proper technology to produce large volumes of proteins at competitive prices,” Hubert says. 

The company borrows automation and sensing technologies from areas as diverse as automotive manufacturing and data center heating ventilation and cooling and applies it to the cultivation of mealworms. The company actually has 25 patents on the technologies it has deployed and is on track to book more than $70 million in revenue this year.

Bugs are clearly big business.

Why mealworms, though? Because Hubert says they’re the highest quality insect for pound-for-pound protein production.

Image courtesy of Ÿnsect

The company said that it raised this $125 million (€110m) Series C round to scale up production. Ÿnsect intends to build the world’s biggest insect farm in Amiens Metropole, Northern France and will begin expanding its presence in the North American market. 

The deal, led by Astanor Ventures with participation from Bpifrance, Talis Capital, Idinvest Partners, Finasucre and Compagnie du Bois Sauvage is the largest ag tech deal to date outside of North America and should plant a flag for the role of insect cultivation in the animal feedstock and fertilizer market, which is a combined global market of $800 billion.

That’s good news for competitors like Protix, AgriProtein, EnviroFlight and Beta Hatch, which are all building insect kingdoms of their own with eyes on the same, massive, global market. In fact, before Ÿnsect’s big haul, Protix held the title of the venture-backed bug business with the most cash. The company raised $50 million in financing back in 2017 to expand its insect empire.

Ÿnsect’s bug protein has already found its way into pet and plant food, fish food for aquaculture and other applications, but as demand for sources of high quality proteins continues to grow alongside a rising global population, the company sees one of its largest opportunities in fish and shellfish farming.

“By offering an insect protein alternative to traditional animal and fish-based feed sources, Ÿnsect can help offset the growing competition for ocean fish stock required to feed two billion more people by 2050, while alleviating fish, water and soil depletion, as well as agriculture’s staggering 25% share of global greenhouse gas emissions,” says Hubert. “Our goal is simply to give insects back their natural place in the food chain.”

It was this ability for Ÿnsect to slot itself into the global food chain that attracted Talis Capital as an investor, according to the firm’s co-founder Matus Maar.

“With the global population expected to grow to nine billion by 2050, current acquaculture and animal feeding practices are unsustainable.” Mar said in a statement. “Ÿnsect taps into a huge, yet highly inefficient global market by offering a premium and – above all – sustainable insect-derived product through a fully automated, AI-enabled production process.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

JD.com’s drones take flight to Japan in partnership with Rakuten

in Amazon Prime Air/articles/Asia/China/Delhi/delivery drone/drone/e-commerce/Emerging-Technologies/India/Indonesia/Japan/JD.com/Politics/rakuten/TC/Technology by

Chinese e-commerce company JD.com is taking its drone delivery system to Japan.

Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce giant, just announced a partnership with JD that will see its drones and unmanned vehicles become a part of Rakuten’s own unmanned delivery service efforts.

JD has been operating drones in its native China for a number of years, and it has wider expansion plans having recently gained a regional-level operating license. Its other human-less tech includes self-operating trucks, automated warehouses and unmanned stores, and it recently picked Indonesia for its first overseas drone pilot.

Rakuten has been offering drone delivery in Japan since 2016 and unmanned vehicle trials since 2018. It said that working with JD — which claims to have racked up 400,000 minutes of delivery flight time — will “accelerate the development and commercialization” of its human-free last mile delivery efforts.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Consumer-focused healthcare can save lives by focusing on changing behavior

in Amazon/articles/behavior/behaviorism/CBT/Column/Delhi/diabetes/Disease/e-commerce/India/machine learning/Politics/psychology by

Everything we do in the $3 trillion healthcare market today only affects 10% of outcomes to premature death.

You read that right. All of that, for just 10% of outcomes:

That 10% exists for a reason. Genetic predisposition is hard to change. So, unfortunately, are social circumstances and environmental behavior. But that 40% of behavioral patterns — why can’t we tackle that? This is what real prevention would look like: nothing comes even close to mattering as much towards whether you will die prematurely as your behavior does.

We can do better than simply focusing on that small 10% slice of the pie; in fact, we’re looking in the wrong place. Doctors, entrepreneurs and founders need to be thinking (and treating with) lifestyle as medicine. Because behavioral change is the best and most powerful way to impact that whopping 40% slice.

Too often we think of this as the “just eat right and exercise” problem. As we know very well, that platitude will not solve our healthcare problem. The true problem is the difficulty of modifying behavior. We know this, because the platitude doesn’t work. We like to eat what we want, to exercise or not exercise if we choose. In short, humans like our patterns. They’re hard to change.

Tech, on the other hand, modifies behavior very well. Just look at the phone you’re probably reading this on, which has foundationally changed the way we communicate — along with huge other swaths of human behavior, in both positive and negative ways — from the ability to call a ride service in practically any city at any time to tracking your health to screen addiction. We know technology modifies behavior; we live this every day. So the question is, how can we target this superpower ability of tech to have 4x the ability to impact that the $3 trillion healthcare budget does?

How does it work?

Let’s think about why technology actually does work for modifying behavior. For one, it’s always there, thanks to the leap in mobile tech, whether that be phones or fitness trackers. Second, technology’s ability to do constant A/B testing essentially enables RCTs, or Randomized Clinical Trials, every moment that technology is present and being used. These RCTs are invaluable laboratories for learning about what is effective therapeutic behavior modification, or improving efficacy — and it’s not toxic. Most medical products are released and then rarely get updated (think about how old the stethoscope is!). Rolling out new versions of products has been difficult and expensive. But that no longer has to be true. The same kind of A/B testing that Amazon does, for example, to optimize ecommerce — everything from the look of the website to the flow of the experience to the nature of the shipping that you get — can be now applied to behavior modification for health. Comparing the immediate efficacy of two algorithms for lifestyle behavior modification on two different populations can happen not just over years or months — as a RCT would have to be — but over weeks and even days, improving our responses and lifestyles that much faster.

Second, applying Machine Learning to vast amounts of new data is identifying all kinds of nuances of human behavior that we aren’t nearly as good, as humans, at noticing. For example, correlating patterns with data like where you shop, when you eat lunch, what activities do you do, what shows you watch, what your exercise routine has been, how much you sleep, even perhaps whether you remember to charge your phone. Identifying the clues in our behavior that eventually add up to significant lifestyle risk is the first step towards changing and improving that behavior. Like it or not, we live our lifestyles now through our phones — ML allows us to learn from it.

And last, technology allows us to scale existing therapies in new orders of magnitude.  Programs which have proven extremely effective at behavior modification through personal interaction — such as Diabetes Prevention Program for Type 2 Diabetes — have been by definition hard to scale; computation can extend their reach into the billions. Or take for another example depression, a complex disease where the molecules involved are poorly understood: drug therapies have been challenging, but therapy, specifically CBT, has a very strong track record, and computational CBT — ie, CBT scaled with technology — the strongest.

Even conditions as mysterious and difficult as cognitive decline can be treated much more effectively with technology. This is another fascinating example where the biology is so complex at the molecular level that breakthroughs have been far and few between. On the other hand, cognitive is painfully clear at the behavior level. And it is also very clear that behavioral treatment in the form of cognitive stimulation helps significantly. In this study, for example, the auditory memory and attention capability of patients who received cognitive stimulation training 1 hour per day, 5 days per week, for 8 weeks improvement was significantly greater than those who did not.

These are big challenges to meet. Behavior is the result of thousands of small decisions at every moment of every day: do I sit or do I stand? Do I drink this beer? Even, do I take regular deep breaths? One of the biggest challenges to face is how we ‘read’ this behavior and turn it into reliable data. There’s also the issue of small sample sizes: in order to narrow down to a meaningful experiment, you need, at the moment, to have very clear definitions of behavior, which often means small sample sizes of people who always do X in Y conditions. The science of behavior and decision making itself is complex, debatable, and often evolving. And there’s the company building practicalities: to build a company in this space, you need to find people who understand clinical science, data science, experimentation approaches, behavioral science *and* product and UI.

But that’s exactly the opportunity. These things are coming; we understanding more about behavior every day, as devices enter our daily lives and health data becomes more and more fine-grained. New conceptions of roles that blend behavioral science and product design are clearly emerging. All of these means are not exclusive and can be combined into powerful ways of modifying behavior for health. Those that can connect all these dots have the ability to build companies that can take a giant bite out of that 40% — and have tremendous impact on mortality for huge swaths of the population.

There’s an old joke that plumbers have saved more lives than doctors, because improving sewers and sanitation (and eradicating the disease that went along with that) was so impactful on longevity for humans. By cleaning up the modern day ‘sewers’ of our lifestyles — not through magical drugs, complex procedures, or platitudes about prevention — but through a real infrastructure of technology that is being built right now — technology will bring an analogous impact.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Japan’s “Society 5.0” initiative is a roadmap for today’s entrepreneurs

in articles/Artificial Intelligence/Banking/big data/chairman/Column/Delhi/department of defense/Emerging-Technologies/Emmanuel Macron/Entrepreneurship/Finance/Forward/France/g20/Healthcare/hitachi/India/Internet of Things/Japan/NHS/Politics/self-driving car/U.S. government/United Kingdom/United Nations/United States/west coast by

Japan, still suffering the consequences of its ‘Lost Decade’ of economic stagnation, is eyeing a transformation more radical than any the industrialized world has ever seen.

Boldly identified as “Society 5.0” Japan describes its initiative as a purposeful effort to create a new social contract and economic model by fully incorporating the technological innovations of the fourth industrial revolution. It envisions embedding these innovations into every corner of its ageing society. Underpinning this effort is a mandate for sustainability, bound tightly to the new United Nations global goals, the SDG’s. Japan wants to create, in its own words, a ‘super-smart’ society, and one that will serve as a roadmap for the rest of the world.

Japan hosts its first ever G20 summit in 2019 and this grand initiative will be on the agenda at the official B20 (Business 20) summit headed by the chairman of Hitachi .

Components of Society 5.0 and its implications for the US

Society 5.0 addresses a number of key pillars: infrastructure, finance tech, healthcare, logistics, and of course AI. The markets being grown in Japan are impressive. In robotics they predict $87 billion in investments and the IoT market is poised to hit $6 Billion in 2019

This means we are behind. We have not put enough focus on what AI can do not only for industry, but what it can do to move society forward and solve many of our most pervasive problems.

It isn’t just a problem of lack of investment by the United States government. Just this past September the Department of Defense announced a commitment of  $2 billion over the next five years toward new programs advancing artificial intelligence. This issue lies in the lack of a complete partnership between the United States Government and the private sector. But, why is Japan in the lead?

Full Fledged Embrace of AI and Cutting Edge Technology

Along with $1.44 billion from the government for AI funding, the Innovation Network Corp. of Japan is reorganizing to focus on AI and big data. They are projected to grow to $4 billion and operate to at least 2034. Much like in Britain and France, the government has made it a point to team with the private sector to move all of society forward.

Fresh Ideas to address Persistent Societal Problems

Along with the governmental and private partnership, Society 5.0 harnesses AI to address problems that continue to plague society. They are looking at how AI can help with the trappings of an aging population, pollution, and most importantly, how create such a sweeping initiate that is also agile enough to adjust to constant change of society everyday.

The goal of the work being done at Hitachi now on Society 5.0 is to create a Human-Centered Society. Technologies and innovations need to be leveraged to aid humans and our advancement, not to replace us in anyway.

How do American Technologists Close the Gap and partner with Japan?

First, in Silicon valley and beyond, American technologists and entrepreneurs must create a partnership between themselves and the U.S. government. Only when working together can we reach our full potential.

Take the British government as a model. This past April they announced a that it had put together “an AI deal worth more than £1 billion” that includes public and private funding.

France sees the opportunity and is betting on AI as well. This past spring President Emmanuel Macron announced an AI plan that includes $1.6 billion in funding, new research centers, data-sharing initiatives. The road has been clearly mapped for the U.S., just follow the path.

Next, American technologists and entrepreneurs must focus on certain industries and their ability to improve society in its entirety. There are 4 major industries technologists and entrepreneurs can focus on, and disrupt by modeling Japan’s Society 5.0 ideas and approach.

Healthcare

Japan’s society is more heavily weighted towards people over 60 than the rest of the world. In turn, more healthcare is needed to support people for a longer period of time as people live longer.

American technologists and entrepreneurs can capitalize by investing in and developing cognitive AI technologies that will greatly lessen the time needed to complete administrative tasks to allowing medical professionals to concentrate more on actually providing healthcare.

A UK  report suggests approximately 10% of NHS operational expenses could be saved through AI and automation. If this can be mirrored and then improved in the US the rising cost of healthcare, and declining public health can be tackled simultaneously.

Mobility

While the population in urban centers is growing, rural areas are being left with diminished access to everyday needs like, transportation, stores, hospitals, and community centers.
Continue to invest and develop autonomous vehicles, drones and single-driver cargo truck convoys. Access to basic everyday needs will not be a given for those residing far from urban centers. Here lies another dual opportunity for technologists and entrepreneurs, service those in need while simultaneously moving tech and society forward.

Infrastructure

28 percent of major U.S. roads are rated “poor” or in need of a complete rebuild. AI and other technologies such as robots, drones, sensors and IoT will help solve these problems. How? If only 10 percent of cars in the  U.S. became self-driving, those 26 million vehicles would generate 38.4 zettabytes of data annually.  In one year that would create over eight times the volume of the world’s current data.

Not only must we increase investment in autonomous vehicles, but we must make a concerted effort to leverage the data they will produce. Technologists and entrepreneurs will have an unprecedented advantage to leverage this data to predict everything from needs of infrastructure improvements to all bridges and roads being used by the autonomous vehicles. Companies like Hitachi are the ones you should look to work with. They’re doing amazing things in infrastructure today. How can this be translated to the U.S.? That is a question for you to ask and ultimately solve.

Mass transit is far ahead in Japan as well. Japan’s maglev train set a world record speed of 375 mph. With vast expanses of the United States landscape, and the ever growing challenges of flying, the rail transport industry is ripe for the picking. Plans for the midwest and the west coast have seem to come and go. What will be the plan that actually works?

Fintech

Blockchain is a  solution that will advance security, transparency and fraud prevention in society. Cognitive AI is producing results towards the goals of Society 5.0, ether it be a cashless society or a consumer focused one. Voice prompted AI assistants are currently providing consumer support by depositing money, performing trades, mastering trading platforms, networking, and onboarding of customers. This Omni-channel integration will result in finance and banking evolving to grow around customers needs. With this evolution we will see far less needs for cash and brick and mortar banks.

In the end, data alone is just code without meaning to its user. But, when technologists and entrepreneurs implement AI to its max potential a true difference will be seen. In Society 5.0, humanity and machines will solve the greatest issues society faces in the 21st century. We must embrace what Japan is creating with Society 5.0, or we will simply become a vestige of the technological past.

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

Rana el Kaliouby and Alexei Efroswill be speaking at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI April 18 at UC Berkeley

in Affectiva/anca dragan/articles/Artificial Intelligence/ceo/Delhi/facial recognition/India/machine learning/Melonee Wise/MIT/mit media lab/peter barrett/Politics/robotics/TC Sessions: Robotics + AI/Technology/uc-berkeley/zellerbach hall by

TechCrunch’s third robotics event is just over two and a half months away, and it’s already shaping up to be a doozy. We’ve already announced Anca Dragan, Hany Farid, Melonee Wise and Peter Barrett for our event and have an exciting pair of new names to share with you.

UC Berkeley’s Alexei Efros and Affectiva CEO Rana el Kaliouby will be joining us at Zellerbach Hall on April 18 for TC Sessions: Robotics+AI.

Alexei Efros is a professor at UC Berkeley’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences and a member of the school’s Artificial Intelligence Research Lab. His work focuses on computer vision, graphics and computational photography, utilizing visual data to help better understand the world. Efros also researches robotics, machine learning and the use of computer vision in the humanities. Prior to joining UC Berkeley, he was member of CMU’s Robotics Institute.

Rana el Kaliouby is the cofounder and CEO of Affectiva, an MIT Media Lab spinoff that creates softs signed designed to recognize human emotions. el Kaliouby designed the startup’s underlying technology, which helps bring more depth and understanding to facial recognition. Prior to cofounding the company, she worked as an MIT research scientist, cofounding the school’s Autism & Communication Technology Initiative.

Early-Bird tickets are on sale now for just $249 – that’s $100 off full-priced tickets. Buy yours today here. Students can book a deeply discounted ticket for just $45 here.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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