My Annual Review – 2016 Edition

This year wasn’t a good year in many aspects. On February 13, we lost Leorah’s mom, Hana, who was 94. She stayed with us during the last 18 months of her life and Leorah did an incredible effort to make her last few months on earth as pleasant as possible. We miss her and will remember her zest for life, love, wisdom, strong opinions, and creativity. She was a superb cook and as you can see, an excellent artist. On August 6, we held a celebration of her life and friends and relatives took home some of her paintings. Otherwise, our family is growing. This year Sydelle, Aytan and Davina’s daughter and Adie’s sister, joined our family and we have now five grandchildren. Aytan and Davina live in their own apartment in Brooklyn. Eyal, Beth and Arlo moved to East Lansing, where Beth will teach (and I will increase my collaboration with Michigan State). Shie, Leigh, Geo and Nava are in Seattle. Thank goodness for Skype, but we cherish more than anything the few moments we spend in person together.


This year, both the Beahrs ELP and the MDP went very smoothly. I always try to understand what is sustainability. I believe that these programs are becoming sustainable because I worry less and less about their survival, and more about improving and expanding them. We are fortunate to have George managing the MDP wisely, Lauren helping to recruit students, and most importantly helping our graduates in the job market, where they seem to be quite successful, and we welcome Terry as our new and capable administrator. Mio does a great job overseeing the ELP, and I wish we could give Megan tenure. While we are doing well, we can do better. I would love to have an endowed Chair that supports the MDP, and I hope that UC Berkeley and the UC will realize that having an extension position for international activities that will be linked to this program will benefit the university and the world.


This year we had our first major executive training workshop on supply chain and innovation. Our basic premise is that to implement new innovations, one needs to design a supply chain, and we introduce both technical approaches as well as case studies for mutual learning of how to improve organizations that deliver new ideas and products. We had about 40 participants and a great line-up of industry leaders and academics, and fantastic presentations. Tom Reardon, Justus Wesseler, and I worked with Mio to establish a program that combined basic principles and case studies, and I learned a lot and made new friends. Now we are planning our 2nd workshop, which will be even better. One product of this effort was a conference with a new partner, Stephan, in Berlin on November 9. I arrived the night before, woke up at 4am expecting Hillary to win, and couldn’t sleep until the conference started. The Germans asked me, “is it a new Hitler?”, and I answered, “more likely, a tweeting Berlusconi.” The meeting was about using nudging to eat better to save the environment. Some of the audience envisioned a five-year transition to a vegetarian diet globally, but others wonder will it really reduce emissions?



I am so excited on innovations and supply chains that I started a new undergraduate class on this topic. We had 60 students, and after listening to some theory, history, and case studies (Costco, Ali Baba, Tyson), each student was asked to make a presentation on how an organization designs a supply chain to implement innovations. Students gave excellent presentations, and I learned about how companies aim to incorporate drones commercially in agriculture and marketing, fascinating new ways to deliver products to farmers in remote areas, and the commercialization of automated vehicles. It is never too late to start a new area of teaching.

I continue my work on the bioeconomy, and in addition to a few papers, I had some interesting trips. I made a presentation in Brussels at an EU forum where the bottom line was that people may die in Africa because of EU policies based on fear rather than science. The highlight of the trip was fulfilling my childhood dream of watching a professional soccer game in Europe. At the OECD meeting on gene editing in Ottawa, I learned about the beneficial and risky potential of these technologies, and our contribution emphasized the need to develop smart regulations that allow humanity to benefit from these new tools. This year we celebrated our 20th anniversary of the ICABR at Ravello, and it was even more spectacular than usual. Next year, we are facing the challenge of hosting it at Berkeley. The conference will be on new players and new tools so we can discuss the proposed mergers of Monsanto-Bayer and applications of new gene editing technologies (CRISPR) and information technologies. This type of effort requires both time and money. Fortunately, we got generous support from Iowa State (thanks Bruce) and the Giannini Foundation, and hope for more. And I am fortunate that Ben, Mio, Sara, Carl, Justus, and the rest of the ICABR team are at the helm.img_3038

I hope that 2017 will be better than we all think.

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