Week 5-Achieving Growth while focusing on the Environment

I do apologize for the delayed post, it has been rather hectic at the office as there are new projects to be handled.

Last week I was predominately in the office conducting more research on the different companies I am looking to compare.  Although the sustainable companies look good, I may have to change the sample for non-sustainable companies due to the fact that they have implemented sustainability strategies and were featured on a similar list.  This will help to give me a more accurate comparison to see if sustainable companies are more valuable than non-sustainable businesses.

Along with the research efforts, I was also reaching out to local banks to see if any partnerships could be created for many of our different strategies.  When approaching these groups, they like to know how the growth will be achieved and also have a proven track record of success.  While looking to the marina strategy, we began to think how we could achieve our growth and to reduce overall environmental impact.  One area we found was in the racks we were looking to add.  We learned early on that a similar business failed and were needing to sell the assets immediately.  When we heard this news, we decided to pursue the owner to see if we could acquire his racks and transport them ourselves to our established marina.  We decided it would be more efficient to transport the already made racks to our facility than it would be to build new racks that could create more wastes from production.  At the same time we continue to pursue more green designations and may add more to the business in order to make the venture truly green.

Now to devote more time to further research.

Week 4-Growth and Partnerships

This blog is to reflect the events that occurred two weeks ago.  It has been rather busy and dynamic at the firm so please do forgive the delayed post.

Being involved in a Private Equity Firm as well as an Investment Advisory Firm, it is important for us to continue growing each entity respectively.  This will help the company to grow in size, increase our scope of services provided, and to develop new partnerships that will directly impact the firm and the clients as well as indirectly impact the local community.  To help us grow in these endeavors, we reach out to the local community to not only offer our business services, but we also outreach to the community to help make it a better place to work, play and live.

We have been active in several organizations that help to improve the local communities.  These groups include Metropolitan Ministries, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, and the University of Central Oklahoma Foundation.  These efforts help us to give back to the community through improving the local environment and by helping to provide an education for future leaders.  Along with these current opportunities, our team is always looking for more ways to get involved to help enhance the community locally with a global focus.

In regards to the business side, we always involve ourselves within the different community organizations that allow us to interact with local business owners and business leaders that share the same goal to grow their businesses and to improve the local community.  One of our goals in doing this is to ensure that healthy businesses remain in the area and are able to grow successfully while reducing any negative impacts that come from the business.  We don’t just focus locally.  We have been successfully internationally helping these businesses to continue their growth.  This has allowed us to establish and discuss partnerships with local businesses that specialize in business services to helping potential startups provide bio-diesel and other energy saving devices.

Week 3-Private Equity Action

Week 3 at my work place was definitely different for the AFLG Team.  Starting this past Tuesday, the AFLG team began to work with the team at Blue Pelican Marina.  This Marina is located in Hernando Beach and is a popular location for many locals to partake in fishing, boating and scalloping in the local waters.While there we were able to learn more about the marina by becoming more involved in the activities and getting to know everyone better there.  They have a goal to grow larger and to serve the surrounding areas outside of Hernando Beach.  Prior to becoming involved with Blue Pelican Marina, there were efforts being made to earn the Clean Marina designation.  This Green Designation would state that Blue Pelican Marina would have a focus on protecting the waterways near the marina and provide a clean environment for the employees, customers, and surrounding environment.  We decided to continue these efforts and put them as a top priority for the marina.  We have begun to diligently work on the application with the team to be submitted and potentially approved for the designation.  Currently we would b the only marina in Hernando Beach to have earned this designation.  The more I worked with the team, the more I learned how active and involved they were in the local community.  Each year they host several events to reach out to the community .  They treat everyone like family, from the very beginning of the day to closing time.  To continue their growth efforts, we have also begun to look for more green designations for them to add to the marina.  The goal is to not only grow the revenues an implement their long term growth plans, but to make them as green and eco-friendly as possible.  We will be continuing our efforts at the marina to learn more about the business and to assist in their growth efforts.  While at the marina, we were able to take out one of the pontoon boats to explore the local waterways.  It was a breath taking site to see. We were able to even go in for a swim.  We look forward to continue working with Blue Pelican Marina and to see their continued successes.

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Week 2-Monitoring the Markets

From September 12-September 16, I began to monitor the markets to see how companies with a sustainable focus  compared to companies that had a financial focus.  I took ten different companies to begin monitoring their progress and compare their respective outcomes.  These companies differed in which sector they cater to as well as to which index they appear on.  The main companies that are utilized which incorporate ESG, or environmental, social and government, strategies appear on an index known as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.  Each year, this index adds and removes companies from their index based on specific performance criteria and the specific principles that are incorporated into their company practices.  To effectively see how these companies compared, I took their price at the end of the trading day to see how they performed against each individual company.  What I saw was that each company performed similarly on a day to day comparison.  Looking at this data, it led me to believe that I would see little deviation from the selected companies.  This would mean that my study would not yield significant data that would either support or deny my hypothesis.  My next step was to take a step back and reevaluate my approach to see what research and work related activities I could do to approach the different companies.  At this point, I sat down with my work adviser and other co-workers to see how this problem can be approached.  To get a better idea of how these companies performed, it was derived that a historical look should be the main focus of the companies.  By this approach, it can be seen when the companies implemented the strategy, if they made any changes to their strategies and how the market reacted to those changes.  To help in the historical approach, data began to be compiled about each company in regards to when the sustainability strategy was incorporated.  Whatever data was available on their websites and other resources were utilized for the study and if there was no data available, then the companies would be reached out to in order to acquire the data.  After the data was acquired it was then stored in order to prepare for the upcoming weeks of monitoring and analysis.

Sustainable Vineyard Practices Summary and Weeks 1-2 (July 29-August 17)

My Family castle and my cousin's view , everyday.
My Family castle and my cousin’s view , everyday.

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Well, I am 2 months into my 3 1/2 month trip.  So, here are the nutshells for those not following my adventure on FB.  Here is a brief summary of the first 2 weeks as I attempt to catch you up on 2 months.

This would come around with a loudspeaker starting early in the morning almost everyday. Fresh produce. Talk about door to door service!
This would come around with a loudspeaker starting early in the morning almost everyday. Fresh produce. Talk about door to door service!
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A 16€ stamp just for the post office to process the photos for my residency permit!

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My cousin, Boris, officiating as a Sommelier. Rocce di Botte Wine festival
My cousin, Boris, officiating as a Sommelier. Rocce di Botte Wine festival
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My 2nd cousin’s… Arnoldo and Gianina
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Montefalco- Wine tasting for the Expo Festival in Roviano
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Winery in MontefalcoWell, I am 2/3rd’s of the way through my internship, but I finally got a blog link and will expand my contributions past Facebook.

Why Italy?

Italy is in my blood.  My father grew up there and my grandmother was feudal royalty.  As my grandmother passed away when my father was 16, I did not grow up with a lot of exposure to the Italian life as my father had been based in the middle of the country, in South Dakota, via the US Air Force (his father was American) and far away from the rest of the family. (Located in Florida and the Northwest)  But, my heritage has always intrigued me.  Finally, when I was able to visit in 1998, I fell in love with the country, the people, and most importantly, the way they valued their life.  Life, in Italy, is meant to be lived.  You work to be able to live, to enjoy life.  You most certainly do not live to work.  In fact, there is a mandatory vacation statue of at least 30 days paid time off for everyone in Italy.  By the time I left, although I had been invited to stay and have regretted leaving ever since, I have always dreamt of building a Bed and Breakfast or a small villa style hotel in the country with the intent of teaching people from around the world to appreciate and incorporate the Italian lifestyle.  How to slow down and appreciate life.  To savor your experiences and look for all there is to enjoy and love in life.

My project is named:  Assessing Sustainable Use of Agrichemicals in SOSTain’s Tasca D’Almerita/Planeta Vineyards and Olive Groves, International Conference on Wine Sustainability, and SIMEI Congress

During the summer of 2014, as a graduate student of the University Of South Florida Patel College Of Global Sustainability, I was unable to find an appropriate paid internship in the effort to gain relevant sustainability experience.  As an alternative, Christina Arenas and I created an independent study in partnership with the Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery and advised by Professor George Phillipidis and Professor Joseph Dorsey of the Patel College of Global Sustainability.  On an outing with some friends, we went on a wine tasting tour at the Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery (BHVW).  BHVW is a local vineyard and winery that utilized 98% local crops, including their own grapes, lemons, oranges, and bananas; the exception being the import of organic pineapples.  BHVW is very earth and environmentally conscious and seek to make their mark in the local winery world by promoting sustainable winery practices as well as promoting sustainability as a lifestyle to their guests and consumers.   During our tour and tasting, the owners and proprietors, Larry and Lenora Woodham, spoke of their desire to improve their sustainability and eliminate the use of chemicals to sterilize their returned and reclaimed bottles, I approached them with the idea of working together.  So, during the summer semester, Christina and I worked for 10 weeks to investigate, assess, research the results, and provide a sustainability assessment including recommendations and solutions for their specific needs.  The executive summary is as follows:

Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery

This study was intended to research, assess, and recommend steps towards improving the sustainability of Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery (BHVW) by implementing renewable energy options and water conservation to ultimately boost economic performance and entrepreneurship. During the 10-week Directed Study summer session, the course study was divided into three phases; company evaluation, researching different renewable energy options for solar sterilization of BHVW’s bottling operation, and constructing recommendations.  The primary focus was to assess and propose the best option for sterilizing recycled wine bottles through renewable energy options utilizing the energy of the sun.

During the evaluation phase, an assessment was made of the current systems used at the BHVW facility, generated a current energy and water consumption baseline, and sought possible procedures to streamline production.

The company evaluation consisted of gathering energy and water data to create a consumption baseline to measure usage before, during, and after the implementation of the sustainable renewable energy project.

The research phase of the project consisted of extensive information gathering from several resources, such as professionals in the field, research studies, and our own market data.

The final phase of the project includes our best recommendation from the research and data collected throughout the study.  The two methods of Broad Spectrum Pulsed Light (BSPL) and UV sterilization were deemed currently unfeasible due to safety issues, cost effectiveness and the need for further research development.   Solar Oven technology is unstable and inaccurate, at best, and thus not a reliable solution for bottle sterilization process.

The final recommendation includes a modified Sustainable Solar Steam Sterilization System (S4) that integrates Solar Steam and Solar Oven technology with innovative technology to create a safe and consistent source of steam energy that will significantly increase BHVW’s bottle production rate.  Additional sustainability process enhancements also include rainwater catchment, operating systems metering and documentation, and possible installation of full solar array to offset BHVW’s energy carbon footprint.

As a result of this experience, my passion for the environment, and in the hopes of pursuing my dream of living and working in my father’s native Italy, I researched the possibility of extending my experience in the wine industry to the sustainability of wineries and their practices in Italy.

With the participation of 2 of the leading Sicilian Wine producers, Tasca D’Almerita (the initiator of the SOStain project), and Planeta, the current leader in Italian Wine Quality awards, I am investigating soil samples for the potential of non-target point source pollution impact of fungicides and pesticides via their road connectivity and transference and drift via the use, maintenance, and storage of their agricultural equipment and their potential impact on the surrounding environment and local waterways, impacting their sustainability.  The question involves whether the current best management practices are enough to offset the frequently overlooked areas of equipment and practices in on-point source target pollution.

In October (the entire month), I will be assisting with the International Conference on Wine Sustainability at the EXPO 2015.

During the final 3 days of the EXPO 2015 conference, I will be assisting in the teaching of sustainability to food industry professionals as well as the general public interested.

For the past 6 months or so, I have been actively involved as an officer planning the 2nd SIMEI conference on wine Sustainable Supply Chain Management.  It is from November 3-5, during which time I will be an active member as a stakeholder helping to lead table discussions.  I have also invited a current USF professor of Italian and Food Studies, Patrizia LaTrecchia, who has studied in Italy and currently practices in Italy in many food categories, to be stakeholder and assist in the connection between Enology. the taste of wines and their qualities, and the balance of true sustainability in vineyard and Winery management.

The SIMEI conference involves round-table discussions, presenters, and stakeholder assessments and results presentations.  In the process of the Congress, the intention to create a universal language for Enology and Sustainability practices will be pursued by the international leaders in the Enology industry, Sustainability experts, and other educational professionals.

Abstract as follows:

Abstract

Vineyards and fruit-bearing groves present the most significant runoff/drift/transfer rates of pesticide application of all agricultural practices.  In support of the EU precautionary principle, and in the interest of business longevity as well as long term community health, the SOStain organization was created to improve the sustainability of vineyards and Olive groves in Sicily, Italy.  Having achieved great strides, the next level of assessment is needed to continue to reduce the potential impacts of non-target diffuse drift/runoff/transfer rate of pesticide application practices on the leading sustainability vineyards, Planeta and Tasca, D’Almerita.  Are the current BMP practices sufficient to protect against non-target connectivity and drift/runoff/transfer?  How do the current practices effect nearby water resources?  Elimination of all forms of pollution of water bodies is critical for the continued environmental good health and irrigation needs of food producers, the worker’s health, and the community well-being, both fiscally and physically.   Additionally, is sustainability awareness a common practice in the international vineyard and winery industry?  How can practices be improved? What kind of impact will en masse sustainability instruction over the course of 3 days in addition to a month long conference on the sustainability of Wine influence the agrichemical and operating practices of enology?

Results in response to the effectiveness of current BMP practices at these leading vineyards are expected to range from highly successful to non-target exposure areas being a significant impact via connectivity during harvest and maintenance practices.  Non-target impact findings are anticipated to indicate a 2nd or 3rd level of BMP to offset non-target diffuse point solutions in the interest of advancing the sustainability of the organizations, improve local water resources, as well as promote the economic and social parameters of the local community.  Expo 2015 and SIMEI Congress 2015 are both expected to create an advanced level of open dialog in both the industry as a practice as well as educate the consumer on the importance of sustainability in all crop production.  Sustainability, environmental sensitivity, and protection will only support or enhance a bottom line of a business, improve the lives of the community supporting and utilizing the end-product, as well as promote cultural exposure, education on food sustainability, and food production practices of other regions of the globe.

Weeks 1-2  

After sudden changes to the schedule 4 days before my departure, due to the various locations involved in my internship, I chose to arrive and depart in Rome, as it is central to Italy.  Upon my arrival, I had to immediately start the residency permit application within the first 8 days in the country as required due to my trip being over 90 days.  Well, it is certainly not as simple, nor as cheap as they tell you.  Not only do you pay $127 and then for overnight shipping in the US, but contrary to the information they give you, it is another $276 one you get here.  And, it is not a simple submission, either.  There is an additional appointment randomly assigned to you in between 2-3 weeks during which time you return with pictures.  Then, you have to wait another 6-8 weeks for the paperwork to be finalized and a permisso di sogourno to be generated. (a residency permit card)  So, in a way, the schedule delays and minimization of my time in Sicily came in handy.  About 8 trips later, I am now in the 2 month waiting period.  Ultimately, I will receive it just before I leave.  Had I know about my schedule reductions earlier, and the additional cost (the embassy said $34),  I would have just changed my trip.  In the meantime, I began the arduous journey of learning Italian immersion style!