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.

BLUE Ocean Film Festival | P1

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BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit

Getting Serious for the Oceans

I believe that media can make a difference. I know that communication is as much visual as it is verbal, if not more. For part one of this series, we will explore the ‘if not more’ and begin a short tale of how an internship can ignite a flame under an entirely different side of yourself, previously uncharted. I call this side ocean.

But seriously…

giphyInternships do not just magically appear for anyone- not usually.  You must put in the time and effort towards finding an opportunity which best suits your goals.  Luckily our Internship Coordinator is in constant pursuit of opportunities for us, but it still requires a lot of work to find the right opportunity.  For my Capstone Experience for both masters degrees ( Entrepreneurship/ Sustainable Tourism), I sought an atypical internship experience. I wanted to work for a cause locally while having an effect, globally. In other words, we can all do our best locally to create or inspire noticeable change on a global scale. What better way to put my experience to work for the oceans and in turn, for humanity and all living creatures? What better way to set an example for younger eyes?  Scientists say that we know around 5% of the world’s oceans but in the age of crowd-sourced knowledge, this library is growing exponentially. Normal human activity is naturally disruptive. Naturally, I aim to disrupt that.

Where I am Coming From

I like to recycle experience.  I like to make stuff with data and code with Anthropology on my mind.  At first, I imagined something educational, impactful and simple to love. I pulled from my experience.  Since 2010, I have worked in close collaboration with scientists on sailboats, before enrolling  to USF, called Beautiful Nation Project.  Within Land Surveyors United community, members annually collaborate on the day of the summer solstice for Survey Earth in a Day, remeasuring the entire surface of the planet in a single day with great accuracy. I decided to get involved with an incredible cause in the form of an annual international film festival, as an intern. My mission is a BLUE one.

Where I am Going

00blue-ocean-film-festival-logoMany of you have likely heard about the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit, but I’d bet most of you haven’t thought about how much work goes in to actually making an event like this happen.  In the coming weeks, I will unfold this story in my blog posts for Patel College of Global Sustainability and give you all a bit of insight into what I am doing to help make BLUE 2016 to be a success.

About BLUE Ocean Film Festival

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BLUE Ocean Film Festival 2015 in Monaco

BLUE is an event administered, planned and executed by Make a Difference Media founders Debbie and Charles Kinder.  The first BLUE Ocean event occurred in 2007 in Savanna, GA.  Since then, it has become an internationally recognized catalyst for change and education regarding ocean conservation and ocean literacy.  You can read more about Blue Ocean Festival here, but I would like to briefly point out how the “5 Elements of Blue” factor into global sustainability.

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BLUE Headquarters Downtown St. Petersburg, FL

The five elements of BLUE come together and create a truly unique event which:
• Honors the world’s finest ocean films through the best-in-class film competition.
• Brings together the world’s esteemed leaders and ocean luminaries.
• Presents the world’s most comprehensive underwater film & photography professionals.
• Showcases Science and the Arts for the stewardship of the ocean.
• Changes the way the world sees the ocean.

This year, the festival just happens to be in St. Petersburg, FL on November 10th-13th.  You can get your tickets here on Eventbrite and even become a volunteer by submitting the forms found here.

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How Did I Find This Internship?

It all started with an introduction from the wonderful master of coordination, Rhiannon, to the Co-Founder and CEO of Make a Difference Media, Debbie Kinder.  We met one day in Rhiannon’s office to discuss the types of help needed to get the film festival planning underway. At the time, I had been webmaster for PCGS for close to a year and Mrs. Kinder had seen all of the work I was doing for the college.  The three of us had a brainstorming session and discussed a possible internship, helping BLUE with things like website redesign, social media management, marketing  and content administration for the upcoming event in November.  I was given the initial task of wrangling all of the existing and past social media footprint and developing a plan for how to best reengage followers, reconfigure existing media assets and ultimately reinvigorate participants and followers for the new year.  However, this opportunity came during a time when there was a film submission process in action and over the years the process for submitting films had devolved into something quite difficult and time consuming to manage.  BLUE needed a new method of receiving films for review, so my first action item was to build them a way for film creators to upload their videos directly into a single Youtube channel for review.  This was difficult due to the fact that Youtube had recently disabled the ability for channels to allow community-style uploads.  This meant I would have to build it with the Youtube API as a massive workaround. In fact, I have been told that the only other web app known to exist like this is used by Sundance Film Festival.  You can imagine their excitement when I built this for them.

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Screenshot of Video Uploader for Youtube

Next on the list was taking inventory of all media assets such as video submissions from previous years so that I might make them fresh again. We wanted to celebrate all of the wonderful submissions from previous film festivals to let contributors know that we haven’t forgotten about them in addition to providing some examples of the types of films we accept.  In short, we needed a way to sift through the Youtube Channel videos outside of Youtube.  So, I built a way to filter and jump to specific videos using a Google Spreadsheet at the database.  You can see and play around with a demo of this project here, if you like.

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Up Next!

In my next post, i’ll tell you why I left the Patel College as webmaster in order to convert my internship into a full time job.  I’ll show you more of my work geared towards improving media outreach and helping BLUE reach their goals- helping the world thirst for knowledge about the oceans and how we can collaboratively mend the wounds we’ve dealt the oceans inn exchange for so much life.

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Get Involved and Spread the Word

giphy1If you use social media and enjoy being involved in world changing projects, friend and follow BLUE Ocean Film Festival on the following platforms.  Reach out to us if you would like to volunteer towards the efforts set forth and do your part to help increase ocean literacy worldwide.

Facebook

Twitter

Google +

Instagram

Youtube

I will leave you with some action shots from BLUE 2015 in Monaco and a shot of my new office, at the Don Cesar in St. Pete Beach.

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New Headquarters at Don Cesar Hotel St. Pete

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading.

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Week 4: Weeds and Weather

Plenty of things going on at Bob’s Berries in Riverview to keep me busy this Fall. A majority of my time was spent weeding our entire blueberry crop this week. We have been running what we call “worm tea” through our drip irrigation system to help stimulate growth outside of season. Although the blueberries love it there are some other flora who do as well. The worm tea not only helps the fruit trees grow, but it also makes the weeds grow enormous as well. The removal of these pests is essential to provide the maximum amount of nutrients to our blueberry trees and not the weeds. Look at the root structure in the picture below of this weed I pulled out of one of our pots. Almost pulled a muscle in my back just trying to get it out. The good news is that we never waste these precious nutrients. All weeds are collected and used in our compost pile to create more healthy soil. We get help from our neighbors, many of which have large yards decorated with various trees and plants. Once a week we collect the trimmings and recycle those into our compost pile as well. Below you can see my  contribution this week of weeds and one of our larger compost piles we have out back.

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The vertical strawberry gardens are also coming along nicely and should be ready for growing season early next year. Going through a redesign we decided to swith the triangular shape for a more basic fence like support. The three rungs will hold a line of strawberries on each side and the ground will support one more. This greatly reduces the amount of horizontal space needed for this garden from six feet to about a foot. We also  added two new types of mango trees to the farm this week. They are the Bailey’s Marvel Mango and the Maha Shanooc Mango. Our list of crops continues to expand each week to provide our customers with the best selection of organic produce in Riverview come the growing season. We are looking to make some partnerships with local farmers markets and fruit stands to market our farm while increasing profitability. Riverview is home to many of these businesses and the locals seems to really enjoy picking our their own food. Additionally, this week we have had to prepare for Hurricane Matthew as it slowly bypasses Florida. Although the hurricane will not  actually hit us, the farm will be experiencing some high winds which can send debris or tree branches into our plants. High winds can also snap our growing saplings or even pull them from the ground. We have taken precautions to stake the more flimsy plants to the ground to prevent any damage. Lets hope for some good luck as we try to avoid any damage from flying debris over the next few days. Last time Tropical Storm Hermine did some damage and we lost a few blueberry trees due to oak tree branches. Looking to avoid that catastrophe again this time around. Rain however, is a good thing and helps us to reduce the amount of water we pull from the ground. Also being an organic farm we don’t need to stress about chemical runoff from fertilizers or pesticides getting into the local waterways. There are so many benefits to switching to an organic agricultural system its honestly shocking that we haven’t done so already. As we attempt to weather the storm here in Florida I wish the rest of you a safe weekend.

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Carnival 2016

Doing my capstone project close to Belize City has turned out a lot better than I expected.  I’ve been able to go to the tourism expo and I made it to the carnival this year.  I used to watch it on TV before but never made the trip to experience it in person.
It worked out nicely because the portion of the training I’m doing with the villagers from Gracie Rock this week is about Belize’s culture.

Belize has many different cultures and everyone gets along.  All the culture’s have their own way of expressing themselves through music, language, dance, clothing, food, etc.  I got to experience the Mestizo culture the last time in Orange Walk.  This time I experienced the Belizean Creole in full swing at Carnival 2016 in Belize City.  As we are learning this week in my project at the village, the Belize Creole is a mix of African and European ancestry.  There are many aspects of our culture that can be traced to African or European origin. Carnival is very popular in the Caribbean and is becoming just as popular in Belize.  Showcasing and marketing this colorful and vivacious event is a great opportunity for the tourism industry.  The Belizean diaspora is a huge market and many return in the month of September to experience carnival and celebrate our Independence Day.

Carnival attracts people of all ages.  There were many different groups who participated in the carnival parade this year. Many private sector businesses support this annual event.  Its a time for people throughout the country to unite and celebrate.  There was even a steel band performing in the carnival parade this year.

In the end I got lots of pictures and videos which I used in the project I’m doing in the village.

Planting for the Future

This week on the farm I helped in the completion of our nursery. We transplanted 288 different blueberry trees into pots, that will be sold to customers interested in growing their own berries. Each tray contained 72 blueberry saplings of two different variety. The types of blueberries we currently have in our nursery are Arcadia and Scintilla. Although this may not seem like a difficult task it proved to be most time consuming even for two people.

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The process consisted of wetting the soil to make the saplings easy to remove from their tray. Then we recycled planters from previous plants used on the farm and filled them with our compost that we have been making. After a  work table worth of pots was filled we then created some holes in the compost and filled them slightly with concentrated fertilizer called, WormGold. The fertilizer is chicken feces which is then processed by worms in the form of castings. After adding the concentrate to the holes, we then placed each plant in a pot then filled in the hole. This process took over 4 hours to complete, but is paving the way for the future of the farm. In the right photo you see the 288 re-potted blueberry saplings lined up in the nursery. The sprinklers are set to water these little plants every hour for 1 minute each day.

While on the farm this week I again sprayed the organic pesticide combination of Neem oil and Thermx on the passion fruit and other trees. Our regiment of Thuricide has begun to take control and has kept the caterpillars off our passion fruit vines for a week at least. Therefore, this week I did not have to spray the Thuricide on the trees further reducing the additives that come in contact with our plants. The social media is also making great strides as well. We are currently on average per week reaching well over 1,500 people through our Facebook page alone. Our total likes for the page are currently 519 and 59 followers on Instagram.This week as of Monday we have reached 512 people in 2 days with only 2 posts. I hope this rise in customer interaction equates to more visitors to the farm during the growing season. The property is covered in passion fruit as well as blueberries. As for the chicken coop, we still are working on getting the wire up on the support beams. Just another step to making Bob’s Berries more sustainable.

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Plans for the future also include vertical strawberry gardens to be completed by the end of this year. Also, we reused the remaining gutters from the vertical gardens to create a hanging herb garden. Included in this garden is sweet basil, purple basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley, chives, and some short sweet carrots. Beyond the fence you can see the parts we will be using to create the vertical strawberry gardens. The design will feature triangle plywood supports that hold three gutters worth of strawberries. The garden should house around 108 plants all with drip irrigation and space saving design.

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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Organic Pesticides and Pest Removal

This week on the farm I had to apply some pesticides to remove some caterpillars and aphids from some of the plants on site. The aphids tend to be on the plum trees on the underside of the leaves. So in order to remove these harmful pests we use a plant extract called neem oil. This is combined with water and sprayed on the underside of the leaves to prevent more aphids from harming our plants and reproducing. To make the spray linger longer we use ThermX, which is derived from yucca plants. So far the results have been promising and the problem seems to be subsiding for now. Aphids are a common problem in Florida and are indicated by the presence of ants on plants they normally do not inhabit.

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We also have several passion fruit vines that grow around the farm on various fences and trees. However, these fast growing fruit vines are a favorite treat of caterpillars in the area. So combat this infestation we used some organic pesticide specifically designed for caterpillars called BT or Thuricide. This is a toxic concentrate made from bacteria that eliminates the caterpillars naturally. I generally add a tablespoon of the liquid to a gallon of water in the mister and go around the farm spraying the leaves and stalks. This organic pesticide has shown real promise, but the only downside is that compared to inorganic pesticides it needs to be applied more often. I took a picture before and a couple weeks after I sprayed the thuricide and the results are amazing. The first picture is before the thuricide and the second one is 7 weeks after spraying. In the space between the large branches of the tree you can see the passion fruit extended higher up the tree. This vine is our largest on the farm and it has a height of nearly 10 feet.

Additionally, this week we have  also made progress on our chicken coop with the help of some volunteers and community members. The trusses have been completed and have been attached to the roof of the structure. The next step is enclosing the space and purchasing the chickens. We plan to use the chickens for farm fresh eggs, this is a much more sustainable option than harvesting chickens for their meat without sacrificing protein. The chickens will also provide feces that we will convert into fertilizer for the farm or to sell. This organic alternative reduces waste on the farm and focuses on closed loop life cycles. The picture below we see farmer Bob and some volunteers assisting with the construction of our coop. As you can see we are nearly complete and this will make the farm more sustainable.

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As the weeks go by I continue to learn new and exciting things that will help me with my plans for the future. I hope to one day have my own farm and produce my own food. Additionally, this internship will make my resume more desirable in the field I would like to pursue a career in.

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.

Tourism Expo

Things have been going great with my capstone project in the village of Gracie Rock. It is a wonderful experience to be working on a project like this.  The work I’m doing is directly impacting those who need it.

Apart from the community project, I recently attended a Tourism Expo in one of the Northern towns of Orange Walk.  It was an exciting time as many of the local businesses came out and showcased what they offer to the public and visitors.  There were many booths which promoted local products and services for the tourism industry.  Some of the organizations present included the Belize Tourism Board, Belize Tourism Industry Association, Belize Trade and Investment Development Service, the local Tour Guide Associations and other business promoting their local products.  I have been to the Northern part of the country numerous times before but was unaware of all it had to offer. Some of these are shown in the pictures below.

The town council was actively promoting the local culture of the region.  They were Mestizo dances which were performed by the local culture, proudly displaying their traditional clothing and colors. Many visitors come to Belize to experience our diverse culture, tasting the delicious food, dancing to the rhythmic music, and hoping to get a holistic cultural experience.  During the Tourism Expo, the crowd was treated to some remarkable dances of the Mestizo Culture.  The Mestizo is a culture with a mix of Maya and Spanish ancestry.  As such, some aspects of both the Maya and the Spanish are present in this culture. The pictures below are from one of the dances performed that day.

This was an interesting and exciting experience. I learned a lot about this region.