internet of things iot

Internet of Things

If you were among the lucky attendees to the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, you likely would have noticed that “connectivity” was one of the show’s most prominently featured trends

CES bills itself as the “world’s largest and most influential tech event,” and many companies at the show chose to display “smart” products that feature internet connectivity as a means by which the product becomes more useful to the consumer. For instance, Weber, the company famous for its round, charcoal kettle grills, featured its new “Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub,” which promises to serve as a kind of “step-by-step grilling assistant that sends notifications directly to your smart phone on everything from a food readiness countdown, to when it’s time to flip and serve.” 

Kohler, the company primarily known for its plumbing fixtures, featured its new voice-controlled “Moxie” showerhead/wireless speaker, which “lets you stream your favorite music, news or talk radio right in the shower with you.” 

Smart devices like these are becoming increasingly popular as daily life becomes more connected to and shaped by the internet. The interconnection of our devices via the internet is often referred to as the “Internet of Things,” or IoT for short.

An entrepreneur named Kevin Aston first coined the term “Internet of Things” back in 1999 in an attempt to describe the connection between physical objects and the internet. At the time, Aston was working on linking Procter & Gamble’s supply chain to the internet through RFID tags. 

These days, IoT encompasses the vast, interconnected ecosystem of devices, sensors, computers, and networks that communicate with each other and with us. There are more than 20 billion devices with internet connectivity in use today, and there is enormous value in the data that these devices generate. 

This value extends well beyond the realm of consumer electronics. For instance, IoT is considered the driving force behind Industry 4.0, a term described by Deloitte as the “new industrial revolution—one that marries advanced manufacturing techniques with the Internet of Things to create manufacturing systems that are not only interconnected, but communicate, analyze, and use information to drive further intelligent action back in the physical world.”

For those interested in the investment potential of this innovative technology, there are a few important points to understand.

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)? 

According to research and advisory firm, Gartner, IoT is the “network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.” The overarching purpose of IoT is for physical objects to sense and report information in real-time so that a process can be made more efficient, convenient, or safe.

The practical applications of IoT are vast, and faster, more affordable technology is driving innovation across very different industries. 

Let’s start with the problem of traffic safety. The City of San Jose, California, is currently integrating IoT solutions in order to make intersections safer for pedestrians. For instance, IoT sensors communicate with traffic signals when someone crossing an intersection may require a bit more time before the signal turns green. 

Another problem IoT is helping to address is that of food waste. According to the UN, roughly one-third of the world’s food production is lost or wasted every year. The Danish supply company, Globe Tracker, is working to fix that by offering IoT solutions that keep a close eye on food as it moves around the world in shipping containers. Globe Tracker’s sensors continuously record and transmit data on the container’s location, temperature, humidity, etc. 

This kind of data is highly valuable in all supply chains, but it is especially valuable in perishable food supply chains. Innovators in business and government are going to increasingly adopt IoT solutions to address the complex problems of the 21st century, and providers of such solutions will increasingly innovate and drive IoT technology forward.

Why Invest in the Internet of Things (IoT)?

By all accounts, the IoT market is thriving, and there is good reason to think that even greater growth may be on the horizon.

According to a 2019 report by the International Data Corporation (IDC), global IoT spending in 2019 was forecast to reach $745 billion, a 15.4% increase over the $646 billion spent in 2018. IDC also projected that global IoT spending would surpass $1 trillion in 2022, with manufacturing, consumer, transportation, and utility industries accounting for a significant portion of the spending increase. 

Adoption of IoT is happening worldwide and across industries at a rapid pace. Mordor Intelligence projects that the compound annual growth rate of the IoT market is 21% between 2020 and 2025. Internet-connected devices are also getting cheaper to produce and are becoming more widely available. McKinsey & Company projects that the number of internet-connected devices will increase to 43 billion by 2023, a nearly 300% increase from 2018 numbers. 

Underlying all these positive numbers is an enormous potential boost that is somewhat difficult to quantify: 5G. Mobile carriers are currently in the process of deploying 5G (the fifth-generation wireless network) across the U.S. and around the globe. 5G provides considerably faster mobile connections and will, according to Qualcomm, “seamlessly connect a massive number of embedded sensors in virtually everything through the ability to scale down in data rates, power and mobility to provide extremely lean/low-cost solutions.” 

The 5G rollout will take time, and as with current data coverage, not every location will get lightning-fast speed. Those locations that do benefit, however, are in for a potentially transformative period of IoT innovation.

How to Invest in the Internet of Things (IoT)

Despite all of this growth and potential, the Internet of Things remains a developing, high-volatility sector, meaning that it can make for a risky investment when bought directly. Rather, a search on Magnifi suggests that there are a number of other ways to profit from IoT innovation via mutual funds and ETFs that cover this fast-growing sector.

Magnifi is changing the way we shop for investments, with the world’s first semantic search engine for finance that helps users discover, compare and buy investment products such as ETFs, mutual funds and stocks. Try it for yourself today. 

This blog is sponsored by Magnifi. The information and data are as of the publish date unless otherwise noted and subject to change. This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individualized investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell securities tailored to your needs. This information covers investment and market activity, industry or sector trends, or other broad-based economic or market conditions and should not be construed as investment research or advice. Investors are urged to consult with their financial advisors before buying or selling any securities. Although certain information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy, completeness or fairness. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This content may not be reproduced or distributed to any person in whole or in part without the prior written consent of Magnifi. [As a technology company, Magnifi provides access to tools and will be compensated for providing such access. Magnifi does not provide broker-dealer, custodian, investment advice or related investment services.]  


cancer treatment

Cancer Treatment

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s awful for the hundreds of thousands of patients and their families impacted by it. 

But, there is hope. 

A new 2020 American Cancer Society report shows the largest single-year drop, 2.2%, in the rate of people dying from cancer ever recorded in 2017, the most recent year tracked.  

Even more promising, the report indicates that the rate of people dying from cancer has dropped every year for 26 straight years. 

How did we get here? More effective early detection, treatment advances, and lifestyle changes, for starters. But there is a lot more innovation that’s happening in modern cancer care that’s improving the odds for cancer patients everywhere. These new technologies include: 

[The link between food and health is strong than ever. Learn more about investing in Organic Agriculture.]

Artificial Intelligence for Cancer Care

The modern healthcare system is today based on electronic health data. Now, thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) technology, we are finally able to more efficiently analyze and categorize that data, allowing researchers to identify disease and treatment trends that are leading to a better understanding of the elements that affect cancer growth or decline. Moreover, researchers and clinicians alike are now able to more quickly access and compare information about patients with similar cancers.  

The startup company, Paige (Pathology AI Guidance Engine), for example, applies AI-based methods to better map the pathology of cancer. Paige raised $45 million in funding in late 2019. 

The Cancer Genomics Cloud (CGC), which houses a number of cancer data sets, including the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), makes a huge amount of data available to researchers quickly and securely.

These technological efforts are leading both to increasingly personalized cancer care and new treatment options in the fight for a cure. 

Genomics Testing for Better Cancer Treatment

Liquid biopsies investigate “any type of specimen other than tissue — including blood, urine, and cerebral spinal fluid — that can be interrogated regarding the functionality of a cancer tumor.” An important tool in early detection, liquid biopsies can detect cancer before it becomes visible or shows symptoms. And, in the case of blood or urine specimens, the biopsies are non-invasive.

Guardant Health, a provider of liquid biopsies, saw its stock grow 78% in 2019. And that’s just the beginning. The market for liquid biopsies is projected to reach $6.5 billion by 2026, but could grow to as much as a $100 billion market by some estimates. 

Immunotherapy and Cancer

Immunotherapy harnesses the power of the immune system to help patients fight a wide range of diseases, including cancer. In the spring of 2018, there were 753 cell-based therapies in development according to the Cancer Research Institute. 

And, some are working magic for patients. Keytruda, approved to treat a range of cancers, brought in approximately $11.1 billion in sales for the drug giant, Merck

Improving Patient Access 

Beyond housing mass data for researchers and clinicians, the internet is giving cancer patients themselves a place to connect with vetted expert information and with other patients. 

SurvivorNet is a community of cancer patients and survivors, as well as a forum for expert information. Its goal is to increase access to information about treatment options. SurvivorNet recently raised $10M in a Series B funding round. 

Why Invest in Cancer Treatment?

When it comes to cancer, traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation are still commonly used and are generally effective. But, they are also aggressive and indiscriminate, and often come with debilitating side effects (although medical cannabis has been shown to help ease these symptoms). 

As medicine becomes more personal, so too are cancer treatments, with doctors and researchers moving towards increasingly patient-centric therapies.

Why now? Electronic health records, genetic testing, big data analytics, and supercomputing are the tools of precision care, and now, doctors and scientists have them. The results are both better targeted therapies available to patients sooner after diagnosis and cancer treatment options that are both in development and widely available multiplying fast. 

This leaves investors with lots of options. Not only are there new therapies and drugs on the market, there are new testing technologies, AI companies, and online platforms that have the potential to be the next big thing. 

How to Invest in the Future of Cancer Care

Cancer is something that we all want to beat. And, these days, our chances of actually accomplishing that goal are better than ever.

As new technologies become commercialized, millions will be diagnosed earlier and successfully connected with their cures. It won’t happen overnight, though. It will happen one breakthrough at a time.

Picking those winners ahead of time is difficult, however, and typically calls for advanced medical research knowledge and understanding that most investors simply don’t have. But, a search on Magnifi suggests that there are a number of other ways to profit from cancer care innovation as a whole via mutual funds and ETFs.

Magnifi is changing the way we shop for investments, with the world’s first semantic search engine for finance that helps users discover, compare and buy investment products such as ETFs, mutual funds and stocks. Try it for yourself today.

This blog is sponsored by Magnifi. The information and data are as of the publish date unless otherwise noted and subject to change. This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individualized investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell securities tailored to your needs. This information covers investment and market activity, industry or sector trends, or other broad-based economic or market conditions and should not be construed as investment research or advice. Investors are urged to consult with their financial advisors before buying or selling any securities. Although certain information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy, completeness or fairness. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This content may not be reproduced or distributed to any person in whole or in part without the prior written consent of Magnifi. [As a technology company, Magnifi provides access to tools and will be compensated for providing such access. Magnifi does not provide broker-dealer, custodian, investment advice or related investment services.]


Organic agriculture

Organic Agriculture

The next time you are out on a walk and notice a humble honey bee buzzing from flower to flower, take a moment to stop and appreciate the importance of the busy little insect. Because its work is at the heart of all organic agriculture.

According to the FDA, “About one-third of the food eaten by Americans comes from crops pollinated by honey bees, including apples, melons, cranberries, pumpkins, squash, broccoli, and almonds, to name just a few.” Pollination is essential to agriculture; without it, many plants cannot produce seeds and fruit, and our dinner plates would look very sparse indeed. 

Unfortunately, honey bees are in trouble. 

[The world needs to double food production by 2050. Here’s how investing in Precision Agriculture can make that happen.]

Beekeepers in the U.S. have been sounding the alarm for years, reporting sharp declines in honey bee colonies for over a decade, and the winter of 2018/2019 saw the biggest decline on record. This sharp decline in honey bee colonies is thought to be caused by several factors, including shrinking crop diversity, habitat loss, insecticides, and parasites. In particular, a widely used group of insecticides called neonicotinoids are coming under increased scrutiny as mounting research demonstrates the toxicity of the chemicals to honey bee populations. 

Farmers apply neonicotinoids to their fields in an effort to prevent pests such as aphids, but end up unintentionally damaging honey bee colonies, which in turn damages crop yields and the surrounding ecosystem as a whole.

Declining honey bee populations in the U.S. are symptomatic of an ongoing conflict in modern agriculture that pits short term profitability against long term sustainability. Spraying a field with herbicides may kill weeds one year, but the weeds that sprout the following year will be herbicide-resistant, and the farmer will have to invest in new and increasingly complex chemical concoctions to stay on top of the evolving weeds. 

In response to the industrialization of modern agriculture, a thriving movement has emerged that emphasizes quality over quantity. Organic agriculture is a process of producing food that focuses on environmental sustainability. The Rodale Institute, a leading organic agriculture nonprofit, considers organic agriculture to be a “vision for working and living in harmony with nature. The result is healthy soil, which grows healthy plants, which make for healthy people. By abstaining from synthetic inputs and encouraging natural systems, organic farmers help create a better future for people, animals, and the environment.”

For those interested in the investment potential of this growing market, there are a few important points to understand.

What is Organic Agriculture?

In the context of the U.S., “organic” is a labeling term that food producers affix to products to indicate that their products comply with the organic standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA’s organic standards are lengthy and cover many agricultural processes, including crop production, livestock/poultry production, and product handling/labeling. (Learn More: Why logistics matter in agriculture.)

Before a food producer can apply an organic label to their product, USDA inspectors must first certify that the producer is in compliance with the relevant organic standards. In general, the USDA’s organic standards require that food producers use natural processes to produce food. 

With crop production, for instance, one of the organic standards is that the land cannot have had synthetic synthetic fertilizers or weed killers applied to it for at least three years before harvesting an organic crop. The organic standards also mandate that organic livestock and poultry have access to the outdoors year-round, and may only be temporarily confined due to poor weather or concerns over the animal’s health.

Making the transition to organic or going organic from the get-go can be a difficult, expensive endeavor for food producers. It is undeniably cheaper to produce food using synthetic chemicals and industrial processes. 

Environmental benefits aside (which are substantial, if difficult to value monetarily), going organic offers food producers access to a rapidly growing market. Young adults are increasingly focused on food quality when they shop, with a recent YouGov study noting that 68% of millennials surveyed responded that they are willing to pay more for higher quality products. 

For a young consumer with health and environmental concerns on their mind, the choice between an organic tomato costing $2.25 and a non-organic tomato costing $1.50 may not be as obvious as one would assume. In this space, there is significant opportunity.

Why Invest in Organics?

Consumer demand for organic food is booming in the U.S., but domestic supply has not kept pace. The development of precision agriculture has helped, but the shortcoming largely boils down to the fact that producing organic food is more difficult and expensive than producing food via conventional agriculture. 

In an effort to facilitate the transition to organic from conventional while satisfying their customers’ growing demand for organic food, large food companies are increasingly partnering with small producers. Established brands like Annie’s (owned by General Mills) are partnering directly with domestic farmers, eliminating many of the hurdles new organic producers face in bringing their products to market. 

With a consumer base willing to pay more for products they value, and with the support of established companies that recognize organic’s potential, the organic agriculture market is primed for substantial growth and expansion in the coming years.

According to research from the Organic Trade Association, sales of organic products in the U.S. reached $52.5 billion in 2018, up 6.3% from 2017. Sales of organic foods accounted for $47.9 billion in 2018, an increase of 5.9% over 2017 food sales. This increase in organic food sales far exceeded the 2.3% growth seen in non-organic food sales during the same period. 

Figures from 2019 look equally healthy, with Category Partners and Organic Produce Network reporting that sales of organic fruits and vegetables increased by 5.1% between 2018 and 2019, while sales of conventional fruits and vegetables increased by about 1.9%.

These trends demonstrate that consumer interest in organic products is strong. Young consumers are more concerned about their health and the health of the environment than any preceding generation, and these consumers are on the cusp of becoming the most dominant group with respect to consumer spending. 

Organic agriculture represents a unique opportunity in the investment landscape because it offers the potential to serve an undersupplied but growing market with products that are increasingly seen as ethically and environmentally superior to similar products available at lower prices.

How to Invest in Organics

But, for investors, organic agriculture as a category is almost too broad. It’s a trend that impacts almost every aspect of the food and ag industry, but it’s something that very few companies are dedicated entirely to. Every company in the space has an organics program, making it very difficult for investors to get in on this trend directly without investing in a very broad group of companies.

However, investing in a mutual fund or ETF that offers exposure to the organics market can be a good way for investors to access this growing segment of agriculture without having to invest in many companies directly. A search on Magnifi suggests that there are a number of funds available today for those investors interested in investing in organic agriculture.

Magnifi is changing the way we shop for investments, with the world’s first semantic search engine for finance that helps users discover, compare and buy investment products such as ETFs, mutual funds and stocks. Try it for yourself today.

This blog is sponsored by Magnifi. The information and data are as of the publish date unless otherwise noted and subject to change. This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individualized investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell securities tailored to your needs. This information covers investment and market activity, industry or sector trends, or other broad-based economic or market conditions and should not be construed as investment research or advice. Investors are urged to consult with their financial advisors before buying or selling any securities. Although certain information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy, completeness or fairness. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This content may not be reproduced or distributed to any person in whole or in part without the prior written consent of Magnifi. [As a technology company, Magnifi provides access to tools and will be compensated for providing such access. Magnifi does not provide broker-dealer, custodian, investment advice or related investment services.]


Virtual Reality

Our addiction to screens isn’t anticipated to change anytime soon, but with the growth of virtual reality, how we relate to our screens is sure to.

The proof? Headset sales are booming. Over the holiday season, Facebook’s popular Oculus Quest virtual reality headset sold out and is now on a two-month back-order.

In other words, when it comes to virtual and augmented reality, the technology is ready and so are the users.

So, what exactly is virtual reality? 

Virtual reality is a type of technology that “shuts out the physical world,” creating a completely immersive experience in digitally created “real world” or imagined environments. 

[Support the data that’s making Virtual Reality possible. Here’s what investors need to know about Big Data]

This is slightly different from augmented reality, which adds digital elements to our real-life view. Think of Pokémon Go, for example, which digitally plants Pokémon characters around real-life cities and towns for players to physically go and find. That’s augmented reality.

What Can Virtual Reality Do?

Both virtual reality and augmented reality are changing the ways that almost all industries deliver goods and services to consumers.

First, and maybe first to come to mind for most people, is virtual reality’s place in the gaming world. The video gaming industry is anticipated to grow to as large as a $300 billion industry by 2025. Virtual reality will no doubt help to stimulate that growth, transforming the gaming world by dramatically changing the dynamics of how players relate to their games.

After all, games are no longer built like the old Nintendo or Atari platforms. New games allow players to be real participants in the action, and virtual reality is just the next step in this direction.

For instance, the much anticipated virtual reality game, Half Life: Alyx, is set to release a sequel more than a decade after its first iteration. Other highly anticipated virtual reality video game releases include The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, The Walking Dead Onslaught, and Iron Man. These games have a ready market and mountains of consumers that have or have yet to order their headsets.

Virtual reality and gaming, yes. But what about virtual reality and spas? Yes, it’s a thing. 

The Four Seasons Resort in Oahu is now offering the world’s first multisensory virtual reality and wellness experience in what it calls the Vessel. And, it’s not alone. Spas across the U.S. now offer similar experiences in a device known as the Somodome, a self-contained meditation pod.

Virtual reality is challenging companies to reimagine how they engage consumers of all kinds. This includes retail, even though online shopping seems to be doing just fine without it. Consider virtual reality shopping. Soon you may be sipping coffee and exploring the various kitchen options from the comfort of your couch thanks to Ikea’s Virtual Reality Showroom.

Beyond consumer goods and services, virtual reality has huge potential to improve training for higher education and corporate entities alike. Walmart is on board, training employees with virtual reality programs that offer new hires the opportunity to experience specific customer situations. The military is also using virtual reality for training purposes, and even the Denver Broncos football team is using virtual reality as a tool for training new and injured players (quarterbacks specifically).

The technology also has the potential to be used for highly sophisticated simulations in the healthcare field. Emmanuel Hospice, a non-profit hospice company, offers patients the ability to leave their rooms with virtual reality-based therapy. Using the technology, one patient went on a virtual trip to Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, and another to Ireland.

The possibilities are endless and virtual reality technology is everywhere. 

Why Invest in Virtual Reality

With all of these different applications, it should come as no surprise that the VR industry is set to grow rapidly. The global virtual reality market is anticipated to reach $120.5 billion by 2026, a dramatic increase from $7.3 billion in 2018. 

And, the market is ripe for investment. As the technology advances, virtual reality is expected to play an increasing role in training and education, entertainment, retail, healthcare, and more.

Not only is the technology required for virtual reality improving, but the costs associated with it are decreasing. Quality virtual reality experiences require both a headset and a powerful graphics card. These two elements have big-name companies like Sony, Samsung, and Facebook, as well as lesser-known companies, competing for market share in each. As virtual reality becomes increasingly mainstream, these companies are poised to benefit. 

Beyond these two primary technology elements, virtual reality is also primed to create new investment opportunities in the industries that adopt it. Whether it’s the next big game, the next big hospital training platform, or something we have yet to imagine, industry-specific virtual reality solutions are sure to create a buzz and further stimulate consumer adoption.

When it comes to virtual reality, opportunity abounds. You can invest in the technology itself, or the products, services, and solutions that it delivers. 

How to Invest in Virtual Reality

Of course, virtual and augmented reality are high-growth, high-volatility sectors, meaning that they can make for risky investments when bought directly. Rather, a search on Magnifi suggests that there are a number of other ways to profit from virtual reality innovation via mutual funds and ETFs that cover this fast-growing sector.

Magnifi is changing the way we shop for investments, with the world’s first semantic search engine for finance that helps users discover, compare and buy investment products such as ETFs, mutual funds and stocks. Try it for yourself today.

This blog is sponsored by Magnifi. The information and data are as of the publish date unless otherwise noted and subject to change. This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individualized investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell securities tailored to your needs. This information covers investment and market activity, industry or sector trends, or other broad-based economic or market conditions and should not be construed as investment research or advice. Investors are urged to consult with their financial advisors before buying or selling any securities. Although certain information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy, completeness or fairness. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This content may not be reproduced or distributed to any person in whole or in part without the prior written consent of Magnifi. [As a technology company, Magnifi provides access to tools and will be compensated for providing such access. Magnifi does not provide broker-dealer, custodian, investment advice or related investment services.] 


bitcoin

Bitcoin

Globalization is driving the economies of the world toward greater and more profound integration. People across the globe are now connected through vast, complex supply chains that span oceans and continents. 

From the comfort of your home in the U.S., you can log on to Etsy and order a beautiful, handmade blanket from Turkey that will arrive at your door in a few weeks. You do not need to travel to Turkey to purchase the blanket, and the Turkish vendor is happy that their products are available to a global market. 

The growth of these kinds of international peer-to-peer transactions is hindered by the fact that most countries each have a distinct currency that is government-controlled and that generally cannot be spent elsewhere. The process of transferring money between people in different countries can be quite complex as the funds need to pass through intermediary banks along the way. This complexity takes time and adds a cost to the transfer in the form of fees. 

A little over a decade ago, an ingenious new digital currency known as Bitcoin was launched that sought to address these and other global currency problems.

An unknown individual (or group of individuals) going by the name Satoshi Nakamoto invented Bitcoin (and the underlying blockchain technology) and shared the idea in a groundbreaking 2008 paper entitled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. The introduction of this paper states that: “Commerce on the Internet has come to rely almost exclusively on financial institutions serving as trusted third parties to process electronic payments. While the system works well enough for most transactions, it still suffers from the inherent weaknesses of the trust based model.” 

Bitcoin relies on what Nakamoto refers to as “cryptographic proof” (hence, cryptocurrency) instead of trust. This proof comes in the form of Bitcoin’s blockchain ledger, which unlike the ledger of a traditional bank, is open to and shared amongst users in the Bitcoin network. 

As a complete reimagination of the traditional currency and banking system, the transformative potential of Bitcoin is enormous. A decentralized digital currency that is free from government control offers users an entirely new way to move and make money.

For those interested in the investment potential of this innovative new currency, there are a few important points to understand.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency. It is not backed a government or issued by a central bank, and its value relative to local currency moves with the forces of supply and demand.

As of early 2020, there are roughly 18 million Bitcoins in “circulation,” with another 3 million yet to be added. New Bitcoins enter circulation by a process known as “mining.” People using powerful computers (“miners”) compete with each other to solve complex mathematical problems in a race to verify a new set of Bitcoin transactions. The first miner to do this correctly is rewarded with a certain number of Bitcoins.

Mining is a costly, energy-intensive endeavor, but it is not the only way to acquire Bitcoins – most people simply buy them. The process is relatively straightforward. Start by downloading a digital wallet, which is a kind of program that stores your Bitcoins and payment information. Next, simply go to the Bitcoin website (or an exchange where Bitcoin are traded), link your digital wallet, and select how much Bitcoin you would like to purchase. Once your payment goes through and after the transaction is verified by miners, you will be the proud owner of some quantity of shiny new Bitcoin.

As a decentralized alternative to the traditional banking system, Bitcoin can be bought and sold anywhere in the world where there is an internet connection. 

This is an important point because traditional banking does not adequately function in many places across the world. Take Venezuela, for instance, where hyperinflation over the past few years has led to a rampant devaluation of the nation’s currency, causing food to become extremely expensive and widespread hunger to run rampant. Venezuela’s leaders staunchly refused humanitarian aid from outside countries and slapped heavy fines on incoming money transfers. 

Desperate citizens turned instead to Bitcoin for help. Bypassing the incompetent Venezuelan government entirely, people from around the world sent Bitcoins directly to Venezuelan families in need.

Why Invest in Bitcoin?

As an investment, Bitcoin is undeniably in the high-risk, high reward category. Bitcoin prices have fluctuated wildly over the past several years. A single Bitcoin cost about $1,000 at the beginning of 2017, and by December 17, 2017, Bitcoin hit a peak price of about $20,000. You may recall that there was something of a Bitcoin “frenzy” during this price runup. Alas, the party was not to last, and prices fell sharply throughout 2018 before rebounding moderately in 2019 to a respectable $7,200 by New Years Day 2020.

Volatility aside, it is hard to deny Bitcoin’s outstanding performance when looking at the entire price history. According to data compiled by Bloomberg, Bitcoin posted gains of more than 9,000,000% since July 2010. As a point of comparison, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones each roughly tripled during the same period. 

Past performance is, of course, no guarantee of future results, and radical changes are underway in the cryptocurrency market that will create heavier competition for Bitcoin.

Facebook is planning to launch a digital currency called Libra, and countries such as China, Russia, and Iran are looking to create their own forms of cryptocurrency to circumvent U.S. sanctions. 

Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency and has been around long enough to work through many of the kinks that have arisen. Interest in Bitcoin is likely to remain high for the foreseeable future, and it will continue to be a potentially highly-lucrative, if risky, investment option for adventurous investors. 

How to Invest in Bitcoin

There’s no arguing the investment potential of Bitcoin and its related technologies. But the fact remains, with that high upside comes the risk of big downsides as well, and Bitcoin prices have been on something of a roller coaster over the last two years. 

However, investing in a mutual fund or ETF that offers exposure to the Bitcoin market and its underlying technologies can be a way to temper some of this volatility. Although there is still no pure cryptocurrency ETF available, a search on Magnifi suggests that there are a number of funds available today for those investors interested in investing in the technology without buying Bitcoin directly.


blockchain

Blockchain

It seems as though every time we turn on the news there are new stories about enormous data breaches. 

There was the massive 2013 Yahoo breach in which all 3 billion user accounts were compromised, and then there was the 2017 Equifax breach that exposed the personal information of 147 million people. 

Data breaches are becoming more widespread and impactful, with 2019 set to be the worst year on record. It is perhaps not surprising that, according to the Pew Research Center, 70% of Americans feel that their personal information is less secure than it was just five years ago. Businesses and governments are tasked with securely storing mountains of complex and highly-personal data, and they are beginning to turn to a novel technology known as “blockchain” to help.

Blockchain is a technology solution that solves some of the problems associated with data storage and security. When an organization is solely responsible for maintaining its database, valuable information may be lost in the event of a breach or disaster. A freak hurricane could damage vital data centers (as happened in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy), or an adept hacker could detect a vulnerability in a government’s website and hold critical data hostage (as happened in 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland). With blockchain, data is securely shared across a distributed network in which all parties have access. The nature of the technology is such that damage to one part of the network does not compromise the rest. For this reason, among many others, businesses and governments are turning their attention – and investments – to blockchain.

For those interested in the investment potential of this innovative technology, there are a few important points to understand.

What is Blockchain?

According to the software company SAP, blockchain is most simply defined as a “reliable, difficult-to-hack record of transactions – and of who owns what. Blockchain is based on distributed ledger technology, which securely records information across a peer-to-peer network.” 

The “block” in blockchain describes the data that is entered into the network, while the “chain” in blockchain refers to the chronological sequence in which blocks are entered. Data is approved for entry via consensus of other network participants, and once entered it cannot be changed. In this way, there is a complete, sequential, and verifiable recordkeeping of the network’s data that is available to all participants.

At first glance, this may not seem like a revolutionary concept, but it is important to note that the decentralized nature of blockchain is highly novel and has far-reaching applications. 

An unknown person (or persons) going by the name Satoshi Nakamoto invented the blockchain concept and shared it with the public in a groundbreaking 2008 paper about a proposed digital currency system. That currency system became known as Bitcoin, and the spread of blockchain technology gave rise to a vast ecosystem of other cryptocurrencies. 

While most people only associate blockchain with Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, the technology has much broader applications across a variety of industries. For instance, logistics firms are turning to blockchain technology to modernize their supply chains. Danish shipping company Maersk recently launched a blockchain-powered logistics platform called TradeLens, which it says will provide improved visibility into the movement of shipments around the world. 

Healthcare is another sector that stands to benefit tremendously from the adoption of blockchain technology. As any adult in the U.S. can attest, healthcare records are notoriously scattered from provider to provider. Implementing blockchain technology has the potential to make critical health data more accessible and secure while eliminating barriers that currently stifle communication between doctors, patients, and insurers. 

Data is at the core of any modern organization, and it seems likely that blockchain will be an increasingly important tool in the modernization of data management practices.

Why Invest in Blockchain?

Blockchain is an extremely valuable technology with significant investment potential. 

As noted by James Wester, Research Director at International Data Corporation (IDC): “Blockchain is maturing rapidly, and we have reached an inflection point where implementations are moving quickly beyond the pilot and proof of concept phase.” 

IDC estimates that global spending on blockchain solutions will reach nearly $2.9 billion in 2019, an increase of nearly 88% from 2018. IDC expects annual spending to climb to $12.4 billion by 2022, with a 76% annual growth rate between 2018 and 2022.

Investment in private blockchain companies is also quite robust. In the U.S., for instance, investments reached about $1.1 billion in 2019 – a healthy figure considering recent corrections in cryptocurrency markets.

Big technology companies understand blockchain’s potential and are adjusting their services accordingly. Companies such as IBM, SAP, and Oracle offer blockchain-as-a-service to help businesses create their own blockchain networks. Companies that are prepared to offer innovative blockchain solutions are well-positioned for the coming changes to the data management landscape, and startups researching blockchain solutions are likely to garner significant interest from established companies. These market dynamics are likely to create a rich environment for outside investment.

Governments around the world are also taking notice of blockchain’s enormous potential. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is investing heavily in blockchain startups because of the technology’s cybersecurity advantages in making digital systems more resilient. The Republic of Georgia recently partnered with Bitfury, a Netherlands-based blockchain technology company, to digitize and migrate the country’s land registry onto a blockchain-based network. Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping recently announced that China will make blockchain a top priority in the country’s new innovation push, a move that may galvanize more investment and research in the West.

In this space where both business and government recognize blockchain’s potential, savvy investors are well-positioned to capitalize on novel applications of this innovative technology.

How to Invest in Blockchain

But, despite all of this potential and recent growth, blockchain remains a very early-stage technology. It has only existed in its current form since 2008, and the industry that has sprung up around it is even younger than that. With that youth comes volatility, which investors are seeing in the prices of pure-play blockchain stocks. However, investing in a mutual fund or ETF that offers exposure to blockchain can be a way to temper some of this volatility. A search on Magnifi suggests that there are a number of funds available today for those investors interested in investing in blockchain technology without buying shares in the associated companies themselves.

Magnifi is changing the way we shop for investments, with the world’s first semantic search engine for finance that helps users discover, compare and buy investment products such as ETFs, mutual funds and stocks. Try it for yourself today.

This blog is sponsored by Magnifi. The information and data are as of the publish date unless otherwise noted and subject to change. This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individualized investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell securities tailored to your needs. This information covers investment and market activity, industry or sector trends, or other broad-based economic or market conditions and should not be construed as investment research or advice. Investors are urged to consult with their financial advisors before buying or selling any securities. Although certain information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy, completeness or fairness. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This content may not be reproduced or distributed to any person in whole or in part without the prior written consent of Magnifi. [As a technology company, Magnifi provides access to tools and will be compensated for providing such access. Magnifi does not provide broker-dealer, custodian, investment advice or related investment services.]  


3D Printing

3D Printing

At a time in the not too distant future, a patient suffering from organ failure may not need to wait on a donor transplant list in order to acquire a new, healthy organ. If researchers at Wake Forest University continue their remarkable progress, a doctor may be able to simply “print” a new organ for the patient. This treatment may seem straight out of a science fiction movie, but it is grounded in a real manufacturing process known as 3D printing.

3D printing has been around since the 1980s, but it is only in the past decade that the technology has really taken off. Recent advancements in material science and design software have propelled the technology into the mainstream, and an increasing number of innovative companies are adopting the technology to optimize supply chains and address complex problems.

Modern 3D printers are capable of producing objects from a wide variety of materials, and they can quickly print objects that are larger and far more complex than was possible only a few years ago.

3D printing is an essential component of Industry 4.0, a term described by Deloitte as the “new industrial revolution—one that marries advanced manufacturing techniques with the Internet of Things to create manufacturing systems that are not only interconnected, but communicate, analyze, and use information to drive further intelligent action back in the physical world.” 3D printing is helping to drive this new industrial revolution by democratizing the design and manufacturing process.

As 3D printing becomes more advanced and cost-effective, the technology is gaining greater exposure and novel applications are being pioneered left and right. For instance, international nonprofit New Story, in partnership with Texas-based digital manufacturing company, ICON, are using a massive 3D printer to “print” homes for impoverished residents in rural Mexico.

[3D printing isn’t the only new technology poised to change the world. Here’s a look at the investment landscape for Virtual Reality]

Many remarkable applications are being developed in the field of regenerative medicine, such as research at the University of Arizona where shattered bones are being healed by inserting synthetic bones created using a 3D printer. The applications of 3D printing are only limited by one’s imagination, and the transformative potential of the technology is staggering.

For those interested in the investment potential of this rapidly-growing sector, there are a few important points to understand.

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is a manufacturing process that uses digital designs to create three-dimensional objects. 3D printing is also sometimes called additive manufacturing because the object is created layer by layer, from the bottom up, by adding successive layers of material until the object takes shape.

This stands in contrast to the more common subtractive manufacturing process, in which an object is formed by starting with a large piece of material and removing excess material in order to obtain the shape of the desired object. A laser cutting out a specific pattern on a large metal sheet is an example of a subtractive manufacturing process.

3D printing has several key advantages over subtractive manufacturing. For one, 3D printing can significantly reduce the amount of time between the design and production of a new product. A 3D printer can quickly render a functional prototype for designers and engineers to test, which saves time and money that would otherwise be spent waiting on prototypes created using more traditional manufacturing processes.

Another key advantage of 3D printing is waste reduction. In additive manufacturing, only the material that is needed to create the object is used, while subtractive manufacturing wastes a significant amount of material in the form of scrap pieces and shavings that are removed to shape the object. Even if these scrap pieces can be recycled, there is an added expense in time and money to see it through.

Another enormous advantage of 3D printing is design complexity. 3D printers can produce an object with designs so complex and intricate that it would be impossible to produce using any other manufacturing method. This is not to say that 3D printing and subtractive manufacturing are mutually exclusive. To maximize supply chain efficiency, innovative companies utilize both processes simultaneously and at different stages of the manufacturing process.

Why Invest in 3D Printing?

The 3D printing sector is starting to grow rapidly.

According to a report by Deloitte, sales from large, public, 3D printing companies will exceed $2.7 billion in 2019 and surpass $3 billion in 2020. Deloitte predicts that this segment of the 3D printing industry will grow at about 12.5 percent in both 2019 and 2020, which is more than double the growth rate from just a few years prior.

To account for current growth and projected growth, Deloitte points to several recent industry developments, including large companies entering the market and driving innovation, along with dramatic technological advancements (more 3D-printable materials, faster print speeds, and a larger build volume).

The Deloitte report further notes that: “After decades of development, 3D printing has finally reached a period of sustained growth greater than most other manufacturing technologies. As with so many other new technologies, it is important to ‘think big, start small, and scale fast.’ The next few years are likely to see 3D printing become much more widely used in all sorts of manufacturing, from robots to rocket ships. The ripple effects on industries even beyond manufacturing may be profound.”

And the rise of Big Data analytics is only accelerating this trend, opening up vast new data sets that be used to design and optimize 3D models.

With respect to the 3D printing market as a whole, Mordor Intelligence expects the market to grow to about $49 billion by 2024 (up from about $10.50 billion in 2018) at a rate of about 29.50%. Mordor notes that North America currently holds the largest share of the market and is well-positioned for exponential growth: “With these series of investments, healthcare, aerospace & defense, industrial, and consumer product applications in North America are set to boom over the upcoming years.”

This growth potential is not limited to North America. The Asia-Pacific region is largely an untapped market at this point, and it is projected to grow at the fastest rate over the next several years.

How to Invest in 3D Printing

However, given the fact that 3D printing is a relatively new industrial sector and is still growing, investing directly in the companies that are leading the way can be risky. Rather, investing in a mutual fund or ETF dedicated to 3D printing can be a good way to gain exposure to this fast-growing niche without taking on the risk of a direct investment. According to a search on Magnifi, there are a number of funds and ETFs that access 3D printing.

Magnifi is changing the way we shop for investments, with the world’s first semantic search engine for finance that helps users discover, compare and buy investment products such as ETFs, mutual funds and stocks. Try it for yourself today.

This blog is sponsored by Magnifi. The information and data are as of the publish date unless otherwise noted and subject to change. This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individualized investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell securities tailored to your needs. This information covers investment and market activity, industry or sector trends, or other broad-based economic or market conditions and should not be construed as investment research or advice. Investors are urged to consult with their financial advisors before buying or selling any securities. Although certain information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy, completeness or fairness. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This content may not be reproduced or distributed to any person in whole or in part without the prior written consent of Magnifi. [As a technology company, Magnifi provides access to tools and will be compensated for providing such access. Magnifi does not provide broker-dealer, custodian, investment advice or related investment services.]  


Streaming

Streaming

The rise of streaming services over the past 10 years has radically changed how we consume television and movies. Lest we forget, there was once a time not so long ago when we had to make sure we were in front of our television set at a designated time in order to enjoy an episode of our favorite program. If you were the poor soul who missed the show, you would have to go around with your fingers in your ears as everyone around you discussed it until you had a chance to watch it when it re-aired later in the week.

With the steady increase in internet access and speed over the past 10+ years, we gained the remarkable ability to instantly stream a vast library of television and movies at any time from anywhere and from a variety of devices. Pioneering companies like Netflix recognized the transformative potential of streaming content early on; so early on, in fact, that they were widely mocked by the established entertainment industry not long before they utterly change it.

In one particularly ironic moment from the early 2000s, a former Netflix executive recalled how Blockbuster executives turned down their offer to sell the fledgling startup by laughing them out of the office.

Netflix is undisputedly the biggest name in the streaming game, but their competition is starting to get serious, leading to a showdown that some are calling the “streaming wars.” Heavy hitters in the form of traditional cable companies and content creators have finally caught on that the future of entertainment is streaming, and they have been working furiously to catch up with more established streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube.

After years of work and months of hype, these heavy hitters are finally ready to debut what they’ve been working on. Apple launched its streaming service, Apple+, on November 1, 2019, Disney launched Disney+ on November 12, 2019, and HBO Max (Warner Media Entertainment) and Peacock (NBCUniversal) are slated for launch in early 2020.

These launches coincide with news from the Motion Picture Association of America that the number of streaming subscribers worldwide (613 million) has surpassed the number of cable subscribers (556 million) for the first time. The new streaming giants are going to slug it out in the coming years, competing for subscribers with archive depth and quality, as well as the allure of original content. Netflix has demonstrated time and again that a winning streaming formula is one in which viewers come to binge-watch old favorites, like The Office, and stay to nibble on attractive new offerings, like The Crown.

Streaming services have already fundamentally changed how we enjoy television and movies, and continued innovation is going to present savvy investors with incredible opportunities as the industry enters a period of extraordinary growth and upheaval.

For those interested in the investment potential of this rapidly-growing sector, there are a few important points to understand.

What is Streaming?

According to PCMag, a streaming service is defined as: “An online provider of entertainment (music, movies, etc.) that delivers the content via an Internet connection to the subscriber’s computer, TV or mobile device.”

The service that companies like Netflix provide is referred to as Subscription Video on Demand, or SVOD. These companies generate revenue from monthly subscription fees instead of from advertising or pay-per-view transactions. Other companies (such as Hulu) use a tiered pricing structure in which lower monthly fees are offered in exchange for advertising in the form of commercials.

Streaming service companies depend on reliable, high-speed internet performance in order to deliver quality products to their customers — a fact so integral to Netflix’s bottom-line that the company now measures and publishes the internet speeds of internet service providers responsible for streaming Netflix content.

Why Invest in Streaming?

According to a May 2019 eMarketer report, the top U.S. streaming services companies generated about $19.9 billion in subscription revenues in 2018, while subscription revenues in 2017 totaled about $14.9 billion.

For its part, Netflix earned three consecutive 30% year-over-year revenue increases between 2016 and 2018, and looks to be on track for a fourth. The company’s share price hovered around $50 in January 2015, and by November 2019, had soared to about $315 per share.

It is much too soon to tell how things are going to shake out in the streaming wars to come, though some analysts believe that Netflix may be in real trouble as other serious competitors step in to take a bite out of the streaming market. Others point to the fact that Netflix spent $12 billion creating original content in 2019, has 158 million subscribers, and has, by far, the largest content archive of any streaming service.

According to a September 2019 Digital TV Research study, the number of subscriptions to streaming services companies is projected to increase by 91% – or 462 million subscriptions – between 2018 and 2024. It is important to note that much of this growth is expected to occur internationally (i.e., outside of the U.S.), and international growth has been a cornerstone of Netflix’s success thus far (62% of Netflix’s subscribers live outside the U.S.).

Other streaming services have a lot of work ahead of them in order to match Netflix’s international success, which includes overcoming complex regulatory and content requirements.

During the seven-year period between 2018 and 2024, Netflix’s revenue is projected to more than double from $15 billion in 2018 to $35 billion in 2024, while revenue from Disney+ is projected to hit $7.4 billion by 2024.

While it is too soon to say how the streaming wars are going to turn out in the long-run, it does seem likely that streaming services as a sector will remain a dynamic, high-growth space in which well-placed investments are likely to do well.

How to Invest in Streaming

However, as the full landscape of streaming entertainment is still shaking out, investing directly in these companies can be risky. Rather, there are a number of funds and ETFs that give investors access to this asset class with more diversification. A search on Magnifi suggests that there are a number of other ways to profit from streaming as a whole.

Magnifi is changing the way we shop for investments, with the world’s first semantic search engine for finance that helps users discover, compare and buy investment products such as ETFs, mutual funds and stocks. Try it for yourself today.

This blog is sponsored by Magnifi. The information and data are as of the publish date unless otherwise noted and subject to change. This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individualized investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell securities tailored to your needs. This information covers investment and market activity, industry or sector trends, or other broad-based economic or market conditions and should not be construed as investment research or advice. Investors are urged to consult with their financial advisors before buying or selling any securities. Although certain information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy, completeness or fairness. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This content may not be reproduced or distributed to any person in whole or in part without the prior written consent of Magnifi. [As a technology company, Magnifi provides access to tools and will be compensated for providing such access. Magnifi does not provide broker-dealer, custodian, investment advice or related investment services.]  


Precision Agriculture

Precision Agriculture

The world is facing a food crisis. Not in some distant future, but today, as a growing global population and rising quality of life are demanding more and more production every year in order to feed all of humanity.

According to the United Nations, the global population is on track to increase from 7.3 billion in 2015 to nearly 10 billion by 2050, requiring that food production must double worldwide in that time to keep up with demand and combat hunger, which today impacts more than 1 billion people worldwide. This fact is the result of decades of insufficient investment in agriculture and food security, leaving millions at risk due to rising food prices, economic swings and climate change.

[Save the world while feeding the world: Investing in Organic Agriculture]

In order to achieve true food security in the world, it’s time to start investing in agricultural research, natural resources, local infrastructure and more, per Korea’s UN representative Park In-kook. “Food prices, already high and volatile, could spike again as droughts, floods and other climate-related events affected harvests, and States must develop responses for both the short-term and the medium-term. Agriculture had to adapt to changing weather patterns caused by climate change, and social protection and safety nets had to be strengthened to ensure adequate access to food for those in need.”

And it’s not just any food that’s needed to solve these problems, either. Rising incomes and quality of life worldwide also mean increased calls for proteins, sustainable foods, organics and other nutritious, high quality options.

For those interested in the investment potential of this rapidly-growing sector, there are a few important points to understand.

What is Precision Agriculture?

At a high level, so-called precision agriculture is simply “the application of new technologies to agriculture. It involves using innovations such as Big Data, GPS and more to increase crop yields and profitability while lowering the levels of traditional inputs needed to grow crops (land, water, fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides).”

It’s all about using less and growing more.

According to Grand View Research: Precision farming, also known as site-specific crop management or satellite farming, is a farm management concept that uses information technology to ensure optimum health and productivity of crops. The precision farming technique largely depends on specialized equipment such as sensing devices, antennas and access points, and automation and control system. It also involves maintenance services and managed services. Additionally, it incorporates a broad range of technologies such as bio-engineering, robotics and automation, imagery and sensors, and big data.

For example, a farmer outfitted with a Big Data analytics platform and a tracking device on their tractor could precisely analyze both when to plant certain crops and how to lay out their fields for maximum production. The system could also manage the application of fertilizers for best effect and tell the farmer when to water and for how long. All of these tools would help increase the amount of food the farm is able to produce while simultaneously lowering the farmer’s costs associated with fertilizers (inputs), fuel and time spent managing their operation.

This type of data can also be used to monitor and optimize a farm for changing weather conditions, soil characteristics, pest problems and more, guiding the farmer’s day-to-day management decisions or taking them entirely off of their shoulders.

In addition to Big Data, as described above, some of the applications for precision agriculture currently under development include:

  • Robotics: Farming is traditionally a labor-intensive, time-consuming line of work. Farmers are famous for their long hours, starting early in the morning, and typically can’t even get away much during the year given all of their responsibilities, from planting to harvesting and much more. Plus, much of the labor force that the agriculture industry relies on is temporary, moving from job to job during the season. Changes to immigration laws, demands for higher pay and more have made hiring a challenge for farms of all types. That’s why robots have shown so much promise in the field. Imagine the convenience of a robot picker that can go out into the field at all hours, informed of the optimal picking time by local data, and manage the entire harvest by itself while the farmer and their crew sleeps. The same applies to specialty robots that can precisely apply fertilizers exactly where and when it’s needed or monitor and empty pest traps automatically.
  • Drones: The FAA is currently reviewing new rules that would enable agriculture operators to use drone to monitor and oversee their crops, delivering eye-in-the-sky functionality that doesn’t truly exist in the industry. For farmers, this means the potential to manage vast tracks of land, including both farms and ranches, without ever even having to drive out to the field. Instead, they could keep an eye on everything from the air conditioned comfort of their home or office. The same goes for fertilizer application and other real-world tasks. This would boost farm efficiency and help drive down costs by eliminating the need for costly, in person oversight work.

Why Invest in Precision Agriculture?

Simply put, the agriculture industry is well behind the times when it comes to the use of technology. Farming is a very traditional industry that has functioned well for generations, producing enough food to keep up with demand while also providing a living for the farmers themselves.

But the growing world population and emerging risks of climate change are changing the math behind agriculture. Efficiency and scale are needed now like never before.

Enter the power of technology to help make this happen.

And it has created a growing market of providers at the same time. According to Grand View Research, the market for precision agriculture companies is expected to reach $10.23 billion by 2025, racking up a compound annual growth rate of more than 14% in that time.

Major factors driving this growth includes farm mechanization, rising labor costs, population, smart farming techniques, and government initiatives to adopt modern agricultural techniques.

Per Market and Markets: Precision farming is gaining tremendous popularity among farmers due to the increasing need for optimum crop production with limited available resources. Further, the changing weather patterns due to increasing global warming have impelled the adoption of advanced farming technologies to enhance farm productivity and crop yield. Precision farming has the potential to transform the agricultural sector, making traditional farming activity more efficient and predictable. Increasing global food demand, extended profitability and crop yield, and crop health monitoring for higher yield production are the major factors fueling the growth of the precision farming market. Also, government initiatives in many countries are helping farmers to use optimized agricultural and technological tools to improve their production levels.

How to Invest in Precision Agriculture

Of course, as an emerging and fast-growing sector, investing directly in precision agriculture companies can be risky and many are still private. A search on Magnifi suggests that there are a number of different ways for investors to get involved in precision agriculture without opening up their portfolios to undo concentrated risk in this new and growing industry.

Magnifi is changing the way we shop for investments, with the world’s first semantic search engine for finance that helps users discover, compare and buy investment products such as ETFs, mutual funds and stocks. Try it for yourself today.

This blog is sponsored by Magnifi. The information and data are as of the publish date unless otherwise noted and subject to change. This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individualized investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell securities tailored to your needs. This information covers investment and market activity, industry or sector trends, or other broad-based economic or market conditions and should not be construed as investment research or advice. Investors are urged to consult with their financial advisors before buying or selling any securities. Although certain information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy, completeness or fairness. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This content may not be reproduced or distributed to any person in whole or in part without the prior written consent of Magnifi. [As a technology company, Magnifi provides access to tools and will be compensated for providing such access. Magnifi does not provide broker-dealer, custodian, investment advice or related investment services.] 


solar energy

Solar Energy

As the 2010s drew to a close, a report published by the World Meteorological Association (WMO) issued the following stark assessment of the current global climate situation: “The year 2019 concludes a decade of exceptional global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels driven by greenhouse gases from human activities. Average temperatures for the five-year (2015-2019) and ten-year (2010-2019) periods are almost certain to be the highest on record. 2019 is on course to be the second or third warmest year on record.” 

The report outlines the increasingly frightening consequences of global climate change, including warming ocean temperatures, deepening droughts, and sweltering heatwaves. 

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas summed up the gravity of the situation: “If we do not take urgent climate action now, then we are heading for a temperature increase of more than 3°C by the end of the century, with ever more harmful impacts on human well-being.”

Urgent climate action involves moving away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. This transition has been underway for years, and though there are positive signs that things are perhaps beginning to move in the right direction (global carbon emissions are growing at a slower pace, for instance), it has not been enough to adequately address the overall increase in global energy demand. 

According to the Executive Summary of the UN’s recently published Emissions Gap Report 2019, “The summary findings are bleak. Countries collectively failed to stop the growth in global GHG emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required.” 

In order to achieve these critical emission cuts, renewable energy will need to replace fossil fuels as humanity’s primary energy source in the coming decade. One sector that has already made remarkable progress on this front, and that is poised for even greater progress in the coming decade, is that of solar energy. 

Solar energy has become a serious global energy contender over the past decade as solar technology has become more efficient and affordable. According to the UN, global solar capacity increased from 25 gigawatts in 2009 to 663 gigawatts in 2019. This increase in installed capacity was greater than any other generation technology, fossil fuel or otherwise, yet solar energy still has tremendous room for growth. 

In the U.S., for instance, solar energy accounted for only 1.6% of the total electricity budget in 2018, and all renewable energy sources combined accounted for 17% of the total. As policymakers and the public come to terms with the fact that rapid and dramatic cuts to carbon emissions need to be made to lessen the blow of climate change’s fury, the solar energy sector is extremely well-positioned to play a critical role in meeting the energy demand as renewable energy replaces fossil fuels.

For those interested in the investment potential of this rapidly-growing sector, there are a few important points to understand.

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is energy that is generated from the sun and converted into thermal or electrical energy

There are three primary ways to generate solar energy: photovoltaics, solar thermal, and concentrated solar power. 

  • Photovoltaics directly convert sunlight into electricity by harnessing the electrical current produced when semiconducting materials are exposed to sunlight. Solar panels on the roof of a home or in an array on a satellite are examples of photovoltaics. 
  • Solar thermal technology works by absorbing heat from sunlight and using it to warm air, water, or other materials. A roof-mounted solar water heater is an example of solar thermal technology. 
  • Concentrated solar power works by using mirrors spread over a large area to concentrate the sun’s rays to one small point in which water is heated to steam to drive a turbine. If you fly from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and look out your window as you head southwest, you will likely spot the intense glow of the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in the desert below you. The facility is one of the largest of its kind in the world, and according to the facility’s owner, BrightSource Energy, “the electricity generated by all three plants is enough to serve more than 140,000 homes in California during the peak hours of the day.”

Why Invest in Solar Energy?

The most compelling reason to invest in the solar energy sector comes down to the simple fact that renewable energy is actively replacing fossil fuels as the dominant global energy source. This replacement is likely to accelerate as energy demand increases and as the public demands a faster transition and a more significant commitment to clean energy. 

Solar is well-positioned to capitalize on the rapidly-changing energy landscape because the sector has undergone incredible innovation in recent years. 

One recent breakthrough in material science, for instance, boosted the maximum efficiency of a photovoltaic solar cell from 29% to 35%

Another breakthrough is the development of perovskite, a synthetically manufactured material that is more efficient and cheaper to produce than the silicon in traditional solar cells. Another key reason solar energy is well-positioned for the coming changes in the energy market is cost-competitiveness. 

According to a November 2019 piece in Bloomberg: “The levelized cost of any particular energy technology is the break-even price that companies investing in that technology need in order to see a competitive rate of return. In the case of both utility-scale solar and onshore wind power, this rate has dropped to about $40 per megawatt hour — which is lower than the cost of building new power plants that burn natural gas or coal. It’s even close to being competitive with the marginal costs of running the coal and nuclear plants we already have.”

According to market analysis by the International Energy Agency, global renewable energy capacity is expected to grow by 50% between 2019 and 2024, with solar photovoltaics accounting for almost 60% of the total expected growth. Private and public investments in solar energy are rapidly increasing, and the sector’s cost-competitiveness, combined with increased efficiency and the urgency of combating climate change, make solar energy a smart investment for the future.

How to Invest in Solar Energy

Given the volatility of the energy sector, however, investing directly in solar energy-related companies can be risky. A search on Magnifi suggests that there are a number of different ways for investors to get involved in solar without opening up their portfolios to undo concentrated risk in this new and growing sector.


 

Magnifi is changing the way we shop for investments, with the world’s first semantic search engine for finance that helps users discover, compare and buy investment products such as ETFs, mutual funds and stocks. Try it for yourself today.

This blog is sponsored by Magnifi. The information and data are as of the publish date unless otherwise noted and subject to change. This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individualized investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell securities tailored to your needs. This information covers investment and market activity, industry or sector trends, or other broad-based economic or market conditions and should not be construed as investment research or advice. Investors are urged to consult with their financial advisors before buying or selling any securities. Although certain information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy, completeness or fairness. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This content may not be reproduced or distributed to any person in whole or in part without the prior written consent of Magnifi. [As a technology company, Magnifi provides access to tools and will be compensated for providing such access. Magnifi does not provide broker-dealer, custodian, investment advice or related investment services.]