Cognitive Blockchain?? An Agriculture sector perspective!

–          By Sairam Bollapragada and Rajesh Mohandas

In today’s hyper-connected world which is driven by hyper-dependent technology landscape, black swan effects are necessarily increasing as a result of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity in the given globalization scenario. There is recognition that the demand (crisis?) in food security is only going up. Trust is becoming more a mandate than an option, especially for this sector that focus on “Farm to Fork” while already battling Drought, Emerging crop diseases, Pest resistance to chemicals and genetic traits, Phosphorous mines depleting, Salty soils, Fertilizer dependence and growing influence of anti-science forces.

A bigger threat faced by this $5 trillion sector representing 15% of global consumer spend, 40% employment and 30% greenhouse emission, is the “agro-terrorism” too. In the United States alone, crop and forest production losses from invasive insects and pathogens have been estimated at almost US$40 billion per year.

Hence the need for a “TRUST PROTOCOL” and a ledger of everything to establish transparency and traceability to the sources assisted by cognitive systems, to address the ever increasing concern of providing necessary quality and safe nutrition for a growing population. To accomplish the growing need, the food production should increase by 70% from the current levels (at near zero wastage) and one potential solution to the rescue could be the intelligence driven Blockchain (Cognitive Blockchain?)

This kind of Blockchain can create techniques for  upfront detection of malicious agents in the autonomous AI dominated supply chain. It brings in “Consensus” and “Persistent” algorithms rendering multi-agent Cognitive Connected Solutions into an evolving self-organized structure capable to overcome Data Oligopoly. Let us look at few sample applications:

  1. Transparency related issue resolution:
    1. Fund allocation by Government or private agencies to farmers in developing nations do not reach the intended farmers in time due to various reasons and leads to farmer’s bad debts. Usage of Blockchain based digital tokens as currency can come to the rescue of this scenario where bitcoin-enabled farmers can transact for fertilizers, seeds, and other necessities with least probabilities of being misused or imitated, ensuring the right usage of allocated funds creating maximum needed impact. Furthermore the AI Algorithms can add predictive features to enable the agencies to take proactive measures and plan for the future budgetary allocations.
    2. The above can also be used to stall the misuse of land documents by middleman or land-sharks standing in for the farmers. Blockchain can help create immutable land titles to prove the ownership and insure the farmers from the widespread corruption through the trust and transparency driven by Blockchain. The cognitive techniques can further aid in fighting fraud detection, money laundering, counterfeit currency, etc.
  1. Brokerage Avoidance:

High insurance premiums paid by farmers is a wide known issue, where majority of the play is by the middlemen. Cognitive Blockchain solutions, can help eliminate the middlemen and add the required intelligence where the CPQ algorithms will help farmers configure the insurance plans and opt the lowest premium for their crop produce, avoiding the brokerage/processing fee involved ensuring their premiums are actually paid in time.

In addition, such solutions will help insurance companies to better understand a farmer’s risk profile by predictive modeling, estimated profitability bettering their credit history and making them more creditworthy.

  1. Supply Chain to Demand Chain:

With AI, ML and analytics, the behavior of both the buyer and seller is seeing a change. Blockchain makes it even more interesting with Cognitive demand forecasting. As the appetite to handle more data goes up, the number of input sources and players participating in the demand forecasting will increase. With intelligent Blockchain solutions, one can not only keep track of the transactions and contractual obligations with suppliers and other stakeholders, but also gain visibility into the demand-supply scenarios. The farmers can run queuing algorithms and thus proactively route the supply to predictively meet the right demand in right time, making the shift to the supply chain as demand chain.

  1. The Food Security factor:

Forbes reports that a study conducted at WALLMART that took 6 days and 18+ hours to trace the source of a Mango carton, was completed in less than 3 seconds with Blockchain. Described by the Economist as “the trust machine”, blockchains can provide supply chain transparency and data integrity, allowing a visible assurance of authenticity and assist fighting food fraud, especially, the organic food fraudulent labeling that is becoming prevalent today.

If leveraged effectively, Cognitive Blockchain can play a very critical role in accomplishing the target of safe, quality nutrition needs of 9.6 billion population by 2050!!


VUCA in Digital Manufacturing

By Sairam Bollapragada Sairam & Rajesh Mohandas

In our first part of this series Digital in a VUCA World we walked thru various facets of Digital being impacted, the first paper was domain agnostic and we will today focus on the impact of VUCA on DIGITAL MANUFACTURING!


Manufacturing roughly contributes to 1/3rd of the global GDP as per the world bank figures and approximately 10% of the global workforce is directly employed by manufacturing companies. The “Multiplier Effect” brings in nearly 37% of the entire global workforce is indirectly connected with manufacturing sector as per the Forbes. Compared to that of discrete manufacturing there is more technology penetration and today the emergence of Digital and Adaptive manufacturing has clearly redefined this prone-to-be disrupted sector, adding predictability, efficiency, effectiveness and above all cost optimization with improved productivity as challenges.


VUCA conflates four distinct types of challenges that demand four distinct types of responses; the need of the hour for companies during an economic downturn is business developers and not problem solvers or better a combination of the two.


Along with VUCA came the concept of working world 4.0. Derived from industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution, it names its immense and rapidly spreading impacts on many areas of work and life. It changes the way we communicate, get and read information and prepare decisions. The special feature of Industry 4.0 is networked manufacturing, i.e. the further development of digitisation through emerging technologies…


ART OF THE POSSIBLE in the VUCA world for manufacturing sectors leveraging Digital …


Volatility: The Manufacturers are increasingly becoming aware of the fact that to alter their manufacturing strategies face the raising volatility. One has to firstly understand the volatility exposure and assess how agile are internal business processes, the business operations and at least 75% knowledge about the customers customer in all three B2B, B2C and C2C markets.


Manufacturers are under constant pressure of continuously improving QPM, especially in the fluctuating market demand irrespective of the magnitude. One bad product and the digital reach being so large and quick, it can dent your credibility.


Big Data with Predictive analytics and bots leveraging machine-learning algorithms will bring in mechanisms to tackle volatility and hence automate a large chunk of the manufacturing process.


Uncertainty: The manufacturing sector has lived thru multiple uncertain eras and has indeed mastered the art of change management, in the digital world the same can be replicated with “USE-PREPARE-FOCUS-FIND” cycle


  • USE : use Data: Knowledge – Process – Technology, to arrive at strong data analytics platforms to predict and handle uncertainty. Data lakes can help drive multiple inferences and leverage on historical information. The shift to Virtual prototyping, IoT based surface modelling QAC, Sheet metal design, CAPP, AR based marketing, process simulation, are all areas that need to be understood well.


  • PREPARE: be well prepared to tackle situations raising out of events unknown, with digital technology like cognitive computing, neural networks, artificial intelligence algorithms etc. to speed up effective decision making capabilities with a “First – to – Market” objective. Prepare well to use tools like SAMCEF, NASTRAN, ABAQUS (to name a few), etc. for FEA, embedded M2M based information analytics, Connected Device Platforms (CDP), AEP, etc. You need to move fast and as much to Intelligent Manufacturing.


  • FOCUS: The market is shifting towards customer specific demand fulfilment, hence analytics, cognitive computing and plethora of such tools available can help you focus on very specialized “M2C – Manufacturer to Customer” markets – hence the agility and reach. Continuously focus to improve the PLM, from conception to service and disposal.
  • FIND: the digital marketing and media provides platforms for very fast feedback which can be leveraged catalytically to improve the products and build variants, thus maximizing footprint.


Complexity: Looking the way Digital Manufacturing is being challenged, the four influencing factors are:

  1. optimized resource usage,
  2. shortened lead times,
  3. personalized fit-to-purpose manufacturing,
  4. increased (squeezed?) productivity



The complexity in the Digital Manufacturing space is predominantly, due to the fact, that manufacturing is shifting focus from pure play product philosophy to Product & Services philosophy. Hence, the challenge shifts to balancing maintenance with production.



Haze in vision to the roadmap on how technologies can better your product or services can be a killer. You need to have a dynamic strategy which keeps refreshing its goals every 6 months to a year. 64% of the leadership time is being spent on articulating shared vision as per a CII-EY report.


Any organization unclear of the path it wants to tread to embrace technological advances to transform itself, will not be kindly treated by the market demands and especially in Manufacturing segment. In fact, the Industry 4.0 is exactly about that. 27% of the so-called $19 Trillion Digital economy is due to the manufacturing sector.  Hence in this ambiguity (though not a choice anymore), crafting out leadership opportunities can be indeed be an opportunity.



Manufacturers, with so much at stake, simply can chose either to run the race or to become legacy as they are challenged every day to the field by new and modern entrepreneurs who are coming up with some very interesting and disruptive innovations continuously shifting the co-ordinates to newer business parameters. The VUCA in DM is all of that – to be strategized and attacked in a truly multi-pronged approach.


VUCA in the Digital world!!

VUCA in the Digital world!!

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

Across the globe, all are now connected in unprecedented ways. This is both a boon and a bane, where we live in an era that is transforming and setting stage for the next revolution. Times when we were disconnected and every country operated in silo the challenges were limited to the internal affairs and the near border conflicts only.

With technological advances where today we look at a bright and secured future on one hand, on the other hand the unrest continues and is growing bigger day by day, conflicts, civil unrest, terrorism, ransom ware, cyber crimes, etc… are now integrated into our daily life.

The digital reality is shaking up some of the beliefs and compelling us to move to a more knowledgeable IT economy what with automation and AI which were limited to books, have finally come to the open challenging how that can transform every space of the life. Soon all white-space is expected to be filled with cognitive behavior and techniques. Automation is forcing re-wiring of skills for many of the IT workforce (read : ) spelling end of the careers if not done.

Hence one can relate to the 4 key parameters of VUCA : Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Each of these factors are challenging the order of the day stuff and hence the need to cope with the same in the turbulent times.

The compounded problem statement with external influencing factors from market pressures, competition, shareholder expectations, stakeholders, are strong indicators, to the fact that the leaders will need to be hard wired to resilience.

The role of the leaders managing workforce, will be crucial and critical in shaping the digital future of any organization.  Most of the requirements to support a digital environment are not about the technology per se, but it is also about creating the environment to re-skill, create flexibility to be agile, adopt to changing demands, and groom the right talent for a safe digital future.

Let’s take each of the parameter at a time to see what it means in Digital world:

(V) Volatility: The nature and Dynamics of change that is blowing across the landscape mandates catalysts to adopt to these changes. The legacy of efficiency and productivity will no longer continued business anymore. Disruptive innovations are indeed unsettling dominant industries in today’s world. Hence the times call for compulsive innovation and a drift away from SOPs.

U (Uncertainity): This is a factor which reflects the lack of predictability and many surprises. Another indicator of this is the refusal of the current technology wave to move easily beyond the labs. The ever-experimenting mind-set is also reflecting that the solutions themselves are prone to obsolescence, from the very moment they are conceived with high degree of unpredictability.

( C)Complexity:  Multiple parameters built into the character of the issue spells complexity – be it chaos or confusion-led issues.

Complexity can also reflect multiple influencing factors which can unsettle easily. Complexity is good or bad depending on your strategy. Having a bullet proof strategy is impossible – nevertheless one should have a solid strategy to counter complexities and challenge the same.  Even if it comes with short expiry date (2 years) you should have one.

Digital space is getting more and more complex with each passing day rolling out a new platform, new innovations coming to light, new solutions offered, disruptive models coming to life, etc. Hence to deal with all these changes, a strategy for managing this change is mandatory and thus the

(A)Ambiguity : The fact that we only know 40% of how technology will fold into the lives and markets as an influencer, is a true reflection of haze in the Digital space. This then raises the question of business risk, which is quite a reality today.

At various levels of an organization, there are ambiguities relating to progression and growth, whether at organization level or career levels of professionals.  Except for the lexical meaning of the Strategic and Tactical approaches, the lines are thinning out.

Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity will continue to exist but what leaders today can do is to play a vital role and attempt to control the levers by moving in to a Hyperawareness zone of informed decision-making, and fast execution. Winning in the Digital Vortex is not just about algorithms, architectures or innovative business models; it requires organizational change and workforce transformation. And successful transformation is enabled by a company’s digital business agility, building on the fact that people are an organization’s most important asset. Hence, everybody is but compelled to think on the forward thinking strategies to adopt to the Digital VUCA scenarios….