Here’s an update on one of the companies featured in Outside Innovation.
CohesiveFT is a software company. Their products are digital. But I
believe that some of the patterns we’re seeing as customers create
their own digital products hold up well for physical products or for
hybrid physical/service products.
In fact, I’m writing this post from St. Louis, the center of the Bio-Belt, where the products that are sold—seed for growing corn, soybeans, fruits, and vegetables—are designed and packaged in ways that are surprisingly similar to today’s hardware and software. As Monsanto's CIO, Mark Showers, explained to me, what’s going on in bio-agriculture is that there’s an increasing split between the hardware (the seed or germ plasm) and the software (the traits) of a plant. Advanced bio-technology has made it possible to optimize the traits at each layer of the seed stack (below ground/roots; ground-level/weeds and pests; above ground/leaves, flowers, fruit). In fact, today’s hybrids come in triple-stacks—soon there will be 4 to 6 stacks—of optimized traits. Farmers select the traits they need in their seeds based on the soil conditions, pest patterns, weather patterns, and their expectations of what the growing season will hold. (Then they hedge their bets through commodities trading where they make their real money!) While farmers don’t CONFIGURE the optimal seed traits at each layer today (that’s done in the lab and on the manufacturing farms), they do SELECT seeds with optimal traits at each layer for different sections of their farmland. It’s a very sophisticated and complex set of choices. Much of the value of the seed resides in the intellectual property involved in optimizing each layer of the stack for the precise conditions required and in the ability to mix and match these traits to meet the particular requirements of a particular strip of farmland in a given micro-climate. Companies license the intellectual property—the traits—to one another.