How Green is a Boatload of Square Bananas?

by Maarten Oosten on October 12th, 2009

This morning I managed to get an early morning run in, made possible by the two hour time lag between San Diego and home. A great opportunity to reflect on the conference and take in some of the San Diego scenery at the same time. San Diego sure is a nice city with some beautiful vistas. One minor glitch in the views that finally emerged (it is still pitch dark at 6AM) was a huge ship with apparently a boatload of bananas, going by the logo on the containers. I was trying to get my head around how many bananas we were looking at here and how many more bananas we could be looking at if only bananas were square or at least rectangular. The latter thought is inspired by the last slide of the Keynote presentation of Charles Cantor yesterday: ‘More Mathematics in the Future of Biotechnology’.

Although biotechnology is very different from the field of OR I am trying to make a living with, Charles’ presentation was very enjoyable and it was easy to relate to the problems he was describing.  In particular the challenges around gathering information on chromosomes by inference from a huge amount of data by looking at different ratios and patterns was very recognizable. This, even though chromosomes never come up in discussions with my customers. The last slide was a picture of a square water melon, a picture that hit home the impact that OR can have on our everyday life.

This picture leads to much more food for thought. To give a couple of examples: How much more efficient could the supply chain for bananas be if only they were square? And would you market square bananas as greener than regular bananas because the supply chain is more energy efficient? How would you price square bananas differently from regular bananas? Clearly there is plenty more work for OR specialists left to do.

From Conference Blog Post

1 Comment
  1. Matt Saltzman permalink

    Bananas, wrapped in plastic, with supply chain implications:

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