Sunday, March 20, 2011

Technology for Locavores...

I'm one of those geeky MBAs that is interesting in topics such as channels of distribution, the "supply chain" or, in plain English, how things, especially fresh and local food, get to market. Also, I love technology and the internet. So, I am delighted to read that a company I'm familiar with and been trying to get to the East Coast, Ecotrust's FoodHub, made Fast Company Magazine's "Top 10 Innovative Food Companies" Listing. FoodHub is number 5 on the food listing and 50 overall and in the company of companies large and small working to improve food and food production:  PepsiCo, which is working hard on its nutrition research to reduce the calories/fat/sugar from its snacks and Brooklyn's Madecasse sustainable and fair trade chocolate sourced from one of the world's poorest countries, and relatively new to New York Trader Joe's.

I had the pleasure of meeting Ecotrust's Deborah Kane last year at the 2010 International Association of Culinary Professionals annual conference in Portland, Oregon and hearing about the then recent launch of FoodHub at The Culinary Trust's (I'm on the board of trustees) "Urban Food and Farm Mini-Symposium".

Portland's FoodHub Makes Fast Company's Top 10 Innovative Food Companies Listing
05 / Foodhub
For creating an online tool to connect local food producers to food buyers big and small. Think of FoodHub as the for the locavore movement. Wholesale food buyers log on to access thousands of small and regional producers, as well as info on varietals sold, minimum orders, insurance, and delivery options. Launched by environmental not-for-profit Ecotrust, FoodHub has already signed on hundreds of Portland restaurants, grocery stores, and businesses and expanded to neighboring states.

Coincidently, this week, I heard from a young technology guru out of Austin, Texas, Derek Singleton, of Software Advice and who is working on a variety of technology solutions to connect growers, producers retailers and consumers.

Singleton wrote on article, "Regional Food Hubs Have a Growing Need for Technology", explaining a few of the options available to folks that need to address local food and supply chain issues. The article looks at three technologies: Internet-based buying clubs, online match making programs (he mentions Ecotrust's FoodHub), and food distribution software. It is an interesting piece for anyone who wants to improve the efficiency of food hubs and scale up local production.

Here's an excerpt..
"Most food hubs are decidedly behind the curve technologically. Transactions are usually coordinated through a combination of phone, email, and fax. Everything from scheduling pickups and drop-offs to planning routes is handled in this manner. Managing transactions like this may be feasible for the moment, but it won’t work as food hubs expand. To effectively manage relationships with more customers and farmers, they’ll need more advanced technology. This will range from Internet databases for managing customers relationships to distribution software to manage logistics."

1 comment:

Anthony Nicalo said...

While many industries have been fundamentally transformed by the internet, food is still ripe for disruption. Now that technology is advancing to the point that there is little distinction between offline and online, we will soon see massive changes.

Danielle Gould at FoodTechConnect is doing great work to highlight the people and organizations bringing technology to our food system.