The Importance of Digital Food Markets
Bowling Green, Ky (June 30) - For most Americans, nearly any food product imaginable is conveniently available just a short trip down the road. We rarely think about what it took to get basic vegetables or exotic fruits to the stand for our weekly selections. And most of us don’t recognize that what we see on those stands is only a portion of what left the field. The reality is there is a loss of product at every stage of the supply chain.
Connectivity and technology play a major role in decreasing food waste. Technology is being leveraged to get more products to consumers, which has a far greater impact than anyone realizes when they pick that perfect watermelon or the tomatoes for grandma’s pasta sauce.
The USDA estimates that between 30-40 percent of the food supply ends up as waste. This is food that could have gone to help feed families in need, and it’s a huge economic problem as it represents wasted land, water, labor, energy, and other resources.
Ordering food products isn’t exactly a new concept, and neither is delivery of those products: Milk used to be delivered to the doorstep, and services like Schwan’s have been delivering frozen goods for a long time. But the idea of receiving fresh products delivered is a relatively new concept for a large portion of our population.
Technology has begun to provide new mechanisms for how we receive our food. The advent of fresh food delivery through the web or app-enabled ordering reintroduced our modern culture to the idea of receiving groceries at our door. These offerings were initially a premium service and often based on a subscription — and many still are, offering pre-packaged ingredients and recipes for specific meals. Services like blueapron.com, hellofresh.com, and homechef.com are just a small sample of these services.
Services like imperfectfoods.com and misfitmarket.com are selling direct to your door through online tools to help get less-than-perfect produce and food products to the market instead of landfills. These services get consumers the products they need while helping cut the amount of waste that exists in the supply chain in a couple of ways. It cuts the number of stops in the supply chain by delivering directly to the consumer, and it utilizes products that would have likely ended up as waste.
The most recent wave of innovation is starting to offer new opportunities to small growers, who traditionally sell products at farmers markets and roadside stands. Sites like Market Wagon (marketwagon.com) are allowing these growers the ability to sell their products to larger geographic areas while still being able to focus on cultivating quality small-scale products. Consumers order their food from the online “farmers market,” buying from a large number of local producers whose products are distributed through Market Wagon’s regional networks.
Software solutions like Farmigo (farmigo.com) are allowing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs to go online, enabling farmers to better manage their programs and build a stronger community among their customers. CSAs are essentially a subscription to the local market-farm, where consumers are able to get produce on a scheduled timeframe. Tools like Farmigo enhance the general management of these programs and provide tools for the producer to better interact with customers.
As producers further embrace connectivity and technology, consumers will continue to benefit. We’ll have expanded and more affordable access to local produce, along with more efficient means of accessing products.
Big picture: Technology is making food production more efficient while reducing waste — and ultimately helping provide fresh food to those who struggle with hunger.
About the Author: Wes Kerr is the Connected Nation Director of Community Solutions. He helps ensure the implementation of Technology Action Plans developed for communities through Connected Nation’s Connected Community Engagement Program (Connectedsm) and works closely with clients and stakeholders to provide solutions that will help them meet their technology goals.