This project arises in direct response to a monopolised food system which sees
- money in the pockets of shareholders rather than farmers
- little transparency about farming practices and land management
- less choice and access to affordable healthy food for eaters; and
- the disempowerment of farmers, distributors and eaters to the detriment of our environment
Many people in Melbourne would like to buy and eat food that’s good for our health, our families and the world – and pay farmers fairly for the work that they do. Yet this is currently not always easy or convenient to do. Our food supply systems are dominated by large companies (e.g. Coles, Woolworths) whose interests are not sustainability, equity or the wellbeing of farming communities.
With a team of passionate volunteers (and some bits of paid development), we are currently working hard on an online marketplace for local food (working name the “Open Food Web”) – to make it really easy for farmers, local businesses and eaters to connect and trade.
By developing and using new tools that make it easier to connect and trade with local farmers and to organise distribution, we’re aiming to make it much easier to start and run viable local food enterprises (e.g. coops, box schemes, food hubs etc). Everything we are doing is free and open source so that others can help develop, build and use.
The trading platform we’re working on facilitates an open marketplace and supply network for food, where eaters can “know their farmers” (where they are, how they farm, exactly what price they get) while still having wide choice and the ease and convenience of local pick-up and access. It recognises the fundamental importance of not just the farmers and the eaters but also the ethical and diverse businesses that provide the services in between. It is premised on transparency of supply chain information and provides the integrated benefits of e-commerce, information sharing, and collaborative networking.
This platform is the first product of the not-for-profit Open Food Web Foundation (recently established), which has been set up to accumulate and protect a commons of open source knowledge, code, applications and platforms to support the proliferation of fair and sustainable food systems.
We seek fair reward and respect for farmers; affordable, good food for everyone and strong market incentives for farming practices that regenerate soil, water and ecosystems.
The duopoly that wields huge control in the food supply chain (and is not your friend or your farmer’s friend) would be a thing of the past! The food economy would be made up of many diverse and ethical businesses from production right through to eating. Part of this landscape would be new regional and local/neighborhood “food hubs” transparently facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution and/or marketing of locally and regionally produced food. There would be more and younger farmers and they would be happy, enjoying greater respect and renewed status in the broader community.
Our proof of concept prototype works but it’s not easy enough to use - we need help to redesign the user experience to reach a much broader and different specific audiences. This is also related to significant branding issues.
We also have a BIG backlog of development requirements and would love a couple of extra Ruby on Rails developers to get involved. We could also seriously use some software development expertise to help us work out the ‘big picture’ requirements (including interfaces with complementary platforms and projects) at the same time as we’re working up from this basic prototype.
Underpinning all this is ongoing work on business models, with lots of different players and opportunities in the picture, being able to clarify who deals with who and how is an ongoing adventure.
We need help with this crucial stage before we can “launch” as the basis for a more significant funding strategy.