Seedstock Digest: Local Food Systems Friday
July 15, 2011 | seedstock
To celebrate the onset of the weekend and the inevitable Saturday or Sunday trip to the local farmers market to stock up on sustainably farmed produce for the week, today’s digest features profiles on some of the local food software system companies out there in the marketplace that are working to develop tools to help small – midsize sustainable farmers grow their operations beyond the farmers market in order to maintain financial sustainability.
Local Orbit, an Ann Arbor, MI-based tech startup that facilitates the distribution of local, sustainably farmed food, is the brainchild of Erika Block, a trained playwright, theater director and technology consultant whose interest in food systems traces it roots to a performance art piece that never was called A History of Eating.
Local Dirt is a site for suitors. However, instead of matching up locals who are looking for love, it matches up anyone who loves to eat local food with the farmers who are willing to feed them. The service is grounded in research that shows that given the choice people would prefer to eat food grown in their own community (even more than they would prefer to eat organic). And it is driven by the desire to help small farmers market their products without having to rely on the kindness of supermarket chains.
Software that provides local sustainable farmers with the ability to supply their products to larger customers such as food hubs or institutions has the potential to play an outsize role in delivering healthier, sustainably grown food to a wider pool of consumers. One company at the forefront of software development for the local food sector is Philadelphia, PA-based software startup Local Food Systems.
To continue to grow and expand the local food marketplace will require innovative web-based solutions that provide consumers with greater access to producers and vice versa. One company at the forefront in this area is Santa Cruz, CA-based LocalHarvest, which since its formation in 1998 has focused on the development of a range of online products to strengthen consumers’ personal relationships not only with the food that they consume, but also with the sustainable farmers who produce it.
About three years ago Benzi Ronen launched Farmigo, a technology startup that develops software that allows organic farmers to more efficiently manage their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and Farm Direct sales operations. “The internet’s done a fantastic job of enabling businesses to go direct to the consumer and basically cut out all of the middlemen” said Ronen. “Then, I saw the CSA model and how that’s exactly what they were doing by going directly to the consumer.”