In a world filled with contaminated food outbreaks, low-quality fresh produce at the grocery stores and an emerging class of sustainable producers, the time to improve fresh food logistics is now upon us.
That’s why innovative and award-winning minds at Infratab Inc., incorporated in 2002 and headquartered in Oxnard, California, have spent years researching how to keep food fresh from field to consumer. The company offers small farmers, produce truck fleet owners and farmers’ markets Freshtime, a perishable food monitoring system at an affordable price.
It all started with a Facebook post.
Nick Papadopoulos was working as acting general manager of Bloomfield Farms, his wife’s parents’ 45-acre organic vegetable farm located in Northern California. One day, he found himself alone in the cooler after a farmer’s market, sipping on a beer and observing all of the unsold food that would soon become part of the farm’s chicken feed and compost bins.
Suddenly, he had an idea. Instead of giving premium organic produce to the chickens, why not give it to hungry people? So, he went online to Facebook and started typing. The original Facebook post offering leftover produce that started the cropsourcing website known as CropMobster can still be seen on the site today.
What if you had access to a fresh farmers market seven days a week, knew exactly what they would be offering so that you can plan your meals, were able to contact your preferred vendors with a shopping list and could pay for everything in advance, with your fresh veggies being delivered directly to your door?
That’s exactly what Antony Lee, founder and CEO of Fresh Nation, has put together.
“The idea was to build a network of farmers markets across the country so that it’s a win for the vendors and a win for the customers,” Lee said. “We don’t necessarily need more farmers markets, we need better farmers markets.”
In a $670 billion wholesale food industry cycle that serves some 312 million people across the nation, commercial food retailers are generally at the mercy of large food distributors like Sysco and U.S. Foods. Those are the behemoth companies that have access to all the food suppliers – from farm produce to factory-farmed meat – and maintain their inventories with a distinct lack of vendor and pricing transparency for buying customers.
Enter Foodem, a start-up online trading, business intelligence and process automator that connects wholesale food buyers (restaurants, hospitals, prisons, universities, governmental institutions) with a range of food suppliers, in a platform that allows free comparison shopping, automated analytics (keeps track of trends and price fluctuations) and a vast array of new food sources to expand buyers’ free market choices.
Nowadays, there seems to be at least one hackathon per hacker. Even in the notoriously tech-adverse sustainable agriculture world, we’ve seen events ranging from the software-focused Hacking for Good (Food) to the policy-oriented Farm Bill Hack to the National Young Farmer’s Coalition’s Farm Hack, which adapts commonplace farm equipment to innovative uses. Yet, there are still plenty of food chain issues that could use innovative approaches.
This past weekend, Stanford University hosted the Hack//Meat SF, the second of a series of meat supply chain hackathons organized by New York-based Food+Tech Connect. The event brought together in excess of 150 coders, ranchers, chefs, and designers to create better solutions for the meat supply chain over a rainy weekend, a particularly tough challenge in light of the complexity of the issues involved.
Paul Trudeau, owner of Southside Aquaponic Farm (SAF), founded his small, farming operation in Sacramento, Calif., in 2009. Although Trudeau’s aquaponic farm began as a hobby, the farm has since grown into a business endeavor and now serves Mulvaney’s Building & Loan, a Sacramento, Calif., restaurant.
The Learning Process
In the beginning, Trudeau scoured the Internet to find information and resources on how to start a small-scale aquaponic farm on his own. He found a lot of information and became involved with other people in the Sacramento area who worked with aquaponics. The learning process also included a lot of help from aquaponics organizations.
It’s 5 pm on Thursday, milk is running low, and the kids polished off the last of the peanut butter the night before. Working parents everywhere, stuck in traffic, are scrounging for a healthy dinner.
Enter Door to Door Organics, an online organic grocery retailer that delivers fresh, organic groceries at a competitive cost with traditional brick-and-mortar grocers.
The company, which was founded by David Gersenson in 2004 in his 300 square-foot Boulder, Colorado garage, now serves 9 states, operating out of five centralized hubs in Colorado, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Missouri.
CSA’s have taken the leap into the 21st century. Community Supported Agriculture has for years been the refuge of the urban food-conscious looking for reliable, locally-sourced whole food. But small-scale operations can’t always reach a critical mass and some people can’t always take advantage of Farmers Markets. Enter Azoti.
Developed by tech entrepreneur David Ranallo, Azoti provides the internet platform that efficiently connects local farmers with local companies – and all of their employees – for quick distribution of fresh, sustainably-raised food, to a populace hungry for healthier choices.
“We need to de-commoditize food,” Ranallo said. “Azoti can help farmers with marketing, manage wellness programs for employers and fill orders for customers all at once. And when we can help farmers forecast demand, we’ll see cheaper Farmers Market-quality food.”