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.