The Local Food Startup Challenge – Applications Closed!

Local Food Startup Challenge - Applications Closed

Amazing buzz over at Bucky Box HQ this week after closing applications for The Local Food Startup Challenge which we launched in February.

 

We had a moment to pause and think about what this experiment has started. We really only began with the plan to offer the challenge in Australasia to see what reception it got over here. Pretty soon after launching, we were getting enquiries from all over the world from people keen to start a local food enterprise – we don’t like to disappoint people, so with a stripped back offering we made it available globally.

 

Since then we’ve been asked to do an online teaching series, worked with StartSomeGood to run a couple of crowdfunding webinars, spoken to a bunch of partners, and the most important thing – enabled a host of people to start their dream, and launch local food enterprises. And there’s more plans in the pipeline!

 

In visual terms, The Local Food Startup Challenge looks a little something like this:

  

↪ Share this Infographic ↩

 

But The Local Food Startup Challenge isn’t over yet!! It’s now time to kick into a higher gear and take all the goodies from the challenge to ramp up your business idea into a reality.

 

Are you one of the Local Food Startup challengers? Have you started delivering produce yet? If not, what’s blocking you?

 

 

Trends for 2013 for the Local Food Movement

Bucky Box brings you top 5 tips for trends in Local Food in 2013

Where are the big trends of 2012 going to lead the local food movement in 2013?

 

TWEET THESE TRENDS

 

It takes a lot of research and conversations to fine tune software for the local food movement, so we’ve spent much of the past year doing just that – in the course of our endeavours we have probably spoken with over 300 food distributors, a plethora of small farmers, a large number of business people & academics looking at food systems, and read one or two articles about where the food movement has come from and is headed. So here’s our thoughts on the spaces to watch in 2013.

 

Big Data 

The rise of the internet, smartphones, tablets, and affordable technology around the world has meant that we are producing more data on our lives and all the elements which make up our society, culture and environment than ever before. In fact 90% of the world’s data was created in the last 2 years. [tweet this]

 

What does this mean? With much richer background data, analysis could reap some huge rewards in terms of insights for the local food movement.

 

Generating data on food purchases, prices, food source, distance travelled, and consumer purchasing decisions, among other things, could yield some interesting insights. What would you want to know?

 

Platforms like Sustaination, Real Time Farms, and Local Harvest are all taking advantage of the ability to quickly and easily map food enterprises – imagine if they were also then capturing what was happening at those enterprises, and opening the data for other people to work with. Thanks to innovative Kiwi company Conscious Consumers, we may soon have rich consumer purchase data thanks to a mobile app they’re soon to release. There’s also data being collected increasingly by organisations such as Grameen Bank on agriculture & food projects they’re involved in which are building the picture of the food system in developing nations.

 

Transparency & Traceability

There’s rising distaste amongst consumers for the industrial food menu. Whilst fats, sugars & salts have become the staple fare on our supermarket shelves over the last 30 years, so we have seen corresponding rises in the level of health problems around the world.

 

Consumers are increasingly aware that we cannot trust big corporates to have our best interests at heart (instead of just having an eye on the rising profits), and are taking matters into our own hands as technology begins to answer the challenge by raising the levels of transparency & traceability of our food – a trend which is also highlighted by Forbes. Traceability is also explained here in ICT in Agriculture.

 

Whatever your interests or ethics, most people at least want the choice to know what’s in their food and where it’s from [tweet this] (unless you’re part of the 51.5% of voters in California who voted ‘No’ to Prop 37 – amazing what $45m in TV advertising can do for big food!).  Traceability and transparency can deliver that information about where our food is from, how far it has travelled, how it is grown, produced & reared, and make sense of nutritional statistics to show us what the likely impact on our long term health would be should we eat it regularly – after all, a label which simply reads “Fresh” isn’t much help to anyone.

 

Mobile devices are bringing information to the fingertips at the point of purchase, so despite big corporate interests in our food system opting out of voluntary food labelling, there will be increasing demand from consumers for the information and everyone from tech companies to real food advocates to ensure people at least have the basic information to make informed decisions. As a food producer or farmer, this is an excellent opportunity to use the rise of awareness of consumers to keep food simple, clean, wholesome & nutritious and tell this story about your food to show the difference between yours and the processed, heavily treated/preserved food on the shelves of many supermarkets – it’s a recognised trend in the hospitality industry too.

 

Collaboration

Collaboration is the new black.

 

As pressures on our food system rise, we will be forced to do more with less. We face unprecedented challenges which require innovative, connected solutions, whether it’s the need for a shift to low energy agriculture, our rising global population, a health burden of rising obesity, hunger, malnutrition, wild weather events due to climate change, a global food waste scandal, the disappearance of the small farm, a missing generation of young farmers coming through, or losing the quality of our soils, our water & our air.

 

Whilst the trend for household spending on food is decreasing across developed nations, there is a rising willingness in hundreds of thousands of people to create a better food system by bringing traditionally divergent actors in our food system together to work more closely.

 

Traditionally software developers, graphic designers and farmers haven’t had a huge amount to do with one another, but now with projects such as Food+Tech Connect’s “Hack Meat” project, or Forum for the Future’s Wired4Food series they’re increasingly getting together in cross-sectoral collaborations and ‘hackathons’ to address issues which only multi-lens approaches and skill sets can solve. This is a symptom of wider collaborative approaches by private, public and community sector organisations around the world, to tackle big challenges with fresh thinking such as Kiva’s efforts to take an holistic approach to aid, development and agriculture.

 

Designing for the 90%

The rise of social enterprise (that is: mission-driven businesses focused on social & environmental challenges) around the world shows the growing appetite to make meaningful change to the lives of all, not just improve the lives of the 10% of the world which controls 93% of the wealth [tweet this].

 

With quotes like “inequality anywhere is a threat to equality everywhere” ringing in our ears, individuals, social enterprises and even some progressive corporates are throwing off the shackles of thinking philanthropy-alone-will-save-the-world and embracing market-based solutions to create genuine long lasting & sustainable change. Projects such as South Africa’s Foodpods deliver entrepreneurship & small business training, as well as quality small-scale agriculture infrastructure for its franchisee’s. Or, take d.light’s solar lamps which were designed for the developing nations to improve health, education & provide the opportunity for additional income-generating opportunities in the extended hours of light in Atauro.

 

Design for the 90% is an exciting trend to the team at Bucky Box, as we view ourselves as part of the movement which is aiming to make our product affordable to developing nations through innovative GDP-adjusted pricing, as well as focusing the redistribution of 67% of our profits back into improving global food systems [tweet this].

 

Distribution

Most of the last 50 years have been spent improving yields and efficiencies in food production; despite some advancements we still have many challenges – increasing numbers of people hungry (1 billion), a drastic rise in obesity, food price hikes, a population disconnected from their food, and huge flow-on effects into our societies.

 

Recently, speaking with the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, we came to the conclusion that the global discussion about ‘Food Utopia’ will rapidly shift focus from Supply to Distribution [tweet this], and we believe the time is nigh in 2013.

 

The ideas that have been promulgated for the last 50 years by industrial food companies have led us to a fundamentally unsustainable food system where our reliance on oil means that we are putting 10 calories into our food system for every 1 calorie we get out. We’re losing the health of our soils due to chemical farming techniques, and whilst we’re growing enough food to feed 10 billion, we’re wasting 30% of it – something has to change soon.

 

 

2013 may herald the shift in focus from supply to distribution, and from centralised control of our food system, to decentralised food distribution through an advancement in technology, cultural education and willingness, and a rising awareness of the pressing environmental need to change the way we grow, distribute, consume & dispose of our food.

 

We see a more complex, yet more efficient future of food distribution, with a host of smaller distributors operating a variety of models – be they vege box schemes, community supported agriculture, corporate wellness programs, game-driven health schemes, or whatever other weird & wonderful ideas entrepreneurs put forth. Driven by new & improved enterprise-grade software to rival that of the industrial agriculture system – these entrepreneurial distributors will change the balance of power in our food system and ultimately, create a better food system for everyone.

 

We can see it coming, and we look forward to 2013 because of it.

 

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.
– Rumi

 

Tools for Local Food Distribution – designed for the other 90%

What would happen to food distribution if you provided enterprise-quality tools to the 90% of enterprises who can’t normally afford them?

[click to tweet this article]

 

Bucky Box designs for the other 90%

A little over a year ago, we posed ourselves that question. It was an interesting challenge – one of turning the problem that most local food distributors have on its head.

 

By now, most of us are aware that local food distribution has a glass ceiling – it’s about 70-80 deliveries per week where the admin burden really kicks in and stifles growth. [tweet this]

 

There’s just too much complexity to handle with spreadsheets and hacked together systems when you hit this number – you’re bound to start making errors – whether it’s making sure someone’s paid their bill, that one of the boxes should’ve had artichokes instead of carrots, or that Bob & Karen had just moved house. You know – that bit of information you scribbled on a sticky note and pinned to the wall?

 

So, the glass ceiling is really the automation of those labour intensive admin tasks – packing sheets, customer ledgers, delivery reconciliation and matching up payments.  Take away that glass ceiling, and we know that many local food schemes can grow, get more quality & healthy food to people, and be more profitable. We know this from the handful of schemes who have invested heavily in their technology and grown accordingly.

 

Back to the question – how can we change the game? How can we get more local food distribution businesses operating, serving different markets & communities, providing more demand for small farms & artisan producers? How can we shift the needle on the destructive nature of industrialised food systems? How can we bring back the food webs that existed pre-industrial food distribution? Lets call that our vision of the Food Web 2.0.

 

The answer is not simple, but it’s the challenge that we took on. It’s the challenge that we have spent well over a year working on in various forms, and it’s the challenge that we’ve got our first solution to. Bucky Box is about bringing those tools to the masses, to the other 90% – to anyone who wants to start up a food distribution business [tweet], whether it’s 20 people in their local office, 200 people at their local church, or 2000 people in their community. Simple to use. Affordable. Ready to go.

 

[click to tweet]

We’ve got some exciting news in the pipeline to get a little bit of a buzz going around Local Food distribution, as we genuinely believe decentalising food distribution is one of the most exciting challenges & opportunities in c21st. <- [tweet].

 

It’s the forefront of enabling regenerative agriculture, improving the health of ourselves and our communities, and of lifting people around the world out of poverty. <- [tweet]

 

If any of what we’ve said rings true, and you’re thinking about starting a local food enterprise, or doing what you already do – better, then drop by the Bucky Box – Software for Local Food website and sign up for a trial or just tweet us for a chat.

 

We’re looking forward to supporting you to create a better food system.

Tips for Local Food #4 : Leveraging Free & Low Cost Tools

As part of our series on Top Tips for Local Food Distribution, we’re diving a little deeper into each of the 5 tips we gave. This week is ‘Leveraging Free & Low Cost Tools. You can also read our guide to Social technology, Funding, or Giants!

More Tips for Local Food from Bucky Box - Leveraging Free & low Cost Tools

 

Have you ever tried to run a local food business armed only with a telephone, Microsoft Excel and email?

 

Many people around the world are still forging on down this path, but there’s a revolution happening around the internet which can make things easier, create more time to do the things that matter, and free you up from painful admin.

 

Core components of local food distribution mainly involve Ordering, Customer Accounts, Communications, Packing & Delivery Logistics, and Payment Reconciliation, so lets take a look at what’s out there that can help you do these things, better.

 

Ordering

It’s time to take your customer’s orders for the week! How do they make orders at the moment? Phone? Email? Facebook?

 

Well a shopping cart can be a good way to handle online ecommerce transactions, and there’s heaps of options. Of course, generally you will need to already have a website (which you could build through services like WordPress [free]), which you can then use a plugin for – just search WordPress Ecommerce, and you’ll find many options!  Or you can use a specialised ecommerce service like Shopify (paid service), which provides themes and payment options.  Most of these options will cost either a) ongoing hosting fee, b) upfront cost, or c) % on every transaction and/or monthly service fee.

 

You’d generally be able to expect an email when orders are made, or a spreadsheet of orders at the end of the day.  Some of these options are quite flexible to create a catalogue of products so for example, you may offer a Standard Vege Box, plus a list of extras – you should be able to do this, but most of the shopping carts are created for a ‘stock list’ of say 20 or 30 products which do not change regularly.

 

Customer Accounts

Managing your database of customers needs to be carefully done to ensure you don’t drop the ball!  Some people will be regular customers, some will be ‘inactive customers’, and some will be ‘potential customers’ who have expressed interest but not ordered yet.  You’ll likely have different tasks for each of these, so you’ll likely need a to-do list of actions too.

 

You might run a spreadsheet with all these names, contact details & orders against these people, but as we all know – spreadsheets can be fickle beasts – prone to human error (ever written over a cell and found a moment later that the Undo button wont work!?).

 

A customer relationship database might be another way to deal with this.  There’s some great tools like OnePageCRM (paid service) which are created as lite-Sales tools which could be adapted to house all those relationships and schedule reminders & follow ups, or there are a number of free options in the Mac App Store, or Google Chrome Marketplace.

 

You might also like a to-do list app which synchs across all your devices so you can keep track of things – take a look at Wunderlist (free), Trello (free) or Todoist (free).  These are great if you’re not tied to the desk all day – whether you’re out on the farm, rushing around suppliers or markets, or simply on your day off & want to run a couple of chores.

 

Communication

Well if you’re not in communication with your customers, you’re likely to be out of business pretty quickly.  There’s a proliferation of tools in this space now – we wrote a little about some of them (and how to use them) in our Get Social : Using Social Media tools for Local Food guide.

 

We would heartily recommend you’re using a suite of communications including:

  • – Phone or VOIP services – such as Skype (free or low cost)
  • – Email – you can’t go past Google Mail (free or low cost)
  • – Support Desk – if you want a simple & powerful helpdesk & knowledgebase, check out Uservoice (free or low cost)
  • – Social Networks – Twitter (free) is a great service for business-to-customer communication, and channel for storytelling & reaching out to new customers. Also a Facebook Page (free) is a great way to connect less formally with your customers, tell your story and share pictures of your products, customers & suppliers.

You can also check out our blog about finding new customers & Marketing guides, as well as our roundup of existing support & resources for local food.

 

Packing & Delivery Logistics

This is where things sometimes start to get tricky. It’s one thing taking all the orders, it’s another thing making sure they get to the right place at the right time, on the right day.

 

Unfortunately there’s not a lot of tools in this space which haven’t been developed for courier companies or logistics firms shipping products around the country.  There are systems like Delivery Biz Pro (paid-service), which seem angled a bit more at home delivery services, and we expect some more to arrive with the rise of Ebay, Etsy and the likes, but mostly those goods head out in the regular post services.

 

Of course you can use Google Maps (free) as a way to pinpoint where your deliveries are headed, but it’s not highly adaptive to delivery runs with multiple drop offs.

 

Payment Reconciliation

Headaches at 11pm at night trying to match up bank accounts with customer accounts? Hastily scribbled notes on delivery sheets not making sense at the end of the month? This is one of the areas we’ve heard the most frustration about.

 

Yes, there’s 101 online accounting services – being proud Kiwi’s, we’d point you in the direction of Xero (paid service) – we use them in fact, they’re ace, and we reckon they’re streets ahead of the competitors like MYOB (paid service). That said, we don’t think they really cut it for local food distributors when it comes to matching up multiple payments, with multiple customer accounts, on a weekly basis.

 

Of course, there is another option.  Bucky Box has gathered all these insights from hundreds of conversations with local food distributors around the world – and we’ve built our tools for a better food system with them in mind.  Bucky Box helps you with Ordering, Customer Accounts, Communications, Packing & Delivery Logistics, and Payment Reconciliation, all in one turn key solution.  Check out our website to sign up for a trial.

 

Production, Distribution & Waste – Challenging Industrial Agriculture

 

Recently we’ve heard the same old arguments being pumped out by industrial agriculture, especially in reaction to the droughts in the US.

 

The argument goes: “There’s almost 7 billion people on Earth, and there’s 1 billion hungry. We need more food to feed the world. We must intensify agriculture; bigger & better, and we’ve got the answer – we call it a Sustainable Agriculture”.  That ‘Sustainable Agriculture future’ is typically large-scale intensive agriculture, GMO, and more sophisticated ‘scientific’ farming methods.  Inevitably the cost of this agriculture is greater, and farmers must have all of the latest information, tools, machinery & chemicals to make it happen.  It also, coincidentally, means greater profits for the big boys of industrial agriculture (rather than farmers).

 

There’s an assumption in there that needs testing: “We need more food to feed the world”.  It’s so often taken as a given, but there significant research which suggests otherwise.

 

We grow enough food to feed 10 billion people already. Eric Holt-Giménez recently wrote a fantastic rebuttal of the industrial agriculture view on the future of food. The first part of his argument centres around the point that Hunger is not caused by scarcity, but by poverty – that is what needs to be tackled to feed the hungry people in the world, not more food.  It follows on to show that Industrial Ag Vs Natural Farming does not represent the gaps in yields that are constantly talked about by GMO advocates. The longest running study (Rodale Institute – 47 year study) shows that Organic farming has better yields & profits, whilst requiring lower energy inputs & causing lower greenhouse gas outputs.

 

We Already Grow Enough Food - Infographic - Challenging Industrial Agriculture

 

The UN have put out several studies on Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture which do not support the Industrial Ag spin. They don’t stand to create vast profits from their view, but they do expect to see greater advances in sustainable development & poverty alleviation through more agriculture shifting to small-scale agroecological production. There also are gains in climate resilience and energy reduction from adopting farming based on ecological systems.

 

A 2011 report on Food Waste by the Food & Agriculture Organisation (PDF) suggests 1/3 of global food production is wasted through the supply chain or pre/post consumption. This food waste infographic featured on Food+Tech Connect supports this argument, showing it’s as high as 40% in the US.

 

It’s clear to see there’s significant work that needs to be addressed on the Consumer side of things, but this also supports our assertion that a big change needs to happen upstream.  If food distribution were to change from the centralised, industrial model that accounts for 99% of our food system, to local food webs, then we have the opportunity to disrupt the food waste in this area of the chain too.

 

The world has changed since our food system was invented – the information & web revolution has made new things possible – aggregation of supply & demand through web-based tools is just one of them.  We built Bucky Box for many reasons, one of which indicates the potential for decentralised food systems & local food webs to be more efficient than Industrialised Ag.  By re-localising food distribution with these new tools, we can efficiently move food from farm to fork with minimal wastage, instead of farm to landfill.

 

The time has come for a revolution in our food system.  It may be a quiet revolution which sees individuals consciously choosing to buy local, for small-scale farming to make a wholesale return, and for more-than-profit food distribution to rise, powered by a wave of digital tools for a better food system.

Revista Pequenas Empresas & Grandes Negócios feature Bucky Box – Splashdown in Brazil!

Brazilian Business Magazine features Kiwi Local Food Startup!

We knew something was up when our beta channel started seeing several Brazilian requests for our beta service.  A little investigating today showed us that not only were we featured in ‘Springwise : Online Startup Network‘ this week, but our social enterprise software for local food distribution was also featured in Revista Pequenas Empresas & Grandes Negócios – the go-to Brazilian magazine for small & medium business, entrepreneurship & more!

 

Easy to use software created by the company help automate billing data transport and logistics, addition of production. With this, Bucky Box hopes to boost decentralized food system – small farms organic food in particular. In the company’s website, owners can manage the company, reducing the time spent on administration to a maximum of two hours weekly.

 

So, a big thanks to our new favourite Brazilian magazine – Revista Pequenas Empresas & Grandes Negócios! It’s not every day a Kiwi startup gets featured in a major international publication – but we’re very thankful to have been featured in quite a few at this point.

 

We look forward to working with some Brazilian local food schemes in the future! Roll on the decentralized food system!

5 Tips for Local Food Delivery

Image courtesy of The Ecologist

We realised that as of late we’ve been chatting with a lot of local food delivery enterprises from all over the world, which puts us in a privileged place to spot some of what’s working for different organisations, wherever they may be.  We thought in the spirit of open source, we’d share our musings;

 

Get Social!

The landscape of finding & engaging with customers has changed with the emergence of social media. With social media has come an unprecedented opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation with your customers & stakeholders, and tell your own story like never before.  One of the best things? With over 835 million people worldwide using Facebook & Twitter, many of your customers are likely to already be there and 100’s more potential customers in your area too.

Whilst most social media sites (such as Facebook & Twitter) are free to use, you should factor your time into the equation – like any conversation, listening as well as talking takes time.  Consider super-targeted adverts on Facebook/Twitter/Google Ad Words.  We also heartily suggest telling your story through a blog (like ours!) on Tumblr or WordPress, and for the more aesthetically inclined – share your story, your passion & your vision through sites like Pinterest or Vimeo.

Remember; make your dialogue about Quality not Quantity.

 

Call on existing resources & support

In several countries around the world, there’s now NGO’s & Government programs which are set up to help local food distributors get started, or iron out any problems.  They vary from downloadable action packs to full immersive social enterprise courses!

 

So our suggestion? Research, and make use of anything out there which could help you – you’ll be surprised what’s available!

Just some of our favourite resource hubs include; Soil Association (UK), Making Local Food Work (UK), Wallace Centre (US), Sustain (UK), Eaterprises (Australia), Transition Network (Worldwide).

 

Get creative with Funding

There are plenty of ways to fund a local food enterprise beyond mortgaging your house with the bank.  Our run down from the National Good Food Network webinar on funding local food tells you how!

Teaser for the NGFN blog: Co-operative model, LION networks, Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Micro/e-Lending platforms like Kiva, Slow Munis, Local Community Pre-Sales, Local Stock Exchanges, Investment Clubs like Slow Money.

See more here: Cutting-edge ways to Fund your Local Food business

 

Leverage free & low cost tools

Let the explosion of innovation & applications that resulted from mobile technology play into your hands!  The great news about the Mac App Store, Google Play & Chrome Store is that there are more applications than ever which can help you run your business more efficiently, and many of them are free.

 

Whether you need to manage your to-do list [Wunderlist], collaborative project management [Trello], communicate with your customers for nix [Skype], manage your social media marketing [Hootsuite], or simply use collaborative document sharing & calendars [Google Apps] – there’s a host of free apps out there.

 

We also would heartily suggest you check out some of the emerging technology, specifically around local food distribution.  This is where we get to play.  There’s several options out there now, which can manage customer accounts, help you manage packing & delivery logistics, and deal with the burden of payment reconciliation. Taking away the admin burden of local food distribution is one of the main barriers to growth we can see & are doing something about!

 

Be Authentic, Tell Your Story & be about More Than Profit

We keep coming back to this as a really important part of local food distribution.  We all loathe greenwashing don’t we? So don’t do it – be authentic with the story of where you came from, where your food is produced, and how you play nice with others.  We see local food distribution as being about values, and we constantly ask people to think about business in terms of ‘more than profit’.

 

Importantly, don’t ruin it for everyone. Local delivery, organics, farm-to-fork… it’s a tiny fraction of food distribution around the world. Don’t go stomping on it by picking fights with other people trying to do something similar in your area!  Try thinking about converting other people away from mainstream supermarket shopping, and growing the local food economy?

 

Use your blog and social media to tell the story of your business. Make it about more than just ‘units’ and ‘weights of food’, and aim for something more aspirational – your Values.  Use photography, words, infographics, videos & the great testimonials from your customers to show that you’re about supporting local farmers, delivering affordable organics, or whatever else it is that got you interested in local food delivery in the first place.  But be authentic!

Here’s some of our favourite use of Creativity in Local Food to get you started.

 

Do you have any more top tips to share?

 

You can now see the expanded version of this blog here: