Sustainable Brands : ‘Taking Cues from Nature’ by Bucky Box

image courtesy of http://bit.ly/15xkKzd

image courtesy of http://bit.ly/15xkKzd

 

The food system is not a machine, but this is how we have treated it in the last 50 years.

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With the growth of industrial food production, manufacturing and distribution, we have seen a vast range of short-term benefits and a swathe of longer-term challenges. The ramifications of this highly centralised food system can be seen in some of the well-documented symptoms: Nearly 35% of all food grown globally is wasted; we have a billion obese people in the world, and an almost equal number who go to bed hungry; and around 80% of the world’s hungry are involved in food production. Clearly something needs to change.

 

To understand how we will feed a growing population with decreasing resources and a changing climate, we must shift our mindset to understanding it is a living system. We can identify and create new opportunities for innovation by acknowledging it is a living system, and designing products and services for that reality.

 

The blueprint for a sustainable system already exists and indeed is all around us: After 3.8 billion years of R&D, nature has already solved many of the challenges we face, so if we can learn to take more lessons from the natural world we can design better solutions for our own society — doing well by doing good.

READ MORE AT SUSTAINABLE BRANDS HERE

 

 

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.

Celsias features Bucky Box : Social Enterprise taking on the Food System

 

Thanks to Celsias for featuring a little article about Bucky Box‘s ‘flip side’ – our social & environmental mission which aims to tackle a Food System in dire need of disruption!

 

It’s nice to see our golden kiwi logo being used, which we devised to show people that we’re about much more than software – you can see more about The Mission here too.

 

Celsias is the home of New Zealand Sustainable Business, so it was a delight to be featured here.  Read the full article : Bucky Box – a Social Enterprise to try to create a better food system

 

 

 

One thing we realised yesterday is that the change we wanted to see, is already starting to occur.  Whilst chatting to a particularly inspirational local food distributor in New Zealand, he told us “I realised that the software would cost upwards of 10’s of thousands of dollars to build, and was almost ready to give up on the idea, but then I opened the paper and read that Herald article, and thought ‘Hallelujah!’ someone’s already doing it! I had to get in touch, and it’s exactly what I need, at a tiny fraction of the cost of what it would cost to do it myself.”

 

Talk about warm fuzzies for the day!

 

Welcome to the new home of Bucky Box | The Mission

As you may know, Bucky Box is a social enterprise working to create a better food system.

 

We recently realised we were mixing the two sides to our business through this blog, so recently we started working on the flip side of the coin – the side we call “The Mission”.

New identity for Bucky Box's values-based work

Today, we launched that site and it’s accompanying blog, where we’ll take up the baton to give you the best we have to offer about food system change. We hope you like our special golden kiwifruit logo.

 

Bucky Box | The Mission site is ideal for anyone who eats food.

 

Check out the Bucky Box manifesto

 

Of course, we’ll keep up the conversation on this blog too: it’ll be more about Bucky Box “The Software“, hints & tips about local food distribution, interesting resources which will support food enterprise, and anything else we think will be useful to you – the Local Food heroes who’re distributing food from Farm to Fork.

 

We always love feedback, so feel free to hop on over to the new site – www.buckybox.org – take a look around, and get in touch!

A Creative Approach to Local Food advocacy : Lexicon of Sustainability

Check out the short films from the Lexicon of Sustainability about our food system

The importance of Storytelling cannot be underplayed.  Traditionally Big Ag have had the upper-hand in the attempt to capture people’s imaginations with their deep pockets.

 

The tide is turning. The cost to craft & create quality media is leveling the playing field, and the rise of the Social Web is making us more inquisitive about where our food comes from, who is behind it, and easier to communicate what we find.

 

Awhile ago we highlighted a few of our favourite Creative capturings of the local food movement which included the very awesome Lexicon of Sustainability’s photo series which is available to exhibit as an art show.  What we didn’t know at the time is they were also making a series of fantastic videos highlighting the truth behind Big Ag’s marketing.  Take a look at the first 3 videos of this series which is available on PBS’ Youtube Channel.

 

 

Once again, make sure you head over to Lexicon of Sustainability to find more about the food that we eat, and how it is produced.

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.