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?

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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.

 

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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.

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.