FastCoExist “World Changing Ideas & Innovation” features Bucky Box

Things are a’bubble here in the office in Wellington this morning as the Fast Company article on Bucky Box went live last night.

Fast-Company magazine's blog FastCoExist which features 'World Changing Ideas & Innovation' features Bucky BoxWe arrived at work to find the twitter feed was ticking over happily with RT of the FastCoExist piece on Bucky Box’s software for a better food system.


FastCoExist is one of our favourite reads. It provides daily news on ‘World Changing Ideas & Innovation’, many of them businesses working for a better world.  It’s a great feeling to be part of that club.


Bucky Box is working on the new operating system for emerging local food systems. We’re open for beta testing in invite-only form. Feel free to share the word to local food distributors you think might be interested.

Creating the operating system for a new emerging local food system - Bucky BoxCreating the new operating system for local food isn’t just about supporting what’s going out in the market, it goes much bigger & broader than that, it reaches into the future.  We see what has happened in the last 30-40 years in our global food systems as a step backwards in environmental & social standards which have borrowed from our future. We’ve created a more fragile food system with less resilience, and now the pressures are beginning to mount up : population growth, soil health, water quality, climate change adaptation, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functions which are vital to our survival.  All the research points toward moving to sustainable food production, distribution & consumption, which largely means small scale farms (not industrial-scale mono-cropping), regenerative farming techniques (not chemical farming which destroys our soils) and regional food systems (not industrialized supply chains).  We see a better way, and Bucky Box is our first step in making that vision a reality.


Not only are we creating cutting-edge software for the local food movement, but our social enterprise structure means that we’re going to be putting a minimum of 66% of our profits back into the movement itself through our partnerships with local food systems researchers, advocates, educators & practitioners. More to come on that matter soon, so connect with us at @buckybox and be the first to hear.

Disasters, Reflections & Resilience

Reflecting back on 2011, you don’t get very far without thinking of the various disasters that seem to have been hitting us in waves this year.

Image courtesy of CPL Janine Fabre (

Whether it was the devastation wrought by the ‘biblical’ floods in Australia, the horrific earthquakes in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Turkey & Japan, the nuclear disaster that resulted, the ferocious storms which rolled into the US, volcano ash disrupting world travel, famines threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands, epic floods in Asia, or the man made disasters like the Rena Oil Spill.  It’s been a year with a lot of hurt around the world.

Even look just here in NZ, things seem to have been somewhat topsy turvy – the fall out from the Christchurch Earthquake is still ongoing (including a total rebuild of the central business district which is the heart of the city), there are still volunteers on the beaches cleaning up the oil spill, and we’re still wondering how there was snow falling in central Wellington.

One thing we’ve learned is that all of these events seem to affect our food system.  When the snow fell, we found the shelves were bare.  When the earthquake hit, we found supermarkets took weeks to get back up & running.  When the floods hit QLD, we heard stories of people isolated with no food.

Image courtesy of hugovk

What we learnt, is that our current food system is remarkably fragile.  We learnt that in an emergency, we can’t rely on supermarkets for our food as they have complicated supply chains. What we learnt is that people looked inward to their communities for help and support.

Disasters and times of extreme stress show us the true state of our resilience, and all over the world, we were found lacking.

The strongest calls we’ve had for our software, here in NZ, are from those who have seen and experienced these events first hand.  The calls have come from community groups have formed as the dust settles in Christchurch, they’ve come from entrepreneurs who managed to get food direct from farms to customers when the snow blocked roads, and they’ve come from people involved in the transition movement who see our food system is built on a fuel source which will soon run out.

So, would you like some specifics?

Queensland Floods, Australia – food chains were trucking food around the country to aggregate supply and demand, but massively failed the population whilst leaving people hungry, pushing up food costs and polluting the atmosphere.  Part of this was due to agreements with big farms who are willing to engage in monocropping & mass production, whilst the smaller farms in the region are forced to sell direct to customers.  Thankfully, the awesome Food Connect were on hand, to source food from the local farmers, pay them a fair rate, package the food up, and get it out to their customers. Despite the ‘biblical’ floods. Hear Rob Pekin from Food Connect talking about their flood experience here.

Photo courtesy of Cliff Hanger

In New Zealand, when we had our intense snowfalls, farmers had smaller harvests which supermarkets & wholesalers wouldn’t take as they didn’t meet the ‘bulk purchase’ orders.  So whilst we were starved of greens in Wellington’s bigger supermarkets, one crafty team at Organic Boxes were able to take those smaller yields, and deliver them to the population through their vege box scheme.  I even heard of one of their ‘delivery drivers’ paddling boxes to people’s doors… report unconfirmed, but awesome if it’s true!  Needless to say their customers were delighted & thankful…

Photo courtesy of geoftheref

When the earthquake hit Christchurch, people knew things weren’t going to be normal for quite some time, however frustration grew as the food distributors struggled to maintain regular service from their disparate supply chains from around the country.  In fact there were reports of food rotting in fields as food was being trucked in from around the country. Some of NZ’s largest food distributors did come to the rescue, and we credit them for that, but it highlighted just how disconnected we have become from where our food comes from, and how local food systems should work.  Several community groups have sprung up in the aftermath to tackle food resiliency in their areas as they now see that it is their own communities that will provide the answers in the aftermath of any future shocks.

So what do we see as the problems here?

  • We are not connected closely to local growers
  • As a farm, if you’re not big, you’re not wanted (by large supermarkets)
  • The food system is currently reliant on oil
  • When economics is all that drives your business, you wont necessarily go the extra yard if it doesn’t make you short term gains

Interestingly OpenIDEO recently ran a challenge with the Queensland Government around the need for local food resiliency, and there were plenty of ideas that flowed out of it.  So many in fact, that the Queensland Government were overwhelmed by the volume & complexity of the solutions.  They’re still working on a couple of the solutions, but there is plenty of inspiration there for people around the world to keep working on these issues.  I would also suggest you take a look at Food+Tech Connect which has a special interest in the intersection of Food and Technology, and how it can fuel a better food system.

Some solutions:

  • We all need a regional food economy with a variety of local food distribution enterprises which support local growers, and link them to local consumers, without the need for massive profits & power imbalances in between..
  • Be a concious consumer – think about what you buy, and where it comes from. Food is not a commodity so much as a deeply personal resource which we buy with alarming regularity. Make a choice which supports other people in the community around you.
  • Decouple ourselves from oil-based food systems, and return to mainstream organic farming. And yes, Organic Farming can feed the world, despite what the oil companies tell us.
  • Grow at home! Start with herbs, perhaps branch out to tomatoes in pots, or even a raised bed. Here’s some great tips on growing at home & sustainable living.

Do you want to know more about local food? Here’s our jargon buster if you’re keen to learn more!

Awesome pic courtesy of gregw

Bucky Box goes to the Farm

Visiting CSA Farm for Bucky Box ResearchHere at Bucky Box, we sometimes need to remind ourselves why we’re getting involved in this project to build the tools for a better food system, so on Monday we decided to take a trip out to our local CSA, and spend some time with the farmers who’re getting their hands dirty to keep us fed, and look after the land.

We’re based in Wellington, New Zealand, so we took a trip about an hour and a half out of town to one of the premier growing regions close to us – the Wairarapa.

Luckily we have some good friends who run a CSA here in Wellington, so we took them along with us to meet Frank & Josje who made us really welcome at Wairarapa Eco Farm – a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm supporting the Wellington region.

Discussing ups and downs of Community Supported AgricultureWe had some quality conversations about the ups and downs of CSA’s, which are being felt all over the world as the movement spreads, but it was great to see the passion Josje had to make it work, and to involve people in the growing of food and education around sustainable organic practices.

We really see some huge benefits for CSA’s to be one of the many solutions to a more people & planet friendly food system – one which provides more resiliency, closer connections, and lower food miles.  There’s some great resources on CSA’s here if you’re interested (courtesy of Making Local Food Work in the UK).

A big thanks to Frank & Josje for spending some time with us which will help us to continue to build the best software possible for the local food movements around the world – for making us welcome at your beautiful farm, sharing stories and your passion for reconnecting our communities with the food we eat.

Check out Simply Good Food – the Wellington CSA site here (now also operating in Palmerston North!).

Take a glimpse at our full album of CSA Wellington photos here.

Growing the greens for vege box delivery

Urban Food Hui : Wellington

Last night, Sam from the Bucky Box crew, was able to make it down to a hometown meet up for ‘The Rhizome Effect – Urban Food Hui’ in Wellington (New Zealand).


The Hui (Maori for meeting / discussion) was all about bringing together Wellington’s community food growers, facilitators, interest groups, and backgarden producers.  We don’t yet have any form of Food Alliance like Auckland, but this is kind of where the night was pointing.


The Sustainability Trust & Innermost Gardens were good enough to throw together an event, and our favourite props were all in place when we got there – butchers papers & coloured pens!!

That only meant one thing ~ World Cafe!


And so it was, after an initial introduction round (incidentally we were the only “Software for the local food system” in the room…) we jumped into conversations around “what’s working” in Wellington.  20 minutes later, it was heads up, and a harvest of the ideas which came out of the small group conversations ~ then a big switch around to new tables, and into another conversation topic: “what could we do better to strengthen & catalyse the urban food movement?”.


Wow… what a couple of conversations they were! Some really great ideas floating around the room – both rich, nurturing, learning experiences through field trips & better cross-fertilisation of ideas among groups, as well as calls for better connection, communication and sharing of knowledge online and offline.  Finally – we all shifted tables once more, and found our final ‘friends for the evening’ and discussed the $100’000 question : “If we had $100’000 to make some of this stuff happen, what would we use it for?”.


Some amazing ideas popped up, including training & capacity building programs, website portals, and my particular bent ~ seeding social/community enterprise which would keep a sustainable revenue stream to benefit the urban food movement.


I’ll share the links to the harvests as and when the Sustainability Trust are able to get it all online.


In the meantime, if you know of any good resources on the Urban Food movements around the world – we’d love to see them!