Currently, accessing local food is a rather tedious and tiresome game for wholesale buyers and an expensive one for small producers, as legacy distribution systems do not cater to their needs. Building a more localized food system works in tandem with building a local economy, something that Foodshed is actively working to strengthen. By reducing the number of hands that food travels through to get from farmer to buyer, less money gets lost along the way and more money goes into the hands of farmers, which in this case means that money is always circulating within a 250 mile radius.
Foodshed.io uses technology to combine farm inventory grown under the same certifications, identify route optimization, and provide real-time delivery and tracking updates. The platform is able to group matching varieties grown under the same standards (organic, certified naturally grown, etc.) and present this aggregated quantity to wholesale buyers. The platform then sources the requested quantity from as many farms as necessary to fulfill the order, allowing small producers to gain access to wholesale markets.
Blockchain technology is in the process of being integrated into the platform to enhance transparency and reliability for growers and consumers alike. Consumers are able to know the date their food was harvested, packaged, transported and delivered. Additionally, blockchain enhances traceability regarding food safety issues. In the event of a pathogen outbreak, users are able to use blockchain to trace the origin of the outbreak and prevent further contamination.
Although Foodshed.io brands itself as a technology platform, the startup prides itself on being exceptionally user-friendly, so much so that even someone with an aversion to tech can use the product. Creating a profile as a grower or a buyer is free and takes less than 5 minutes. Once profiles have been verified and approved by Foodshed.io, buyers can start placing orders and growers can upload their inventory. Buyers can browse products, add items to their basket, select their delivery date and payment method which include check, cash and credit. Growers are able to upload their inventory, setting their own quantities, prices and lead times. Once buyers have placed an order, farmers are alerted of the order and have the option to accept or decline. If they choose to accept the order they will have it packed and ready for the specified pick-up date. Buyers are notified that their order has been accepted and are then able to track their order throughout delivery. Farmers are paid within the week of their order and restaurants are able to maintain their regular payment terms.
On the backend, the app aggregates inventory based on location, enhancing spatial and routing efficiency. Full pallets can be aggregated amongst varying small-scale producers, ensuring that trucks on the road are filled to their maximum capacity. Drivers are alerted of their route, the pickups at each farm and the drop-offs at each restaurant. Foodshed.io is developing individualized QR codes that scan each item and link them to their appropriate order (farm and buyer), which is then encrypted in the blockchain ledger. This allows everyone access to the same information that cannot be tampered with.
The possibilities for the application are many. Right now Foodshed.io is in beta with chefs in NYC but is looking to replicate the model with restaurants and institutional buyers in cities across the U.S. and eventually, abroad. They’re also looking to connect excess local food that would otherwise be turned into compost to food pantries in the city, providing an easy way for farmers to donate their produce. The key to a local food system is connectivity, which is exactly what Foodshed.io is providing through this technology.