Thank you for your candid critique. Your input is much appreciated!
The purpose of the original post was simply to show what the conventional “Hub & Spoke” process is from start to finish, and all the work and expenditure of energy required. Indeed, there are some things that won’t change under the proposed “Circular Model”, like the producer having to harvest the food. But the objective of the Circular Model is to minimize or eliminate as much work and energy expenditure as possible, even if just a nit, for the benefit of the cumulative total. So, let’s review point by point:
Farmer or market gardener harvests the food. Indeed, no change here.
Farmer or market gardener stores the food. A possible change is that the Circular Model provides for an opportunity to implement, where appropriate, pre-harvest sale and/or harvest upon demand, eliminating the cost of storage and labor double-handling of product.
Farmer or market gardener delivers the food to a hub (farmers’ market, food hub, CSA, e-commerce retailer warehouse). Although people do like to go to farmers’ markets, they don’t actually do the bulk of their grocery shopping there. They may pick up a few items, depending on price (which is often more than at supermarkets) and quality, but do the rest of their shopping at supermarkets. They also don’t frequent farmers’ markets as often as they do supermarkets. That’s because they DO go for, as you mentioned, product discovery, and primarily for the community social interaction. This is where our model goes beyond merely a more efficient delivery system and includes more efficient public relations, marketing, merchandising, labor, and food waste: Our model is designed not to replace farmers’ markets but to make them more efficient and profitable. Our research indicates that in order for a farmers’ market stall to be profitable here in the West U.S., they need to sell $500 worth of product per day, on average. Why? Because of all the logistics of providing a conventional farmers’ market stand. They have to get up at the crack of dawn, load up the truck with everything they need for the farmers’ market (food products, canopy, scales, payment handling paraphernalia, packaging, promotional signs and banners, business cards, etc.), transport all that to the farmers’ market location, set up the stand and the merchandising of the product, and man the stall for several hours with a community relations/salesperson/cashier/bagger. And what happens to the product they don’t sell? Thus, conventional farmers’ markets become a “do or die” sales event. In our model, we eliminate transport and handling of food product and food waste, except for samples, eliminate merchandising and payment processing labor with a laptop open to the farmer’s online store, eliminate packaging at the farmers’ market, and thus eliminate farmers’ market food waste. Rather than a “do or die” sales event in which everything must be sold during the hours of the farmers’ market, it becomes a community meet & greet product/farmer discovery and community social event - the primary reasons people go to farmers’ markets anyway. Farmers meet new customers, provide samples of their products to taste, refer customers to their online store displayed on the open laptop, and advise that consumer can place an order now from their full line of offerings or at any time 24/7. This gives farmers more time to explain who they are and about their methods rather than on product handling, payment processing, and bagging. And since they’re not under pressure to sell everything on the spot to meet that $500 per day sales target, they can keep their online prices competitive with (or below) supermarkets. And no unsold farmers’ market food product to handle.
The hub stores the food (if only into a display). Display is done with the laptop open to the farmer’s online store and of the samples provided. According to a national survey by the University of Michigan, the primary drivers for making a food purchase are Taste (94%), Price (74%), Healthfulness (%71%), Convenience (58%), and Sustainability (38%). If the samples taste great, the price is competitive, the farmer explains how his product is more healthful than what’s at the supermarket, and that the customer can buy now or at their convenience with local delivery, he’ll capture the majority of his immediate market.
The hub packages the food (if only into order or meal boxes). Of course, someone needs to package the food. But is all the double handling really necessary? 1) Farmer packages the food to bring to the hub. 2) Farmer handles food delivering to hub. 3) Hub handles the food for storage. 4) Hub handles the food for display. 5) Customer handles food being selected for purchased from hub. 6) Hub handles the food when bagging for the customer. 7) Customer handles the food putting it into their vehicle. 8) Customer handles the food from vehicle to kitchen. Why not: 1) farmer bags the food ordered by the customer, 2) driver aggregates the bags into the appropriate customer boxes, 3) driver delivers customer boxes to collection point, 4) Customer handles the food putting it into their vehicle. 5) Customer handles the food from vehicle to kitchen. Eliminating 3 unnecessary handlings reduces labor, transport and energy costs. Indeed, where supermarkets offer “click & pick”, customers can pick up their groceries while returning from elsewhere. But that’s not what the majority do. What they’re used to is making a special grocery shopping trip to and from the supermarket, adding just that more cost and fuel with accompanying environmental and noise pollution.
Much of the food waste (about 30%) is do to food not meeting retail supermarket specifications - and they are VERY specific. Even if it has a bit of dirt on it, it’s rejected. So, most consumers aren’t as picky and/or are never given the option to by out-of-spec food. But in fact, there’s now a growing “ugly food” market. A farmers’ online store can offer an “ugly food” section directly to customers at lower prices even than those supermarkets that are starting to feature “ugly food”. The remaining 10% is from supply chain spoilage, shelf life expiration, and uneaten consumer waste. Not much can be done about the latter, except improving taste. But there are was to minimize wholesale product rejection and supply chain spoilage.
As you can see, more efficient delivery is just one vital component in an entire food production, marketing, and delivery system.
My only reservation about open source projects is that it has been my experience that, after a burst of enthusiasm and productivity, they lose steam and often don’t get completed with iterative Agile diligence required of a bullet-proof system. That’s because GOOD programmers like to get paid, which is why I’ve chosen to get our own IP built. I nonetheless wish OFN all the luck in the world and hope they produce a better system than we do, in which case I’ll partner up.