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Food4You

A platform to improve livelihoods and reduce food waste by connecting small-scale farmers in South Africa to markets for their produce

Photo of Daisy Blackhurst
8 20

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

o What is your idea? We will adapt and trial an already developed cellular application* to aid small-scale farmers in South Africa find and connect with markets for their produce. This will be supported by a ‘trading’ website and SMS option for those without smart phones. The project will culminate in a national awareness-raising 'Feeding the 5000' event on food waste. o How does it work? Small-scale farmers and buyers register to use the app/website/SMS options for free. They upload info on produce for sale e.g. type, volume, collection times. Buyers connect with farmers & make arrangements for collection, cost and payment. The app will maintain confidentiality of all users and transactions. User workshops will clarify tech specifications with developers. Given its low transaction cost, and benefits, the app could become financially self-sustaining and generate economic value. o What problem does your idea solve? The issue of food waste in South Africa is critical; food poverty and a current drought mean over 4m people could go hungry this year. For growers, on-farm losses (est. 20-90%) threaten financial survival. Given the food poverty here and demands for locally produced food, we need a radical shift in practices. This solution provides an opportunity for small-scale farmers to distribute the maximum amount of produce grown, thus reducing food waste in a food scarce country, reducing environmental impact, and improving the income of small scale farmers.

WHO BENEFITS?

o Small-scale produce growers: Through learning and info – better understanding of reasons for losses and rejections; sharing best practices; finding alternative markets; reducing administrative burdens; sharing solutions; financial – selling more produce; better understanding availability. o Customers (secondary market e.g. charities, shops, hospitality sector, animal feed, anaerobic digestion): Wider supplier base; Increased access to more varied/fresher/nutritional/local/seasonal food.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

South Africa: Free State & Kwa-Zulu Natal. Both have large ex-homelands & home to many small-scale farmers. The Free State Gov. is very active in enabling small-scale farmers to become financially stable. This project fully supports their focus.

ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING IN AN ELIGIBLE COUNTRY?

  • Yes

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU!

This is a consortium project led by Feedback (UK) with on-the-ground support in South Africa. Core-team in SA is Nicola Jenkin (Pinpoint Sustainability), Mike Ward (Creating Sustainable Value) and Grant Trebble (LEAD Associates), with access to many NGOs, government agencies and universities in SA.

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

Yes, this is a new idea for our consortium of project partners. However, the cell phone application has already been developed and successfully implemented by LEAD Associates with the eThekwini Municipality (City of Durban), in Kwa Zulu Natal Province to map and record waste that has been illegally dumped. The elements of this application are perfectly suited for adaptation to the food4you application – it uses the same connectivity, messaging and regional information that is required. Its real strength is also the console behind the application. It is this software system that we will use. Our consortium has extensive experience in food waste and agriculture and it is off the back of this experience and networks in this country that the system will be developed.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

Although similar initiatives exist in other places, this concept is unique in South Africa, and to our knowledge has not been implemented here. This project also has unique advantages and differentiates itself from the other application ideas: a. It does more than connect farmers with a market using a mobile application. The application is supported by a website/SMS, thus more widely available to a broader group of users without smartphones. b. Beyond connecting, this idea is supported by a console which captures trend data, information on produce sold (incl. type and volume), and will enable both users and buyers to track trends, plan and monitor their activities. c. Farmers and buyers can create private spaces on the console to work together to improve their availability or access to produce. d. Part of the idea is to build the capacity of key actors within the food value chain to develop and implement innovative solutions to food waste, and will support robust processes of social learning and change in the context of food waste and insecurity. e. We are keen that this idea provides a platform and catalyst to open up new business and job opportunities.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

Feedback (UK) will contribute food waste research expertise and build stakeholder engagement on wider food waste issues. Nicola Jenkin will manage implementation in South Africa and engage with the funder. She will be supported by Mike Ward, who has over 20 yrs relevant experience and an extensive network for accessing users and buyers. Nicola and Mike will undertake stakeholder workshops. Grant Trebble will provide, develop, adapt and maintain the software behind the application and console.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

The feedback from beneficiaries was critical in understanding both whether this idea ‘has legs’ and will benefit users, and mitigating potential pitfalls, such as health and safety issues surrounding ‘trading food’, or monitoring the trustworthiness of farmers and buyers. This feedback has been captured in the criteria for the application or as questions to raise at the first user workshop. The feedback strengthened our case for the idea, and helped consolidate who users could be – particularly in the initial trial. Formerly, our scope targeted public entities such as hospitals and schools, but we have been encouraged to include hawkers and cornershops in townships. New suggestions have been incorporated regarding collection and delivery mechanisms, such as using the local taxi network or brewery trucks to distribute food and reduce car miles. Many interviewees had further questions, which we’ve included in our research plans e.g. how could this application help with crop planning. Suggestions of users to involve were also captured. Potential users will be invited to attend an initial workshop for finalising the application, or invited by email to join the trial.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

See the 'User Experience Map' for a full list of unanswered questions. These include: • How to accommodate the export market. • What is the appetite for expanding into other products e.g. meat, milk etc. • How to mitigate the potential limitations of the Consumer Protection Act 2014, Global GAP and Health & Safety for selling fresh produce. • What is the potential scale of the township intra-economy for fresh produce? • How to best mitigate risk of misuse? • What information do the farmers and buyers want to advertise, receive and report e.g. picture of veg, volume, location? • What rating systems best reflect trustworthiness? • Access to farms –is this an issue?

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

The high cost of food provides impetus to look for new solutions, but many of those who could benefit from their ‘waste food’ do not have time and resources to invest in realising opportunities offered by emerging technologies. The existing investment in the App and Case Management System provides a cost effective and considered way of moving this process forward while still focusing on the needs and opportunities presented by eliminating food waste and adding local value. Many systems/solutions are parachuted into communities with very little say from the community. We are growing our solution organically, with the users, and can adapt it along the way with little cost implication.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

Substantially reducing the transaction costs for linking farmers and local consumers. This will reduce on-the-farm food waste and empower both farmers and local food users to create markets over which they have more control. The first step is to bring together, and draw on our extensive networks, of potential users – to build on the knowledge and ideas we already have, to develop and refine with the users version 1 (v1) of food4you. The next step is two v1 user workshops.

MEMBERS OF MY TEAM HAVE BEEN WORKING TOGETHER FOR:

  • More than a year

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within in 500 km of where our team does most of its work

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Under $100,000
  • Between $500,000 and $1,000,000

This project involves the trial of a cellular phone networking platform to connect small-scale fresh produce growers in South Africa, with markets to divert surplus crop that may otherwise be discarded and/or to find higher-value for their produce. The aim of the project is to reduce food loss and waste that occurs on farm in South Africa, whilst improving the livelihoods of producers and their communities. 

The aim will be to identify the most applicable cellular approach for small-scale farmers (both urban and rural) e.g. an application, website platform or SMS.Running in parallel to the trial, research will be undertaken to understand why fresh produce loss and waste occurs for small-scale farmers and what happens to this produce.

Throughout the project, opportunities to inform and build capacity will be identified and implemented. This will provide a good opportunity to impart the value of this research, and improve the evidence-base in South Africa.  Research will inform capacity building of key actors within the food value chain to develop and implement innovative solutions to food waste.

More specifically, the research will support robust processes of social learning and change in the context of food waste and insecurity, growing internet connectivity particularly through cell phones.

Ultimately this project has the potential to open up new business and job opportunities while simultaneously improving livelihoods.

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Attachments (3)

Feedback Social Impact Report.pdf

Feedback's first ever Social Impact Report - 2014/15.

8 comments

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Spam
Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Daisy,

The Amplify team and our experts have some feedback for you:

Is there a prototyped version of this app that we can take a look at? If not, where are you in the process of its development?

By bringing in an exiting system, I’m afraid you may not be tailoring the solution to the local context. How have you considered the needs of the specific farmers you hope to serve? if an existing solution were not already in available, what could you create? I would suggest taking a step back and conducting a brainstorm with some users to gather their needs and solutions. Then think of ways you could incorporate these ideas into the broader existing ecosystem.

Creating a robust on-line community is a challenge. It has to be built on trust and the desire to communicate. How can you bring in aspects of community, personality into the platform to not just operate off of a data standpoint? For example, AirBnB’s success is contributed to the platforms design. Its tone and its use of user photos helped build a sense of belonging and trust. 

Looking forward to learning more! 

Spam
Photo of Daisy Blackhurst
Team

Hi Chioma,

Thanks for this. Some great questions here! Our answers are below.

1. Is there a prototyped version of this app that we can take a look at? If not, where are you in the process of its development?



The App and Case Management System is applicable for a variety of uses and industries and is operational in a number of different entities. Each system is customized for a client’s specific needs and internal specifications resulting in significant propriety information being internalized and, therefore, unavailable to the general public. However, certain clients have allowed us to access their beta-version which would give a very clear view of the broader capabilities of the system. We could arrange, at relatively short notice, a demonstration via Skype. 

Spam
Photo of Daisy Blackhurst
Team

2. By bringing in an existing system, I'm afraid you may not be tailoring the solution to the local context. How have you considered the needs of the specific farmers you hope to serve?



App and Case Management System’s strength lies in its very complex software which has already been entirely developed for a number of users. Built into the system is a level of complexity which allows for client-specific customization and adaptation to take place at a relatively low input cost. Developing a system with this depth and multi-faceted optionality for a single user would require a substantially higher amount of funding.



A strong social learning component has been built into the proposal to involve farmers and other potential users (clients) in the ongoing adaptation and refinement of the App and Case Management System. These learning processes will allow not only technological refinement but also other change including expanded networks, the creation of new value within the food supply chain, development of new skills, etc.



It is therefore very important for us to build on our current understanding and engagement with users and their needs, yet not deliver a product that is fait accompli. We want to bring our expertise and understanding together with what will really work for the farmers and users – from look and feel, ease of use, particulars for data entry etc. We have a very good idea, but don’t want to super-impose our ideas. This is a shared-value creation, and by doing so many of the elements will be determined by the users and should guarantee a higher rate of acceptance and use by them, as they had input into its design.

Spam
Photo of Daisy Blackhurst
Team

3. If an existing solution were not already in available, what could you create? I would suggest taking a step back and conducting a brainstorm with some users to gather their needs and solutions. Then think of ways you could incorporate these ideas into the broader existing ecosystem.



This statement suggests that the needs of the users could be better understood. On the contrary the whole initiative builds on years of collective experience in the field of food, agriculture, supply chains, sustainability and social learning for change. It is from this recognition that there was a need to link farmers and users that we sought out the most appropriate (and adaptable) solution and incorporated it into our proposal. The reality is that when we started, the solution did not exist, we took a step forward to identify a broad ecosystem (App and Case Management System) and incorporate the ideas from a range of stakeholders into its adaptation. This is an ongoing and iterative process and no doubt we will learn a lot as we work with partners to build the broader system of collaboration. The current ecosystem allows us to take one large, but carefully identified step forward by building on (and thus not needing to unnecessarily replicate) existing investments both social and technological.



The software being used is state-of-the art, yet usable by previously marginalised communities. It doesn’t discriminate users, or make the assumption that this sector of the agricultural community requires basic solutions.

Spam
Photo of Daisy Blackhurst
Team

4. Creating a robust on-line community is a challenge. It has to be built on trust and the desire to communicate. How can you bring in aspects of community, personality into the platform to not just operate off of a data standpoint? For example, AirBnB's success is contributed to the platforms design. Its tone and its use of user photos helped build a sense of belonging and trust.



There is no doubt that building an online community is a challenge. One of the keys to success is ensuring that we fulfil a genuine need better than anybody else. The current situation of farmers and potential food users loosing value due to food waste in the context of a major drought and high food prices creates a genuine need. In one sense the ability to link a supplier with a potential user to create value builds its own momentum (e.g. Uber). In another sense all of the partners have extensive networks who have expressed an interest in this project and this creates a very human touch deep into communities that would use the app.



This project is very imageable in the sense that food, farmers and beneficiaries make for great photos – this has the potential to build a sense of being part of a collective either through knowing the people in the images or having a sense of association to the roles that the different people play in managing our food more sustainably.



The application and its use over time is intended to evolve from the various stakeholder meetings, but be guided by the App and Management System developers in conjunction with the marketing people. The ‘skin’ (look and feel) that is the interface with the public can be changed relatively easily and for little expense.

Spam
Photo of Daisy Blackhurst
Team

I hope the above goes some way in answering your questions. Please do let me know if there is anything else you would like us to clarify.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Warm regards,

Daisy

Spam
Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Daisy, thanks so much for the additional details! 

Spam
Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Daisy, thanks so much for the additional details!