"DAFwit" - Decentralizing Auctions for Food-industry with IT
Remove the need for all produce to be shipped to a central ware house for auctions each morning. As in the concept : "Rethinking Food Transp". But here I am describing the tool to make it happen. Almost like "Qld - LoFE" but for the food industry, and not for the end consumers.
Remove the need for all of the purchasers to travel to the central auction places each morning. They could sit in any one location to make instant real-time bids on several auctions on several types of food in several hubs at the same time! They would not need to visit the fish auction AND the meat auction AND the veg auction each morning!
This system will make it much more democratic, transparent and regulated, so the small players can get an equal chance against the huge supermarket chains.
An advanced interactive web-based "Auction house" only for member suppliers (farmers, livestock-breeders, hunters and fishermen) and member purchasers (for exporters, restaurants and for grocery stores)
"DAFwit" - Decentralizing Auctions for Food-industry with IT
Makes it possible for more local food producers that currently do not sell their produce in auctions (such as bread, cheese, maybe wine, beer, olive oil...)
1. Train a group of tech employees on a good type of digital video camera, digital measuring tools (thermometres, scales and other) Develop the auction software with an integrated quality grading system for all the different food types, and teach the employees and purchasers about this platform.
Perhaps construct "modules" with the IT-tools that suit different categories of purchasers (depending on their business and size, a vegan restaurant have sligthly different needs than a chain of super markets)
2. All Purchasers will at the exact same time get high quality digital images of all batches available on their computer or phone, together with all available facts, graphs and info about each shipment and the producer. Together with a large fact base of price history of the auctions and for this type of produce from this producer. Exactly the same info must be made available to all in the auction, exactly as if they were on site to be able to check out and judge what crates, boxes and batches that they would want to bid on.
(Because different purchasers make their choice based on many different facts mixed with their experience and memory)
3. Each auction is scheduled exactly, so that all involved get exact same chance to do prior research and consider what batches they want and what bid they want to put on them. Auctions take place online in real-time with graphs and pie-charts.
4. Transports from the auction hubs to each buyer is organized to be as efficient as possible. Regulate the time-slots on the cargo spaces and loading docks so the logistics around this is streamlined and working with supply and demand. The stores furthest away from each hub can make higher bids on getting their shipment onto a truck as fast as possible. And buyers that are closer to this auction-hub can choose to wait another hour to get lower costs for a later time-slot. This can make the cargo spaces relatively small but still cater to plenty of trucks each morning in a efficient and speedy loading process.
A bit more details:
The interface must make it easy for all purchasers to evaluate quality and compare lots of batches with other batches that are on other hubs. So the software should work like for instance : "Am I Hot or Not"-databases (if you remember those from the early days of internet, where you could browse through lots of photos and "rate" the "Hotness" of each person on the photo)
Could make it possible for purchasers to rate the producers (pressing "Trust" or "Like-buttons" or evaluate their crops with grades) (thanx again Arjan!)
And it must be possible to display and browse rows of photos from different batches on the user interface screen, which have the best "size vs colour vs appearance vs estimate transport costs", so buyers would be able to choose and bid more wisely.
Image quality is very important, and only by having same type of camera and light conditions in each of the hubs, and with skilled employees that in exactly same manner day after day do this process, you will be able to get consistency. And purchasers will be able to learn to "trust" the facts they can see on their screen and make same judgements as they do right now by smelling, touching and squeezing the fish, meat, fruit and vegs with their hands and noses when they are on-site of a food auction.
Of course already after they bought their first batch in the online-auction, it is delivered to them later in the same day, so they could go back online and compare real appearance with online documentation when their bought batches arrives, and complain online if it did not match expectations.
This system and staff must be independent, consistent and coherent, so noone can bribe them or influence their judgement or abuse the method in any way. And continous training and evaluation must be done so that noone of the employees Quality evaluation starts to differ from the rest in the system.
At the same time this project starts : install a weekly or daily entrance fee for visiting the normal auction houses. So the purchasers will get a further incentive to sit at home or in their office and make their bids from a distance on this free Auction platform, to prevent them from driving to the market place.
You could even open up a passive internet or televised broadcast to curious viewers (pay-per-view?), to get the citizens more interested and educated about their local areas natural resources. Transparency: end consumers/food shoppers could be able to see what type of day-fresh fish or quality vegs might be arriving in the local super markets the same afternoon. Will maybe enhance and promote future agri-tourism? (Could this create such a stream of income to offsett carbon emissions of all transports??? and maybe the development costs for the "hubs" and technology?)
For this group of viewers you could give access to photos, video, web-cams from the actual farms, to make them see the link - from cradle to shop. Educational, for schools aswell as for Agricultural colleges and Universities. "Window to the farm" (thank you Tom Hulme!)
For buyers that process the produce into other types of eadible products will be able to get public recognition and goodwill if they disclose that they only use local ingredients from these auctions. If they show this info for the consumers (the curious viewers) it is good promotion for the local farm and food industry. And hopefully pushes away some of the low-cost brands that include lots of ingredients that travelled far and from farms that do not treat workers fair. (thanx to Louise Wilson!)
• Purchasers do not need to be on-site of the auction - saves them travel time and car costs. They get to sit at home or in their office, but do not risk being late to bid on the best items early in the morning. (convenience for all involved)
• Risks for the produce being sold too expensive or too cheap is reduced, helping both the buyers, and the suppliers. Fair Trade on a fair marketplace! (Reducing some of the "predatorial" behaviour that can take place in an onsite-auction when a few large market players have a bit more power or advance knowledge or budget)
• All products would not need to be transported into the city centre. Depending on the region, location of farmers, size of the city : the organisation is built up into smaller "outsourced" hubs (as in the concept "Rethinking Food Transp" ) so the transport to each buyers location will not all stem from the same auction house. (Reduces fuel costs for transport companies)
• Could reduce the need for each purchaser to own their own trucks?
• The software will make it easier for purchasers to co-arrange transport routes and share lorry space with others. (so fewer lorries and trucks would run half-empty)
• Improving air quality in city centres and making other commuters get a little easier ride to work with less amount of lorrys in the morning rush hour. (Reduces emissions from citizens cars)
• Freeing up some warehouse space that is only used 4-5 hours each morning, for potential development into cheap residential housing in very attractive central areas!!!
• Will make it possible for very small cafés and diners to enter into the auctions, removing their middle-men, reducing purchase costs and giving them more options to choose from for their daily lunches.
• Possibility for letting government officials to monitor everything much more convenient from a distance on each day and not only on random checkups (Food and price regulators, Those in charge of farm subsidies and Tax issues, Food and Health Safety and so on)
• All transactions will be on record, instantly digitally available to pay VAT, tax, fees and so on for both government and for the buyers financial department, makes the accounting and future budgeting extremely efficient.
• Saving costs and streamlining all of these processes would lower food prices, more competitive against imported produce, making local food more attractive and environmentally friendly.
• Reducing the large crowd of purchasers in these auction locations will maybe open up the auction-hubs to "tourists" that want to visit for fun, to smell and experience the logistics and auctioneering.
• Producers will be able to follow market prices and current average quality to be able to make decisions for what to grow and if it is worth it to go for quantity or quality in their area. Or even influence some to experiment with new alternative crop types that would grow relatively well slightly outside the season for the average crops of this type. Could make them a bit more inventive and pushing research on working on smarter farm development. And slightly changing, reforming this very conservative industry.
Perhaps this concept is able to go global?
Possible weak points in this concept:
• One of the employees that make the quality evaluation could get sick, or bribed. So it needs secure methods to ensure that there is enough trained staff to rotate around between all auction-place-hubs.
• Some conservative producers or purchasers cannot be convinced that IT could be any better on judging quality than their old hands-on-skills and routines. The middle-men could also be scared that they are removed and unwanted.
Thank you very much to: Jakob Trischler, Arjan Tupan, Kirk Soderstrom, Félix Beaulieu, Sarah Fathallah, Louise Wilson, Vincent Cheng, Paul Frigout, Susan, Meena, Tom and many others, as I am not sure exactly where I picked up inspiration and all details to this concept.
Please, if you can, add details and feedback in the comments below!