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Qld-LoFE: the Queensland Local Food Exchange

The Queensland Local Food Exchange is a food exchange modeled after better known stock exchanges. Producers can register their crops/produce and consumers can buy directly from the producers. Prices, of course, will vary with supply and demand.

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The Queensland Local Food Exchange is a virtual exchange, in the sense that it mainly exists in a computing cloud. It is real in the sense that if people buy strawberries, they will actually get those strawberries to consume. It is only accessible for local producers and local consumers.

Watch the video for a short explanation of the order process and a quick view of the site.

Producers can take a part of their production capacity to the Queensland Local Food Exchange (Qld-LoFE). By registering, they commit to delivering the registered amount to potential buyers. The listing will have two prices: the pick-up-at-farm price, and the deliver-it-home price, which will include a transportation fee.

Consumers can buy food at current prices, which, as said, will vary with supply and demand. They can choose to buy a certain amount of ‘strawberries’ or ‘strawberries form producer X’.

Also, consumers will have the opportunity of buying food futures. With this, they buy a certain amount of food to be delivered in the future after harvesting. Take for example asparagus. They're in-season (in North-West Europe) from the end of April until the end of June. I know in September already, that I would definitely want some. I could secure getting them by buying a food future for 10 kg (I love asparagus), which ensures me that I will get them when they're in season. Maybe even with a spread of 2 kg in April, 4 kg in May and 4 kg in June. This would also enable the producer to predict demand and produce (and invest) accordingly. (Thanks Kirk Soderstrom for inspiring this build).

Another option is Food Investment Clubs. Users with less experience in buying, can join a club that is advised by a food expert. This could be a food writer, a chef, a food lover. In these clubs, the consumers will get advise on which foods to buy when, accompanied by recipes. This will lower the participation threshold. (Thanks Vincent Cheng for this build). The Food Investment Clubs could also offer buyers to buy in bulk and divide it up amongst them at the time of delivery, to get even better bargains. And reducing the packaging costs for the farmer/distributor. (Thanks Johan Löfström for this build.)

Restaurants (including school and office cantines) can also become buyers at the Qld-LoFE. However, since their access will mean a pressure on the price, they will have a special access requirement: they need to provide recipes for in-season products so that consumers can learn ow to use the different foods available on the Qld-LoFE. Also, restaurants can become pick-up places for consumers that live near-by. Consumers can choose a restaurant as a pick-up place, and will have a lowered delivery price. (Thanks Johan Löfström for the builds.)

The Qld-LoFE will connect consumers directly to producers by having the option to pick up the produce at the site of the producers. Also, by giving the option to buy from a specific farm, will make it worth knowing which producer has the best suitable products. This comes also with a rating system for producers. First of all, the rating of a producer should include satisfied customers. After a purchase, customers are asked to rate the producer. This is similar to how the rating system at eBay works. Another part of the rating could be 'liked' or 'favorited' producers. Anytime a consumer 'likes' a producer, or selects one as preferred supplier of a specific order, this should translate back into the rating of the producer. Combined, maybe with other factors, this should be comparable to the DQ we know from OpenIDEO. (Thanks  Vincent Cheng for reminding me to put this in and the great input for it).

Transparency in pricing will also be a benefit of the Qld-LoFE. Consumers will see from the price difference between pick-up-at-farm and deliver-it-home what the costs of transportation are, and can be motivated to pool resources with neighbours by picking their supplies up together (carpooling 2 food). When a consumer purchases a produce and is linked to a place of pick-up, she will get a notice that indicates that friends are also buying from the same producer (or one very close to him), and an option to pool resources is given. The buyer can send a carpool 2 food request to the friends in question. (Thanks Sarah Fathallah for the build). Another benefit of the price transparency is that if a certain product is in high demand, the price will be high, which might motivate buyers to find an alternative. Either in product or producer.

The site will also collect and keep historical order and price data. This will make it possible for consumers to see how much they spend in a period, or on a certain product or producers. Users can set a budget, so they can see in how far they have managed to keep to that. This should also help people with lower incomes to be able to use the site. In addition, budgetary limit warnings should be introduced. So that a user can set a budget limit, at which the site will give a warning if a purchase order makes that the total amount of money spent is going over that budget. (Again, thank you  Johan Löfström for the build.)

Concept builds

Builds from the Ideas Festival Workshop
Another group of buyers consists of the local resellers like butchers, greengrocers and fishmongers.

To give users of QLD-LoFE an insight of the market, the home screen can feature a column with info graphics about price levels, food sources, etcetera. This is a visual first level of the information that is available. Preferably, the users can edit which information is presented in the column. See picture three for a sketch of this.

On top of the trade aspect of QLD-LoFE, there is a social networking element. As already shown slightly in the video, users can connect to other users. This function initially served the pooling of resources aimed at transportation, but can also be used to promote the building of a local food culture. People can exchange recipes, ideas and favorite producers. Ideally, the can also use the platform to organize neighborhood festivities. A collective BBQ, for example.
Thanks to the Ideas Festival Workshop Team (see below) for the great builds.

Virtual worlds
As an extra interface, the QLD-LoFE could be set up in a virtual world (ie Second Life) as well. For example, and to start, a market could be built where people can walk past stalls and see what food is available at what price. Maybe even visit some chefs for recipes, etcetera. This could be extended with virtual world replicas of farms, where farmers can give virtual tours, plus some 'secret codes' with which the urbanites can come to the farm and get some amount of produce for free. In that way, virtual and real worlds can build on eachother.
Thanks James McBennett for the build

Consumer reports and pruchasing insights
Customers that buy food on this exchange could be encouraged to compare (in a spreadsheet at the end of the year) how much they saved on total food costs, and be given a friendly little nudge to "voluntarily donate" a small percentage as a fee to continue using the service.
Thanks Johan Löfström for this build.

Ecosystem and business model
The Qld-LoFE should play a central role in an ecosystem of local food oriented enterprises. At the heart of this system, Qld-LoFE will promote local food, but also generate and support other businesses that have spin-off activities. For example transportation companies, that can promote their services through the site in the transaction process for home-delivery of purchased food. Another example could be the investment clubs. Qld-LoFE could serve as a shared services center in administrative processes or marketing and PR campaigns.
All this spin-off activity will allow Qld-LoFE to design services on the platform aimed at these other businesses, for which a fee can be charged. In the case of transportation, a transaction fee on business generated through the site can be charged, and a fee for making data on order patterns available. In the case of investment clubs, additional data can be compiled regarding costs saved and performance of 'investments', also available at a price.
Obviously, the shared services service also comes at a result oriented price.
Thanks to Johan Löfström for inspiring these builds.

What actions would need to be taken to turn this idea into a reality?

The first stage of realization would be the functional design of the concept, and then build the Local Food Exchange software. During that stage, it would also be good to start connecting with producers and potential consumers to get them involved in it and to make producer profiles. Roll out in beta test, and

Who might make a good partner for this project?

Potential partners could be local farmers associations, if they exist. I'd really need some input to understand what type of organisations and government bodies are available in Queensland. Would be great to learn more about them.
The vision for QLD-LoFE is that it becomes part of an ecosystem of entrepreneurs. On one hand the local food producers, but also entrepreneurs who can take care of the distribution. And as suggested maybe some small grocery stores or restaurants that can be local pickup points.

What suggestions would you have for potential sources of funding for the development of this project?

We'd have to work out a suitable business model. Initially there should be some seed capital to get things going, but in my opinion, the best way to make this work is to have a proper businessmodel. In analogy with stock exchange markets, I'd opt for a small transaction fee that should cover the cost. Also, by generating data on sales patterns and consumer behavior, there might be some valuable information to be mined from that, which in turn could be sold.
But, it's open for debate. For this concept, we're looking for some great and fresh ideas on how to make money.

Virtual team

Sarah Fathallah
Vincent Cheng
Kirk Soderstrom
Johan Löfström
James McBennett

Ideas Festival Workshop Team
Ben Hamley
David Hood
Louise Orr
Jock McQueenie
Cameron Prowse
(Not all seem to be users of OpenIDEO)


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Photo of Fei Xin

Great idea! I am looking forward to know more informations about that.

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