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Window to the Farm

A startup business that boosts food traceability and brings producers closer to consumers. The startup would create a wiki style platform for food providers to share their provenance and information on their products. It would sell kits to schools to enable kids to print off batches of QR code stickers specific to each producer / product for the producer to place on the product / packaging. Enable producers to occasionally offer 'golden ticket' winning QR codes to offer prizes and encourage consumers to read the codes...

Photo of Tom Hulme
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We could create a startup (perhaps to be founded by a young, web-savvy entrepreneur?), called Windows to the Farm. In this case QR codes would be used to enable consumers to access the producers / product's relevant page on the 'Window to the Farm' site. 

Kara Pecknold gave a great example of a US coffee company 'Ethical Bean Coffee' doing exactly this at the moment - you can see it by clicking here. I managed to find a video outlining their scanner approach that helps bring this approach to life.  

In this case the entrepreneur would build and moderate a wiki that enables producers to create their own page for each product, they could also choose whether to enable consumer ratings on their page.

Smartphones with embedded QR code readers are more and more widespread, this trend is likely to continue through the support for the technology by large companies, including Google.

Bit.ly has a free QR code generator that acts as a hyperlink - you can see this in action by adding a URL into the site here: http://bit.ly/ . Here's one that we made for this challenge: http://bit.ly/localfood-ideas. Bit.ly also enables users to access information on how many people have read the QR code, here is information on the clicks on our link: http://bit.ly/localfood-ideas+ . This information alone would be valuable to producers.

Further to James Mcbennett's idea we could also offer the farms a low cost kit to livestream and enable them to embed the stream on their producer page.  Alternatively farms could perhaps just livestream from the video camera on an iPod to keep costs low?

We could do three things to help scale the idea and drive early adoption:

1) In order to get the idea out there and help the producers set up the site we could leverage Queensland High Schools. Schools would be able to purchase the 'Window to the Farm' QR Code stickers and could print specific QR codes in bulk for the food producers that they work with.

2) In order to drive up the amount that the QR codes are scanned the producers could run competitions – similar to Golden Ticket type approaches. The producers would just need to place a unique ‘Window to the Farm’ QR code sticker on a product occasionally.

3) Invite retailers to broadcast producer pages in their stores (including livestreams if the farms have it)

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO BUILD OFF THIS CONCEPT OR SUGGEST IMPROVEMENTS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW - I WILL CHECK IT REGULARLY...

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Photo of Fei Xin

I also agree with this idea. It is a good way to let people know where is the foods come from, and which farm is product.

Photo of Congmin Liang

I like this idea about the "Window to the Farm" to "boosts food traceability and brings producers closer to consumers." As the author mentioned in this article, "The startup would create a wiki style platform for food providers to share their provenance and information on their products. It would sell kits to schools to enable kids to print off batches of QR code stickers specific to each producer / product for the producer to place on the product / packaging. Enable producers to occasionally offer 'golden ticket' winning QR codes to offer prizes and encourage consumers to read the codes." It is a great way to let students who get the foods to understand the provenance and information of the products. I also like the idea of to offer the "golden ticket" by the producers to encourage consumers to read the codes on the packaging of the products. The author list three things that could help scale this idea and drive early adoption, which is really nice. And I am looking forward to see this idea on this stage and to see other people's ideas.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Great idea. Now lies the biggest challenge, how do you motivate/cultivate the consumers to grab their smartphones and QR it. The golden ticket idea like the one from charlie and the chocolate factory might only be temporary craze. One would go to a store and keep zapping away code without purchasing.

Photo of Kara Pecknold

Thought you might find this short news report interesting (not the reporters as much as the report) in light of your concept: http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20110718/bc_story_qr_codes_110718/20110718/?hub=BritishColumbiaHome

Photo of Paul Fr

Very simple, yet very efficient. It truly links the food with its production. I am not sure I understood why you want to use schools.
Also, could it possible to print the QR code directly on it, instead of using a sticker (more environmentally friendly), of course using bio ink :)

Photo of Tom Hulme

Printing directly onto the food is certainly a possibility if the printers are affordable - I'll have a look into it. Regarding schools - it struck me that building student engagement is an important way to build impact - I imagine that they are more tech savvy...

Photo of Paul Fr

Definitely agree with you on the education part :)
By the way, congratulation for your concept !

Photo of An Old Friend

In terms of feasibility, wouldn't it make sense to label the packaging, or crates, instead of individual food items? (assuming, of course, that a given cluster of produce is shipped same day, from the same source) And, congratulations on the concept.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Building on the schools engagement... they could be linked with both growers and local green grocers for the project. This would provide a connection through the whole supply chain as well as giving a point of difference between the grocers and the big supermarkets.

Other food industry experience has shown that creating demand from consumers through improving specialist food retail (eg butchers) has susbequently changed the supermarkets as well.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Building on the schools engagement... they could be linked with both growers and local green grocers for the project. This would provide a connection through the whole supply chain as well as giving a point of difference between the grocers and the big supermarkets.

Other food industry experience has shown that creating demand from consumers through improving specialist food retail (eg butchers) has susbequently changed the supermarkets as well.

Photo of James McBennett

I was just thinking about restaurants that are closed kitchen and open kitchen in the preparation of food. Many customers prefer seeing the kitchens, but let's not forget that many chefs prefer seeing the food go to the table, seeing the life of the restaurant and of course not working long hours in a dark basement.

The window to the farm is an excellent concept, but what about the other way of window to the store where the farmer looks back at you, a two-way communication.

Photo of Louise Wilson

interesting idea, James but what would the farmer gain from it? There would need to be an incentive for the farmers to want to look back. Maybe it could encourage more people to scan and watch if they know there was a direct communication going....? I'll have more of a think as I don't want to appear negative ;-)

Photo of James McBennett

The farmer could see what is liked and not liked, and easily see consumer preference i.e. baby carrots vs. large carrots for example. Esteem needs can be met as the farmer sees his food celebrated for its quality. He can get feedback from other farmers, and consumers about any positive and errors in his work......the relationship equally exists between farmer and chef.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Very interesting post Tom! good luck with your entry at the challenge!

I am sure this will create a buzz amongst consumers once it takes off fully. But, this also requires a lot of support (including financial) from a number of players for its implementation.

But, once the ball gets rolling, whole loads of content can be hosted on a common platform. This might in turn create a new culture which would help producers to move closer to the consumers.

Good luck!
Srini

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Tom, I definitely agree with the video ideas to make them more interactive. To streamline the brand of Windows to the Farm, reps from WTTF would need to go to the farms and help produce the 2-5 minute video that is educational, interesting and captivating to school children. The production quality of all the videos should be similar and also increase demand for more products to be involved on the interactive piece. Great idea!

Photo of Johan Löfström

But as a start, any volunteers could go to nearest farm to make a short clip (to get lots of browsable content quickly into the system at starting day) that could later-on become updated and improved. as time and camera quality improves, and gradually all farms are covered with best quality of reportages.

Also, with a written promise on the page around the video clip that the clips will be constantly updated, makes visitors more likely to accept poor image quality, and make them return often to check out the progress, just as their favourite weekly reality-show!

Photo of Ben Morgan

This is such a fantastic idea. So much potential. I was thinking, if the Qld Govt. is going to sink some money into this, then why not have top-class video production (much like the Mast Brothers video concept from SINA MOSSAYEB http://www.openideo.com/open/localfood/inspiration/the-beauty-of-quality-the-story-behind-the-food-production-process/)?

While a live stream is a great idea, it really is video production quality that will make the difference between people pulling out their iPhone in the supermarket, or while they're unpacking the groceries, or sitting down at the breakfast table.

A really amazing concept, can't wait to workshop it!

Photo of Louise Wilson

I agree, Ben. Live streaming sounds like a lovely idea but in reality it will need close monitoring and could become boring to watch. Having a well produced video (which could change on a regular basis?) would be more appealing to me.... it could be more humourus and have hidden messages added in.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

One concept/inspiration suggested the use of baacodes to link back to the animals; For your idea I'd suggest adding in Moovies - scan your milk carton to get a live web cam showing the cows that your milk came from. I was at a dairy north of Brisbane over Easter with my kids (Maleny dairies) They could probably trial this (perhaps with some help from the Queensland government?) since they are an independent producer who do their own packing/distribution and are proud of their quality products.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Just found that baacode mention in Jonatan Wentzel comment below used by Icebreaker clothing.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Way to go on making the Shortlist on the Local Food Challenge! Selecting 20 concepts out of over 600 was a tough job and we're excited to have you move through to the Refinement Phase. You can get a low-down on how the phase works over on Field Notes: http://bit.ly/refine_lowdown

Basically over the next 10 days we'd like you to further fine-tune your idea. You might explore opportunities and challenges to implementation, visualise further, expand on engagement strategies or connect various dots and details that would assist bringing your concept into fruition.

If you hit the Update This button on the right of your post, you'll see we've added 5 new fields to help you refine: Concept Builds, Actions, Project Partners, Funding Sources and Virtual Team. Check them out and feel free to keep updating your post throughout the phase – based on feedback and collaboration with fellow OpenIDEATORS and your own ideating goodness!

Photo of Vincent Cheng

Thought you all would be interested in how a "Window to the Farm" has been implemented in Japan as reported on in this Fast Company article: http://bit.ly/jOBbnN

Basically, Japan faced issues around food origins & safety, after food scares begun due to deaths caused by tainted dumpling from China. Since then, various food products (dumplings,salad, fish, sugar, etc.) began to feature images and info (Name, title, age, address) about the farmer/producer & even scannable QR codes (linked to video of the same person explaining the production & distribution process, and even info on his/her family history)

Photo of James McBennett

If the farms were to have cameras producing a live feed to the web, you could make a literal "window to the farm" Would be cool in a supermarket, some augmented reality app showing the windows (video feeds) of where everything came from.

There is so much meta-data that could be used, for example you could set the smartphone to "distance to farm", and quickly scan over the various QRcodes and it would produce a full screen result for each apple scanned. Remembering each code, it then displays them as a list realizing you are no longer scanning new items.

Also would love to see billboard advertising as a "window to the farm" showing full screen video (LIVE feed) of the farm, with minimal text overlay.

This is very exciting!

Photo of Tom Hulme

This is a fantastic idea James - I love the idea of live-streaming from the farm and the kits needn't be expensive - I'm going to look into it now!

Photo of Johan Löfström

http://openideo.com/open/localfood/concepting/interactive-sculpture/

Photo of James McBennett

Additional viewoints.

A camera on the tractor. (Time lapse)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ggPqx8vuHg

Using some form of trigger, show the time lapse of the last year, showing the seasons, growth etc.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbUVNBSwyLQ&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fz1gVYVRstM&feature=fvsr

Photo of Johan Löfström

if you are talking about time-lapse as educational or just having fun, see my concept, and please add your ideas there: http://openideo.com/open/localfood/concepting/i-2665-natural-growth-mobile-app-viral-campaign-network/

Photo of James McBennett

Johan, Time lapses AND "live windows" are both interesting to me, a combination where a live window is displayed in a store, touching a screen, it time lapses back the last year I find most promising.

Photo of An Old Friend

There is enormous potential here, and it ties in beautifully with some of the other concepts on here. I found my way here from Arjan's Footprint concept!

I'm wondering if an in-store kiosk or screen could allow customers (particularly without scanning phones) to scan items, and view key data, creating an experience that cannot be replicated on a mobile device?

The idea can go in several directions; at the bottom of this screen, it could suggest complementary, nearby products (cross-sell). For example, if one scans blueberries, it may suggest yogurt or other items. Subtle decisions such as continuing the video or presentation after the customer leaves the kiosk may attract passers-by.

The social aspect of seeing others participate in this dialogue with technology is powerful, and I am quite certain that it would influence shopping behavior of other customers who happen to be nearby. This also helps with the early adoption phase.

Whenever I go to Whole Foods, I see customers reading every square inch of labeling on the boxes or cans. Often, they struggle to read the small font. As Baby Boomers go into retirement, their vision will continue to deteriorate and something like this may allow them to overcome this obstacle quite easily.

With regards to the value-add for farmers, I can imagine several that fall under the broad categories of information and customer engagement / feedback. It presents a significant opportunity for local producers to brand themselves, marking a shift from away from price-based competition that currently exists. Like the wine industry (good precedent below), there are subtle differences in the flavors of a single fruit or vegetable, and this concept gives them a voice that has been silenced for the last several decades.

I don't think the cost is significant enough to worry about, relative to the value it provides. It is highly practical; as long as the produce is tagged, it can be associated with any data that is useful from the time it is harvested to the time it is consumed.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Hey Tom -- amazing suggestions below -- love the added video angle -- while there are many QR code type programs out there -- this definitely differentiates it!

The only thing I would further encourage you to think about is how are you going to incentivize actual producers to take the time, join the program. What is the added value for them? Sure it drives customer awareness and interaction, but will that offset the additional cost it will have to absorb in tagging the food AND producing the content for the code? (The latter being the more costly from a time and financial perspective in my opinion).
Cheers and great job!

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

I wonder if local producers could connect with consumers using something like this to develop new revenue sources in much the same way that vineyards and winemakers have diversified their revenue stream to include visits, eateries, guided tours, stores etc

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

I agree with the great ideas here.

I believe that any solution needs to personify the local producer and drive a connection to the end consumer ("Intel Inside").

The video stream is great. I also like the ability for a restaurant to be able to advertise their local inputs, this could be done by taking info from the QR codes. A recent burger joint, part of a chain here in Saint Louis, lets you know where the potatoes for their fries come from, as an example. Automating this would be great, having the info appear on an in house display or shelf.

Using smart phones and GPS to visually map the dispersion of the product would also help, if the app would track the purchase and then the consumption. Power users could also get to visit the farms for a tour if they submitted a certain threshold of information. This would help my point above in terms of the personifying the beginning and the end of the supply chain.

I would also think that a personification would allow the originator to price product at a premium, which is part of the sustainability issue.

Great work chaps.

Photo of Matt Dexter

Love the QR code idea- mixing up the real and virtual. Maybe the QR codes could be scanned by everyone in the supply chain (linking in with Louise's idea of transparency) to show the journey of the food on a map? Maybe you could look at or 'meet' the producers/suppliers on the Windows to the Farm' site?

Maybe since the food knows how far it's travelled, you could reward customers for buying local produce by having the food item worth a number of points; less if it's been air freighted to a shop and more if it's come from a local farmer. Then, you could have the Willy Wonka 'Golden Ticket', and a person accruing points for status...

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

This is a great build; have been thinking in the realm of carbon footprint tracking in relation to QR Codes on foods to allow customers to instantaneously scan and see the travels that one piece (tomato, potato...) went through to make it in-store. What about a mile/kilometre count? With approx of emissions and then - a safe, local suggestion that also recognizes seasonal sustainability....

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

This is a great build; have been thinking in the realm of carbon footprint tracking in relation to QR Codes on foods to allow customers to instantaneously scan and see the travels that one piece (tomato, potato...) went through to make it in-store. What about a mile/kilometre count? With approx of emissions and then - a safe, local suggestion that also recognizes seasonal sustainability....

Photo of Johan Löfström

We must also track consumers from the shop and home to the kitchen. And by what transportation method you use to bring it home. (Or just inform them much more) If you are using your own car and riding alone is the biggest waste of carbon emission of all.

Lets not forget that focus! because it is the point in the whole Food Chain that can be improved the most in volume and percentage, in efficiency of costs and emissions.

My ride home from the supermarket ; walking, about 1500metres, (someone elses can be 45km in an old Toyota-pick-up-truck)

See more in my concept : http://openideo.com/open/localfood/concepting/-power-diet-2013-economy-focused-home-cooking-manual-wiki-or-app

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

This reminds me of a clothing company from New Zealand: Icebreaker. They produce clothes from Merino wool and each product has a unique so called baacode. After having bought a product you go to their website (http://www.icebreaker.com) end enter your baacode. Then you can trace the whole production with focus on environmental ethics, manufacturing ethics and animal welfare.

@Johan: Yes, and one of the complex parts in this environmental puzzle is how you compare going by car to the supermarket to buying "the best" product. Is one trip by car worth 10 "best products" or 1000? I think that if we really want to change the course of the world we need to find out which changes in behavior that gives the most effects compared to its "cost". And by cost I mean how bothered people in general are by changing a particular behavior.

Photo of Kara Pecknold

A QR code from this Canadian coffee company actually me switch coffee brands and start buying from them:
http://www.ethicalbean.com/coffee/app
You can scan their "revolutionary emark" to learn all about your beans from farm to cup. It's a great connection to my coffee so I can imagine something like this being applied in more places!

Photo of Tom Hulme

Thanks so much for this - it's so close to what I was imagining it's very helpful. I have amended the concept to mention it and managed to find a video outlining their approach which I included too...

Photo of Sina Mossayeb

we were just talking abou this at our work place. it's brilliant! i think you could even have an SMS component to it too, where you text to a number and you get a link to a website, or perhaps a picture of the farm.

Photo of Tom Hulme

I love this build - I'm off to look at your concept now...

Photo of Meena Kadri

Feeling very privileged in this moment to count clever-trousers-Tom-Hulme as my colleague and be in the great company of OpenIDEATORS who are window-dressing this concept. #lovemyjob

Photo of Tom Hulme

These are great builds - I'll rev the concept accordingly later this week... keep em coming please

@Simon - http://www.goodguide.com/ is a great analogy - I hadn't seen it before. A lovely clean UX

@Sina - I like the SMS kicks back an MMS idea

@Matt - let's keep thinking through the geo-location aspect. If the smartphone has it activated and the producer's wiki page has a long and lat attached to it we can push something about the miles traveled...

Photo of Vincent Cheng

Spot on builds Johan!

Photo of Johan Löfström

Couldn't this also be used to share recipes for what types of in-season-vegetables are available in the area?

...And perhaps making it able for the average people see the connections that local restaurants have with local farmers? (similar to the OpenIDEO Collaboration Map?)

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Love this idea. As you're researching and developing this further - check out http://www.goodguide.com/ and specifically the "mobile" section. They developed a website and a smartphone app that allows consumers to learn about the environmental and social dimensions of the product they are planning on buying.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Great concept, Tom! I would love to have this already out in the supermarkets!

Photo of Vincent Cheng

Hi Tom. Love how you took this QR code inspiration to the next level in this concept: motivating people to scan through Golden Ticket prizes and providing a dynamic farmer-updated wiki, consumer ratings, & website links, rather than just a bit of static info. This allows consumers to learn about their food and producers to share their stories, even when distributing through larger, mainstream channels like supermarkets (where the two parties are not face to face). Kudos!

Photo of Louise Wilson

Nice idea, Tom. About to add a concept building on this but about creating transparency between the shops and producers.....