[Hacking the Food System is an online conversation exploring how technology, information and data can change the food system status quo. Join the conversation below, on Twitter (hashtag #foodtech), or Facebook.]
People are increasingly aware of the pitfalls of our current food system. The question is, how do we fix it? One of the most powerful things we can do is change the way we eat. Everyday, we are given the opportunity to change the food system by voting with our wallets and our forks.
One problem. It’s too hard to know what exactly it is we’re eating. Until very recently, I could recite a Shakespeare sonnet, but I couldn’t tell you where my food came from or how any of it was grown, and maybe most importantly, where to find food that met my own ethics and values.
To affect real change in the food system we need to do 2 things (which we can do with tech!):
1) We need to inspire people to care about where their food comes from.
There are many people working on this right now. Here is a very short list.
Real Time Farms romances the everyday eater with stories, images, and information. We’re connecting people to each other, allowing them to follow the tomato on their plate at a restaurant (e.g. Casa Mono) or home back to pictures and info about the farm that grew it. We also woo people by making it possible for them to share what they know. When people can affect change, they want to do it more. Our Food Warriors, 15-20 interns around the country, are helping spark contribution in cities nationwide, by priming the pump with video, stories, and growing practices of their regions farms and food artisans. Their contributions bring the guide to life, and inspire others to contribute further.
2) We need to make it easy to know where you food comes from and find food you feel good about eating.
This is a massive but possible undertaking, if we work together. It requires the constant gathering, cleaning, and sharing of data on all of our nations farms; their growing practices and stories. I imagine, that if we can all share data, we can move, aggregate, and share data seamlessly between farm management systems (like AgSquared), CSA-management systems (like LocalHarvest’s CSAware), traceability software (such as HarvestMark and Top10Produce), food hub distribution software (such as LocalOrb.it), online food distribution systems (like LocalDirt or Farmigo) and consumer facing educational tools, like RealTimeFarms. We will be releasing an Open API in efforts to help this data exchange.
Our dream: You visit RealTimeFarms. You trace your food back to the farm it came from. You find farms you love. You know how to find their food – at your local restaurant, at 2 local supermarkets, 4 neighborhood farmers markets, and 3 online food hubs. You go to one of these places and shop. You cook. You feel good.