In this wonderfully cogent article, Steve Holt argues that technology — specifically mobile technology — is key to the future of the local food movement and food justice in general.
In support of his claim, Holt explains how Mark Sullivan built a website to help Austinites eat more local food, as opposed to planting an urban farm.
“Sullivan co-founded growmingle, a new company that is using technology and digital ‘mapping’ to connect people in Austin’s vibrant local food scene — including farmers, chefs, distributors, advocacy organizations, retailers, and consumers — with one another.”
To deal with the atomization of the local food world in Austin and the trouble producers have connecting with customers, the growmingle team has interactively mapped the Texas capital’s locavore movement.
Growmingle will soon have a Yelp-like mobile app guiding users to purveyors of locally grown food.
Holt points out that mobile and tech solutions shorten the distance between us and our food by enabling us to shop our values, cook more at home, eat healthier, and, like GrowMingle, find local food restaurants and producers in our area.
Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter are raising capital for projects that would have been difficult to fund a decade ago.
“For the broad market to have access to [local food], there needs to be an easy and effective discovery platform to find out about real local food initiatives happening around them,”Sullivan says. “We want to be the most trusted name in Austin local food”
Growmingle is just one of hundreds of examples of cutting-edge technology related to the future of the local movement.
According to Danielle Gould, who founded Food + Tech Connect, there are more than 800 tech companies currently focusing on aspects of the food industry.
New York City alone has more than 150 e-commerce companies selling all-in-one food kits to home cooks.
One company, Red’s Best, a seafood company headquartered on Boston Harbor, has developed a tracking software that follows a fish from the ocean to the dinner plate.
When purchasing a piece of fish from Red’s Best, consumers can scan a QR code with a mobile device and see a biography and photo of the fisher who caught the fish.
At the recent SXSW Interactive conference, attended by FriendsEAT co-founders Blanca Valbuena and Antonio Evans, several sessions focused on the intersection of nutrition and technology, including one suggesting that mobile technology and digital access are crucial for increasing access to healthy foods for families living in food deserts.
Another session discussed how lifestyle apps and devices are helping Americans lead healthier lives.
Growmingle’s success will be determined not just by how well they’re able to monetize their concept but “how well we impact the communities we’re in,”Sullivan says.
He adds that the end goal is for GrowMingle online tools to help Austin locavores see the movement from a bird’s eye perspectivebut ultimately he hopes to get folks out from behind their screens and meeting face-to-face.
“We think visualizing these connections is an important way for people to see that it’s real,”Sullivan says. “We want to put more money into the pockets of people who produce local food”