Italian dried pasta, Californian walnuts, Dutch butter, Columbian banana’s…
Just a list of foods you’d expect to put in your trolley at the supermarket, right?
What about New Zealand avocados, Japanese mayonnaise and French wine… Ok that is getting a bit exotic.
The truth is a large majority of the food we buy week in and week out at the supermarket is not from your local area and has probably travelled a long way to get to your pantry.
Introduction to Food Miles
You may have heard of the term “Food miles”. The basic idea of food miles is to account for the distance a food product travels.
Food miles are used to calculate how much greenhouse gas emissions are generated during transit. This process accounts for the distance all the way from production to consumption. The idea is that the more we consume foods with high “food miles” the more we contribute to global warming.
The average American meal travels about 1500 miles to get from farm to plate! Supermarkets stock foods from all around the world and if it works out more cost effective they will offer products from other nations over local goods.
What is economically efficient is not always environmentally efficient. The thing is its just so cheap so how can we do anything different. Often, we are being told that we are damaging the earth in everything we do and touch anyway, so what are we to do about this?
A valid solution is needed to change a bad habit.
Unless you willing to grow your own foods, become a farmer and practically start a second job in the garden, then you are probably still going to keep buying your international foods and buy from supermarkets. I mean why wouldn’t you it’s easy and cheap.
Then there is the local farmers markets. Now I’m sure most of us have been a few times to the local farmers markets and bought a few things. We all get a high from going, from a general sense that we have “done good” for the planet.
But like any habit it takes commitment to create change.
Did you go the next week? …
What about the week after?…
Unless you’ve made it a huge weekly priority you’ve probably gone back to racking up the food miles at the supermarket. Because let’s face it, it’s not convenient.
The Innovative Solution
Luckily some savvy entrepreneurs have found a solution. Connecting farmers directly with consumers. Organic and local produce is being sold online by startups that have moved the intermediary functions of supermarket chains on to the net. You can now shop online (from the comfort of your lounge!) for produce produced by your trusty local farmers and have it delivered as a grocery package to a convenient drop of location in your area.
These tend to be schools or town halls and some services even offer home delivery for an added price.
If you shopped at whole foods, or bought organic foods before, you’d expect a large price tag for such a service. But that’s the beauty of the innovation, by reducing the number of intermediaries in the food supply chain they have been able to keep the price of the products at a very similar price to the local farmers market. Reasonable prices for local food that is now convenient for even the busiest of people. This is the value that these startups are creating, solving a customer problem of convenience and reducing the carbon footprint of buying food products!
The startups draw their revenues, from a markup on the goods and sometimes charge a delivery fee. The farmers are getting much more for the produce than they would by selling bulk to supermarket chains, the startups are capturing enough value via the markup and the customer gets a convenient innovative service. But most importantly the service reduces CO2 emissions by reducing the number of food miles per household.
This is a business model that has been implemented by a number of different companies across the world. One of the most successful businesses is Farmigo. Farmigo is currently based out of San Francisco (CA) and Brooklyn (NY) and according to TreeHugger, Farmigo has provided technology to “hundreds of CSA farms in 25 states and has connected them to more than 3,000 communities.” Since forming in 2009, Farmigo has helped CSA farms deliver more than 30 million pounds of produce to over 100,000 families. Farmigo coordinates with local farmers located within 100 miles of a community to deliver food harvested within 48 hours of drop off. By selling direct to consumers through Farmigo, farmers gain 80 percent of the sale of the food, versus 9 to 20 percent that they would if they sold to grocers.
What Famigo and these startups have done is taken an environmental issue, considered the consumer needs and then innovated a system which has changed the entire distribution channel of food production.
Sustainable business is not just about reducing the environmental impacts of current business activities. Sustainability in business can also be achieved by changing the way we perform current business. When we really start to ask “why?” we can be much more creative and solve these environmental problems with what we call Disruptive Innovation.
Disruptive Innovation the key to Sustainability
Disruptive innovation is a solution that is not a small change but a leap forward in the way that we do things. Companies such as Farmigo are disrupting established production and distribution channels by offering a solution that makes it easier for consumers to engage in sustainable activities. In learning from Farmigo we can see why we need to start asking ‘why’ more. Why do we do it this way? This question repeated over is the key to finding opportunities for Disruptive Innovation. Ask it over and over again to start being more creative in finding sustainable business solutions!
About the author
This article was written by George Gray from Eco Founder. George has written a FREE eBook for engineers called “Most engineers are making these fatal mistakes when getting into business. Are you?”
Check out his Eco Founder page and drop your email in his sign-up form and and he’ll send over the guide.
Our writers come from all over the world, but one thing unites them - their passion for sustainability.