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Research – Design project investigates local food

Posted in Models, Research by fedwards on October 7th, 2007

The extract below is from the “2007 Metropolis Conference: Design Entrepreneurs: Rethinking Energy“, which can be found in full at http://www.metropolismag.com/cda/story.php?artid=2975. The article discusses the design work of Dawn Danby, Jyoti Stephens and Mary Rick, who’s project is called “Beeline: A Virtual Marketplace for Local Food Distribution“. This project investigates the implications of developing a local food system from a design perspective. It is based mainly in the Pacific Northwest, applies a systems perspective and asks the questions:

What would happen if food traveled directly from the farmer to the store without wasting any travel miles in between?
What if we could track the impact of the food that we eat?
What kind of system could support local economies, decrease emissions and educate people about local food systems?

From the full article at Metropolis magazine:

“Beeline is basically an online system for local farmers. Many of the farmers in the greater Vancouver area have a really hard time. The issue of scale is a problem. A lot of farmers can’t grow enough produce to be able to get to grocers. One of the ways to deal with it is by aggregating—get one farmer who’s growing let’s say 80 pounds of potatoes, connect him with another farmer and another farmer all growing the same product, and aggregate that together in an online system. Then you’re actually able to give those people access to marketplaces which keep them in business. Farmers, like small-scale producers of all kinds, are endangered.

In addition to putting together an online system for small-scale farmers, we also looked at how to track the energy input. How can we track a crate of food through the supply chain? Can we tag it with a RFID [Radio-Frequency Identification Device] so that when it’s dropped off at the grocer you actually know how far it’s traveled and who the farmer was? You can calculate very easily the carbon emissions associated with that. You can also pass all that information along to the consumers so they can have a sense of where their food comes from. A lot of what we were doing was basically designing that system.

Local is an energy issue, but local is also an economic issue. If you’re buying from local producers you’re keeping that money inside the local economy. This is part of what’s called the multiplier effect.”

To read the full story, go to http://www.metropolismag.com/cda/story.php?artid=2975

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