Since 12th century France, the world has been captivated by this phenomenon of making money out of speculative gambles and putting down their own money in the hopes of it growing into something more. The same could be said about farming, sowing seeds and putting in work and money to see if anything bigger comes out of it.
The marriage of agriculture and the stock market is nothing new, as we’ve seen it before in the context of futures and commodities, but as we explored the topic of Trust this week in the Food+Future coLab, we realized that there was something untapped in the profitization of the food industry: quality.
When talking about trust, it’s hard to stay away from the topic of quality, because so much of what think about while evaluating our relationship with how much we trust our food has to do with quality and food safety. At the same time, it’s hard to keep our minds from wandering to the topic of money, because when you boil trust down to a process level, you see that it is most relevant whenever a transaction of value is being enacted.
Introducing DOUGH, a new way to (literally) take stock in what you eat. Instead of a marketplace for livestock, imagine a marketplace where you invest in restaurants that you think might be profitable when hedged against the quality of your food, where you can pick out ingredients to follow from farm to table through live cams, where you can view spectroscopy reports of your favorite foods to ensure you’re getting what you pay for.
The players in the game change the whole industry from a top down distribution system of trust where you, as the end consumer, only end up getting a small amount of trust in what you’re eating but rather inserts you near the top of the food chain, as you become a direct investor in the direction your food goes from midstream distribution. How does this whole system work?
This cycle allows for more points of customer interaction and investment, leading to higher profit overall along different points of the distribution chain. The question that hinges on our minds though is whether or not this makes food altogether too complicated, something we’ve been trying to avoid.
It’s easier when considering things from the consumer point of view. Follow along at ffdoughlab.com if you’re interested in going along the journey yourself!
Step 1: Discover restaurants! Take the time to see what you’re eating in a Yelp-like environment not based purely on taste or environment, but also based on the quality of food that you’re eating.
Step 2: Look into the ingredients and see what might look interesting as an investment. Or just click on one to see the story of how it got from farm to your table.
Step 3: See the story of where your ingredient has been, and click the Follow button on the right to add the restaurant to your “portfolio” of businesses that you’re following.
Step 4: Invest! The investors page shows you all of the ingredients and restaurants that you’ve been following. Click on any of them and you’re brought to a check out page where you can decide how many shares of each you’re deciding to invest in.
Step 5: Profit! Interestingly enough, this is a positive-sum game in which the investor can decide to cash out their investment before waiting for the stock to mature at the end of the term. This then presents two scenarios; the first means waiting for your investment to mature, giving ROI in the form of cash dividends. The second involves a made up currency called doughlers, which are good at the restaurants that one has invested in and can be used for food. In this way, the investors never lose out, the restaurants are either enabled to use money invested to improve their infrastructure for higher food quality, or still make returns on customers buying food through doughlers.
Essentially we’ve extended the CSA model from fresh foods one more step to the restaurant, although the idea of buying stock in what you’re eating against a measure of food quality scales up at every point of distribution. Questions that do come up are whether or not people start shorting against this market and if this actually works in practice (we’re food enthusiasts, not economists). At the very least, we hope that this adds a fun spin on how people consider their food, and truly (and literally) capitalizing on the value of the quality of what we’re putting into our bodies.
Editor’s Note: This article was written by a Food + Future coLAB Fellow to share their concepts and experiences from the third week of our January 2016 program, focused on the theme of Trust. For more information, please visit foodfuturecolab.com/trust.