FoodFarm Tackles World Wastage and Hunger
Living in Oslo it is hardly possible that you have not complained about the food prices we face here. But when talking about FoodFarm we’re led to consider the cost of food faced by companies providing food for their employees and the ecosystem behind this. When talking about FoodFarm we consider the cost of food, the systems behind these costs and the social impact of these costs in a broader way, far beyond our pockets alone.
FoodFarm is a system and now an application which allows companies to arrange food for their employees, subscription based, and have it brought to their offices daily. It is an alternative to the traditional canteen. It offers users a selection of kitchens and food types to choose from at prices well below restaurant prices in Oslo. Companies can choose from FoodFarm’s suppliers, change them when desired and individual employees can also unsubscribe for any given day or period of time. All of these actions are automated, which translates to: high speed and efficiency.
What does this new system mean for all parties involved and society on a greater scale? FoodFarm is definitely a startup with a long term vision and purpose, and this was made apparent to me when speaking to founder, Alexander Brevik. When explaining this “marketplace of kitchens” he demonstrated the role of each participant in the system and the benefits for them. Firstly, it is a no brainer that it is massively more cost effective for a company to have a subscription-based meal plan for employees, than having a whole kitchen with separate expenses. Using this model companies can basically only subsidise employees’ individual meals, instead of a whole kitchen where much of the food produced might not be consumed, but these costs still incurred.
We hardly ever consider the burdens on kitchens when pursuing our complaints and crying over food prices (or this is just me selfishly only considering my student budget). Kitchens however, struggle to keep prices down with low amounts of customers, salaries to pay, admin costs, logistics costs etc. to keep up with. What FoodFarm does for the kitchens is to take up all the extra “work” and costs for these kitchens, and allow them to just cook. “What we’re doing is we’re just facilitating existing kitchens to produce more of the exact same thing… They’re making more money doing not much more,” explained Alexander.
FoodFarm is able to provide food to companies at lower margins because kitchens are willing to drop prices for higher numbers of sales. These lower prices then cause more users to move to FoodFarm and a perpetual cycle of increasing numbers and lowered food prices begins. When talking to the founder about the future of FoodFarm he plans to extend this model to markets outside of Norway as well for now.
Taking a more humanitarian look at the startup; something which Alexander is extremely passionate about and seems to be the driver for FoodFarm; is effectivising the coordination and communication throughout the whole food value chain to reduce wastage. The idea is that due to a sort of gap in communication between suppliers, producers and consumers; waste levels are extremely high. Farmers are over supplying; kitchens are over producing and consumers are not consuming at a rate to keep up with this. FoodFarm is doing on a micro level what if done on a macro level would drastically reduce waste levels around the world. If an employee or several are out for the day, this is registered and the kitchen does not make these meals or order the produce to do so if done in time. By having effective communication and coordination from the consumer right to the farm we can affect change. This is one of the reasons FoodFarm is willing to offer their platform as “software as a service” and hopefully have all members of the food value chain in different food sectors all connected.
Looking at some stats however, we see that the perceived idea that most food wastage happens before it gets to the consumer is a misconception. The latest annual stats on food wastage in Norway show that 60000 tonnes of food are thrown out by the food industry; 68000 tonnes by retailers and 231000 tonnes by households (Østfold Research Co., 2016)http://sciencenordic.com/most-food-waste-households. Whereas in developing countries it is true that majority of the food wastage takes place in the beginning of the food value chain (SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction, 2016); every year wealthy countries throw away as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production (230 million tonnes) in Sub-Saharan Africa http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/.
I could continue to throw in statistics about world hunger and wastage but it is apparent that there is a correlation between the prevalence (or lack thereof) of hunger in a region and the disregard for it as an issue. Unfortunately it is human nature to be less sensitive to issues we cannot see, an incurable self-centredness. FoodFarm is looking at these things and applying solutions to the system, which is desperately needed. However if individuals in developed countries do not consider their personal consumption more deeply, we will continue to casually throw away the solution to millions of deaths per year.