European Gathering 2021 - Instance pitches

On Friday evening and Saturday morning each of the instances represented presented themselves. Here’s a summary of what was covered :slight_smile:

OFN Greece
Name: @Petros_OFN_GR
Role: Busines Development
Year launched: 2021, 1 month ago
Began talking with Nick about a year ago.
Team members: 2 members “full time” - 1 business developer and 1 fullstack dev.
2 more people part time, as needed
Number of producers: 2
Number of consumers: 1 consumer group, 6 consumers – 2 full order cycles on trial mode so far

Highlight so far:

  • 1 agricultural cooperative wants to launch a subdomain – trickling-down main Greek website domain to local sub-domains, for local regions. Mapping out a solution in terms of interoperability. Would mean producers and coops are not just suppliers to a central platform, but engaged as active stakeholders.

Lowlight so far:

  • Minor technical mistakes – map included silly dummy account names; ‘about’ page auto-redirects to Australian about page – noticed too late so problem in accelerator event
    The struggle is real:
  • How to move from side activity to main activity. All free time going into this.
  • Governance

OFN France
Name: @berengere.batiot, @samuel.feller , @Cecilia-Hn
Year launched: 2016
Two organizations as of 2020 – Open Food France, Coop Circuit

Open Food France
Association. fully non-profit. Nothing to do with software. Impartial between different software platforms. Produce open source tools and knowledge to support alternative food networks in France
Team members: 3-4 (Sam, Clemens, Myriam (+ Rachel))
Number of producers: n/a
Number of consumers: n/a

Highlight so far:

  • Did research into the landscape of software for short food supply chains, in connection with French agricultural ministry. Website to publicize the results of this research.
  • Hotline to help short food supply chain managers – 20-30 people helped so far.
  • Case studies, long interviews with managers to understand their business models, problems they face, how they can solve them. To publicize and share this information.
  • Research on legal issues projects can encounter.
  • Working on social pricing.
  • Municipality of Paris have granted OFF a subvention to support this work on short food supply chains in the city
  • Filipa highlighted the value of what OFF does, how they could offer consultation (paid) to other emerging coops, esp. where the latter get grants, etc.

The struggle is real:

  • Lacking efficiency. Projects overlap, are redundant. Struggling to produce enough content to keep up with the research.
  • Need to update the website to make the work more visible. Maybe separate website to be developed focused on all the information on short food chains in France. Kind of like an online newspaper of updates regarding the sector.

Coop circuit
Cooperative focused on the OFN software.
Suppliers, consumers, developers, etc. can all buy shares. OFF is a big shareholder of Coop Circuit.
Team members: 6
Number of producers: 15,000; 150 paid users
Number of consumers: 15,000

Highlight so far:

  • able to pay themselves (though part-time)
  • Having Rachel and Myriam on the project!
  • Increased user base a lot recently: user satisfaction – word of mouth; Bérengère’s communications work, plus OFF’s work; COVID

Lowlight so far:

  • Lots of competitors – about 10 platforms doing the same thing

The struggle is real:

  • Clarify communications. Esp. regarding the change of status
  • Map is a mess – lots of producers not active any more
  • Need to economically stabilize – 3 options:
    o decrease expenses
    o increase paying users
    o borrow money – probably will take a 100,000 euro loan over 5 years

OFN Italy
Name: Irene, Cathie, @DavidGiovannini
Year launched: 2019
Started out as 3 network engineers and 1 sys admin
2018 started talking about using OFN. Met with Myriam. Felt they didn’t have the capacity to host their own instance, so they piggy-backed on OFF for some time.
Production and staging of own instance in 2019
Fund-raising, networking – created formal organization (5)
Platform is launched but no publicizing beyond existing networks
Team members: 4+1 (left recently, maybe to be replaced soon)
Number of producers: 86
Number of consumers: 130

Highlight so far:

  • Becoming more grounded, focused on what is really possible.
  • Committee construction
  • 2 servers
  • Translations and guides for users
  • 2 networks that use the platform

Lowlight so far:

  • governance problems – internal conflicts, difficulties in transparency. Would like to open to other networks so need to know how to integrate new members safely.
  • Lacking manpower – all working full time, not enough capacity to grow OFN Italy in their spare time.

The struggle is real:

  • No real user support
  • Fundraising
  • Finding legal structure, committee out of date – studying France’s solution

OFN Turkey – AGIK GIDA AGI
Name: @Bato
Year launched: launched August 2020; first contact with Nick Nov 2019
Team members: 5 → 2 (lost 3 in the last month, people moving away, getting full time employment)
Number of producers: 136 since august, but all producers, no food hubs

  • Few food hubs in Turkey, contacted all but not so open to new technologies, new ways of working. Using whatsapp, facebook, excel sheets etc. Need more trust and confidence in the online system before they will adopt.
  • Planning to start a Food Hub in Istanbul soon – renting space in a bakery. 12 producers. Will provide an example to other food communities how OFN can be used, and also bring income for OFN Turkey.
    Number of consumers: 90

Highlight so far:

  • Good network in a short time. Everyone knows about OFN Turkey now, building a reputation.
  • People are starting to trust the project more.

Lowlight so far:

  • Difficulties building a strong community. Lacking experience on this.

The struggle is real:

  • Competition is very high, especially after Covid pushed supermarkets, etc. to offer online ordering, delivery
  • Budget – haven’t been able to access funding yet
  • Governance problems follow – not enough time to invest and organize

OFN Ireland
Name: @ferrazfil
Year launched: 2020, lots of interest due to Covid
Really formalized organization in 2021. Set up as a cooperative.
Team members: 8 total, 6 active, 4 active on a weekly basis
Good spread of expertise
Chairperson is Davie, Cloughjordan – OFN shop based here
Funding to develop well-rounded system with physical store as example + OFN platform
Number of producers: 116, 47 shops
Number of consumers: 186
Turnover steadily increased until sharp decrease in summer 2021, but now picking up again

Highlight so far:

  • small funding for training and a rounded project (Social Innovation Ireland)
  • Community grew out of nothing – very few people knew each other in advance. Set up remotely during Covid

Lowlight so far:

  • Some key people had to step back for personal reasons around March 2021 – big blow to the organization
  • Recent serious conflict internally, but open and honest meeting seems to have cleared it up
    No business development plan.

The struggle is real:

  • Lack of funding
  • Internal communication
    o Rooted in the fact that they are working remotely, hard to build trust.
  • Internal processes:
    o Want to be alternative in working routines, but also need for standardized communications that people can rely on
    o Trying to build sociocratic organization – but some have more experience than others so process not clear to everyone. At the moment everyone is in every circle but hoping to add new people and allow for division of labour.
    Would like to connect more with research but it’s just Filipa at the moment

OFN Germany
Name: @julian_p and @hhomann
Year launched: 2019
Didn’t have to start from scratch as instance had already been set up by Houdillia (?) who cofounded a CSA in Germany and used OFN to manage it, but didn’t have time to maintain and expand.
Food Hubs concept not well known yet in Germany. Were able to convince Ani, who was running a small de-facto food hub to move onto OFN and cofounded an official food hub together as a cooperative. Using this as a test of the software and an example of the food hub model for others.
Team members: 5-7 – Conrad, Christina, Ani
Number of producers: approx. 100
Number of consumers: approx. 1300
Handled approx. 6000 orders now

Highlight so far:

  • 240k turnover
  • Finding a cool team
  • Development of own tools based on Python
    o Used OFN API to create extra functions – automated transmission of orders to suppliers; statistics in reports; PDF invoices compliant with German law.
    o Open source so happy to share with other instances.
    o Labour costs are very high in Germany, so OFN could be used for digital checkout at physical stores (smart shop, autonomous farm stores, pick up stations, smart lock integration)
    o How to use tech to support farmers in addressing the problems they have – developing an app which could be customized for each food hub – sources of revenue, but lacking developer resources

Lowlight so far:

  • Not finding funds ; Funding rejections
  • Realizing developing the app would be more complex and expensive than they thought. Gap between dreams and reality.

The struggle is real:

  • No invoicing yet so no funding. Will start billing from the start of 2022. 3% turnover, at no cost if under 500 euro.
  • Linked to the struggle of allocating time - All volunteer labour. Would be alleviated if could get funding to pay people.
  • Difficulties in community building

OFN Switzerland
Name: @mikel @Gaelle_Bigler
Year launched: project really ignited in Dec 2020 – instance not live yet
Mikel already developed a platform for CSA management in Switzerland
Team members: 4 people total, but Mikel and Gaëlle are the active ones
Number of producers: n/a
Number of consumers: n/a

Highlight so far:

  • Good job communicating at a high level – good feedback in various funding rounds

Lowlight so far:

  • Not so good at community-building yet, not enough capacity

The struggle is real:

  • 3 language communication in Switzerland is complicated. Operating mostly in French, so only reaching 30% of the country. Big limitation on growth.
  • Mikel is moving from Switzerland to Spain next year, so this will make things difficult.
  • Local competition.
  • Lack of time, can’t do all the functions as two people.

OFN UK
Name: @NickWeir @lin_d_hop
Community Interest Company, asset lock. 8 directors mainly elected from users. 1 hour zoom meeting every 3 months.
Year launched: 2014 started working
Registered as a company in 2015 to accept funding
Team members: 11 → 14, all part time = approx. 5 FTE
Teams: Customer support, Marketing for hubs, guy in Uganda to do “automation” for hubs, book keeper
Number of producers: 1895 (lots inactive); 846 shopfronts (about 50 currently trading)
Number of consumers: 12,440
32k GBP per week

Highlight so far:

  • Covid response: by the UK team, new volunteers, and the hubs
  • Steady funding since the start
  • Pay as you feel payment model – meant nobody paid anything! Users say they need OFN UK to put an explicit price on it. 2.4% of turnover, capped. Recently increased prices due to improvements in software. 2 of the biggest existing users chose to move to the new rate as a show of solidarity.

Lowlight so far:

  • Main funder of global community for some time. Some people hired for global community who have since left – feels like the money was lost.

The struggle is real:

  • OFN doesn’t have the features people want. Not a lot of producers use OFN outside of food hubs. Competitors (e.g. Food Assembly)
  • Difficulties in working together

Proposed tasks:
[ ] Gaelle suggests that it would be helpful if OFN UK could do a mock pitch to investors for newer instances to understand how to tell the OFN story effectively
[ ] UK’s Thriving Food Hubs programme to be used by other instances – demonstrates that the OFN is not just the software but also practical support

2 Likes

Thanks so much @gen.shanahan I’ve loved reading this summary in particular. Great to get insight into the other instances like this.

1 Like

Thanks Evonne! Looking forward to meeting you at the next one!