OFN comparison with 'similar' platforms

I’ve put this under business models - but its more than just that really. I’m starting a project here in Canada to do a structured comparision of existing platforms that offer e-commerce and logisitcs support to farms, CSAs, and food hubs (so platforms that offer features/services similar to the OFN platform). I am asked all the time how the OFN platform compares with specific platforms, and I think it would be nice to be able to answer the question more clearly.

I plan to register my own farm/CSA/hub with a group of different platforms for a free trial, and then ‘test’ these platforms against a structured set of questions - ie: things that farmers, CSAers. and foodhb users ‘need it to do’.

I’m wondering if anyone else has done this? And if any one has any sggestions of the platforms to test. I’ve been asking local farms/food hubs in Canada about what they are using now - and here is my list so far: SMall Farm Central, Jimbo, Farmigo, Local Line, Harvest Hand, Local Harvest/CSA Aware, Farm Pal, Local Marketplace - and the only 2 open source ones i know of (in addition to OFN): Local Orbit, Open Food Source

If anyone has done a review of some of these, it would help me. The Young Agrarians group here did a review several years ago, and a number of farmers and food hubs have asked me if I have updated info (see http://youngagrarians.org/software-tools-for-small-farms/).

I would primarily be taking a user point of view - including features available, cost for different scales of operation, ease of use…


Hi @tschumilas I know that there has been a lot of conversations about this on the US NGFN network. Not sure if it was a formal study but worth asking them. Let me know if you need an intro

I am sure this has been done to some degree - @sstead @CynthiaReynolds I feel like you have both looked at this? I’m so sorry I am not sure exactly where to point to . .

@serenity I am also thinking that there was something from Saloni at one point? and that work for Sherah may have crossed into this? Can you point me to those to share with @tschumilas?

Hey @tschumilas these two threads basically cover the investigating I’ve done into other softwares, not sure how helpful it will be for you. Love the idea of getting to know what else is out there! CSA software features Existing customer interfaces for standing orders / recurring orders / subscriptions / CSA shares

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@tschumilas, this is almost the same like what we want to achieve with the solidbase project except that we are working from a European perspective and dedicated ourselves to the public money for public code paradigm. We also want to concentrate mainly on the logistics aspect.
The european top players in this respect are cagette, repanier, openolitor and juntagrico.

Haven’t heard of Local orbit and Open Food Source yet…

Maybe it is possible to have a look at the progress of your research?

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https://localfoodnodes.org/ appeared on the radar…

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of course - more than happy to share. Unfortunately - I’ve made no progress on this. For one thing, these platforms are evolving so fast - that as soon as I do any kind of comparison notes, it is out of date. So - instead, i’ve focused on trying to help users ask the right questions of the platform provider. So - the attached is a set of questions I’ve come up with. I have a student now who might get to a comparision - and if he does - will let you know.choosing the tech platform that is right for you.pdf (528.4 KB)

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Thanks a lot! This is very helpful.
But for answering these questions you need to be aware of the features of each software. Do yo still recommend the youngagrarians list as starting point?

Hi guys and thanx for the invitaiton. I´m Albin Ponnert, the founder of https://localfoodnodes.org…I´d be happy to answer thoughts and questions about our platform.

At the moment we are working with the release of the first version of our mobile app Local Food App, that will be released in June.

All the best/Albin

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The mobileapp “Local Food App” is now downloadable for both andriod and iOS.
Check it out.

there will be some csa farmers on that list - but really I’m not sure any one list is more helpful than any other. Its a lot of hunt and find via the internet really.

We’ve been using Open Food Source for Cloverbelt Local Food Co-Op since we started out in 2013. I’m now working with @tschumilas to explore OFN as a new platform for our co-op.

Roy Guisinger is basically the only developer left on OFS. He’s fantastic, really great to work with, and a big open source proponent … but he’s only one person, working on volunteer time. I’ve been a PHP dev since 2001, and honestly, the whole code base is a mess. That’s nothing against Roy, or the work he’s doing to keep it going, because, I marvel at his ability to keep it working. It’s code he’s inherited, and worked with over many years. But it’s outdated at its core. A large number of the core functions are deprecated, and the recent changes to integrate it with WordPress created massive overhead on the server side. We went through two server upgrades this year to keep it running … and there were a couple of weeks in there that it was BARELY staying online. What I discovered in trying to set it up on a ‘bare metal’ VPS was that the server couldn’t be running the most current versions of key software, like PHP, or it would throw pages and pages of errors and warnings. A lot of deprecated functions. In the near future, it’s going to require a custom, outdated, server just to function. Which is too bad, because when it’s working, it works fairly well. There was an attempt about two years back to put the project on Github and bring more developers into it … but it fizzled out fairly quickly. It basically needs a ground-up refactoring though, or its future is greatly restricted.

One of the things OFS does, that we’re finding missing in OFN, is memberships. IE: when a new member registers, they are automatically charged a membership fee, based on the type of membership (consumer/producer/institutional). There are ways to do this manually in OFN, but having it part of the sign-up process is great.

One other thing that OFS does, that OFN doesn’t appear to have any way to do, is charge producers what amounts to a ‘stocking fee’ for the hubs handling their products. It’s a way for the costs of operating a hub split between the shops and the people buying the goods, vs. ALL of the fees coming out of the consumer’s pocket. Is there a way to charge producers for carrying their products at a hub with OFN?

While OFS does allow multiple hubs, creating them is clunky. I have to go in and create entries directly in the database for them to show up in the site. It’s not something we do often, but it is definitely a much more labour-intense process than it should be.

OFS does have a fairly extensive ledger system for tracking all of the orders/fees/etc. Learning how to use/interpret it can take some time. But the numbers are all there.

OFS has some pretty straight forward systems for producers to view and print off labels for their products, which is good. I’m not seeing anything quite the same in the OFN reports. The one I’m looking at that could be close shows the names of the purchasers as “HIDDEN”, which isn’t very helpful for sorting.

The OFS invoice printing works fairly well too, although I added some bits of code to it so the pagination was correct when printing them, instead of having a new invoice starting to print at the end of the previous one, on the same page. I also created a couple of custom scripts to pull out membership reports from the database, because none exist in the OFS code base itself.

As I said, Roy is great, and I respect him and the work he’s done A LOT. I’m in no way bashing the software. But the hard truth of it is the codebase needs a complete ground-up refactoring, all of the functions need to be updated (they pre-date classes in PHP), and I would say it would take a dedicated TEAM of developers a couple of years to get it done. It’s still working, but if anything were to happen to Roy, or he decides he’s done with it … that’s pretty much the end of the line for it. The future prospects are limited at best right now. At least, that’s my opinion on things after 5 years working with it. That’s a driving force behind CLFC’s interest in the OFN platform for our … 1700+ members. (Over 175 producers)


Thank you for this detailed description!

Although I find it a strength of OFN to not have the ability to charge the producers with a stock fee as this would be a bit contrary to it’s approach of supporting the producer side.

In our case, that fee is specifically to support the producers. It’s part of what pays the salary of our one full time employee. Without it, we would have to reduce her hours, risk losing her to full time elsewhere, and reduce the services we provide. That fee includes CLFC handling marketing and distribution for the producers. We’ve actually been in discussions about increasing it, to allow additional marketing opportunities and to help fund increased product distribution across our 1,500+km route. Transportation (legal, food-safe transportation to boot) is a massive issue for us. That’s part of what that fee covers. There is only so much the consumer can bear on their own before they bail because of the cost. We’ve already seen members disengage over the last few years because they feel the prices are too high.

You are correct @CLFC. All the fees charged in OFN at present (enterprise fees and delivery fees) are charged to purchasers. They may appear in the shopfront (pie chart) or at checkout - but regardless, they are passed to the purchaser. (Note we have imagined the potential that the purchaser is another hub/enterprise, so not always a consumer) . But at this point, if a hub/enterprise wants to charge something like a ‘stocking fee’ to a supplier, it has to be done outside of OFN. OFN reports can help to isolate the amounts, but basically the invoicing to the supplier is done outside of OFN.
And you are correct that its clunky to do memberships in OFN. I think if we move forward on a CSA module as is being discussed - then membership could be part of that. But at present - ‘membership’ is a ‘product’ in a shop - but its not tied to any automated membership list.

Great statement (specially after all the good things you said about its features). This is where no project wants to be. If you are managing software development priorities and a user, customer or business owner comes to you with serious doubts about why you are prioritising tech debt work above high priority business features. This is a very good statement to refer to.

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During the international CSA meeting in Thessaloniki I got to knew two more local groups, for consumer group administration, a python tool from Spain: https://karakolas.org and a drupal app from Greece: http://agrotopia.gr

Karakolas also linked a list from aixada with some more Spanish developments: https://github.com/jmueller17/Aixada/wiki/Other-platforms

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SARE had a grant to do a comparison between online sales platforms currently on the market. USA focused. Links below to their findings.
Just Online Platform Comparison Chart .pdf (488.6 KB)
Online Sales Platforms.pdf (335.4 KB)

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This is a nicely done comparison - thanks for sharing it @sstead. I note that they listed but didn’t try the OFN platform - seems like they thought it was only available in Australia, and didn’t realize its also available in Can, and now in the US. Did you notice @rbarreca that Local Orbit was their top pick!!

wow, really nice work. it’s crazy to see how many solutions are out there, just in the US :smiley:

incorrect :frowning: