What, other than food, could the Open Food Network be used for?

I was really interested to hear that in France the Open Food Network platform has been adapted (white labelled?) for use with sustainable building supplies, and it’s been great to follow Canada’s use of it for flowers. It made me think more about what else the platform could be used for, alongside the other criteria we’ve been contemplating around what else do farmers sell to remain viable and sustainable. The criteria I have used in my pondering has been:

  • what else do farmers sell
  • what could farmers sell if they were fully capturing the costs of farming sustainably
  • what else is sold in the food system that has similar characteristics to selling food
  • what else is produced by multiple people, aggregated, processed, and sold, and increases sustainability and equity in the food and farming system

We’ve had some discussions with Fibreshed about their model, which is similar and draws from multiple small producers to aggregate, process, and sell with different certifications. (There is also a large international Fibreshed community).

A number of farmers selling food through Open Food Network are also selling timber.

We’ve been exploring quite a bit (and are keen to explore more) about carbon credits, community carbon schemes, natural capital accounting and biodiversity credits, and more opportunities in that space. @Kirsten is more across/leading those ideas.

Another opportunity is around organic matter flowing back to farms, so food and green waste that is being created by multiple people/organisations, that is then aggregated for processing, and sold on as compost or organic products.

In Australia, we’ve just received a small research and design grant to undertake a co-design project with organic waste processors, councils, businesses, community composters, farmers, etc to investigate the potential of the platform to help in this space. Our aim is to complete this project with a sense of usefulness of this idea, possible next steps, possible business case of expanding in this direction, and funding ask if we were to pursue this. There’s no obligation to build anything in terms of the software, which would obviously need much more OFN community interest, discussion, consent and input.

I’m sharing here to keep everyone in the loop, and I’m interested in others’ thoughts/actions on considering other uses for the platform. :slight_smile:

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In similar vein - not only are the flower farmers selling non-food products from small scale sustainable growers - they are also using OFN to source the inputs (small plants called ‘plugs’, bulbs, tubers …). I worked with that network to identify what they were interested in and then worked with the suppliers and put a shop together. (unfortunately it was all manual entry - major pain) But in the end, this saves all the flower farmers hunting down everything on their own. But the real benefit is to smaller scaled farmers because these big suppliers all have big minimum orders. No one would be able to source their interesting plants… unless we pooled our orders. It worked fantastic - and the flower farmers really liked the idea of using OFN as buyers as well as sellers. I think fibre and wood products would go over here too. The other possibility is for craft markets. Popular here pre-holidays. Everything from woolen wall hangings to blown glass as gifts made by small artisans (Etsy kind of people - but Etsy is expensive). I was already thinking about craft market pop-ups next season. Same kind of OC issues as farmers - pre-ordering is necessary (hard for these crafters to have/keep large inventories), linking similar vendors together in a shop for joint marketing…
It all makes me curious about branding through - is there enough of an argument here to suggest we re-brand in a more generic way - that includes, but is not limited to, food. Maybe a small local crafter/producer brand?
Or - maybe we offer white labelling on a fee for service? Accompanied by a support package?

Hello :slight_smile:

@Jen actually all non-food products on OFN France are on the main platform: we don’t ave any case of white labeling (yet).

Non food products on our platform are ranging from food byproducts (including waste) to cosmetic, soap, craft… Lots of farm have this diversity, and lots of hubs are trying to offer a diversity of products: we even have a hub that is supplying local-made paper toilet :metal:

So our users didn’t wait for us to change the brand to already sell other type of products. But we agreed with them that we need to make it more clear that we accept those products. That’s why the French cooperative name will be CoopCircuits. As soon as the coop will be created, we will move the app under the CoopCircuits branding.

I don’t think we have anything in the software that is specific to food other than the name :slight_smile: I think we are doing work to help short distribution chain projects work, regardless of the type of product. But that was discussed a lot on the branding topic, a bit off here maybe.