Monday, March 17, 2014

Fixing the local food supply chain

Beefs: they're what's for dinner!

How I got interested in food supply.  My dad and his family have raised grass-fed Angus beef for slaughter since the 1940s.  I grew up on the farm where I stepped in doody, drove the tractor, and helped with the hay and feeding.  As I got older and moved away I was still interested in the operations and for graduate school did a project on the price of beef that helped my dad reduce costs and gross more through better practices and marketing.  The operation is still small and more of a hobby than anything--about 75 head of animals--but it's a fun one to monitor.  I like the scientific, dynamic, and operational natures of it.

Why not make a career out of it? The project of studying the beefs in grad school was fun and I've recently started thinking more of food-related business opportunities.  I thought, "Why not pursue one: I love food and why not make a career or at least a project out of it!?"  My mom has co-authored  two cookbooks and write a blog on French Dip Reviews so why not keep up with the trend?!

There's some cool stuff out there already.  I recently discovered a service called 5 Dinners in 1 Hour and have been quite happy as a user of it since January.  It's been a fast, reliable way for my wife and I to get good quality, reasonably healthy home-cooked meals throughout the week.  Briefly, with 5Dinners, you pay to get a weekly menu including the recipes, shopping list and recipes that you shop for and cook...but rapidly.  The dishes are chosen to be efficient to:
  • Choose (she chooses then for you), 
  • Shop for (she lays out the ingredients by aisle in the store), 
  • Prepare (she tells you what you'll need and what to do) and to 
  • Cook (she makes it so you "stage" everything in the refrigerator and can get out ready-to-cook items when it's time).
But it's just not good enough yet.  I really like the service overall but when I think about it I am disappointed that it is not more automated. For example, if I go to Amazon Fresh (which we do indeed have in my locale), I can browse recipes and then easily add items to my cart and they'll appear at my doorstep soon thereafter.  This is a good start but still not an integrated solution like the one I'm seeking.  What I want is 

an integrated, end-to-end solution for people who want to get good, locally-sourced where possible, 
home-cooked food fast and play a specified role in the delivery process

Let me parse this out for us.  "An integrated, end-to-end solution" to me means that it's software based, automated or some kind of cool, designed, customer experience with their needs in mind and not just a "niche play".  It's more of a platform or strategy, for example.  "For people who want to get good, locally-sourced where possible, home-cooked food fast" means to me that they care about good food, not just food or Doritos, locally-sources--they care about local suppliers for example, home-cooked meaning it's not done in too large of a batch or a true industrial output, and fast meaning that they don't have a ton of time to dedicate to the overall process.  "and play a specified role in the delivery process" means that they care and we as providers need to inquire with them as to what they need and want and prefer. 

Let's get involved.  We need to design a service or set of services around this premise and get going now.  Please let me know your thoughts and ideas.  Thanks!