Last week, GoodGuide founder Dara O’Rourke delivered a keynote speech at the Sustainable Foods Summit that focused on how mobile technology will transform the food system. Whether it’s bringing transparency to the marketplace (like our app) or improving food safety, there is no doubt that this technology can and will make a difference in how our food system operates. However, despite the various tech-based solutions presented to consumers, retailers, distributors, and farmers, there still remains the question of who is will capitalize most from this new trend.
During his talk, Dara pointed out the growing number of consumer-facing apps that help individuals connect directly with producers. Some allow you to map local farmers markets or identify retailers that only sell locally-produced goods. Others allow you to scan QR codes to literally find out what farm your meat came from. Presently, these apps serve as excellent marketing tools for regional food systems, in that they end up curating a database of products and services with fully definable supply chains.
Another subset of programs, catering more towards solving issues pertinent to managing supply chains, are also changing the way food is produced and distributed. Larger companies are using mobile technology to track product shipments (making sure that perishable items arrive before falling into the temperature danger zone), or to track crop prices. Farmers are using mobile to plan around bad weather patterns, adjust center pivot sprinkler systems for more efficient irrigation, and even monitor aphid threats to a soybean crop. While we as consumers may not notice the impact of these mobile technology applications at the grocery store, they are becoming instrumental in differentiating forward-thinking food companies from the rest of the pack.
How else will companies in the food space use mobile technology? And which companies will use this technology? Only time will tell. Perhaps more important for us to consider as eaters though is how this technology will alter the cornucopia of food items currently available to us. Just how much will mobile technology promote the growth of smaller, local food producers? On the other end of the spectrum, in what ways will adoption of mobile technology streamline the practices of large agribusiness? One possibility is that mobile tech bridges the gap between large agribusiness and smaller, local food producers by inadvertently highlighting the benefits of regionally-based foodsheds. Now something like that would have a major impact on dinner tables across America.