Providing Farm Location Information, Via Produce Station, to End Consumer Frustration

Karelyn Munro

Ryan Eskuri

Katie Beth Halloran

Providing Farm Location Information, Via Produce Station, to End Consumer Frustration

Requested Amount-$50,000

Expected Amount of time to Complete Project-1 Year

 

Describe your Project:

What is it?

Every shopper knows that it’s never 100% clear where the advertised produce in their nearby chain or local grocery store comes from. That’s why we’ve come up with a product called Produce Power, a barcode scanner that is updated by store produce intake departments and located directly in the produce section. Every time a new batch of produce comes in, presumably existing location data is put into the barcode scanner machine and consumers are able to swipe their produce and find its location quickly. There is no more wondering which Michigan farm your blueberries came from or where your bananas were grown; consumers are able to purchase with a conscience instead of blindly buying food they might not support. Produce Power gives the customer the produce they want, from the farm they trust.

 

How does it work?

Using data from the manufacturers and produce intake department, the barcode will be put into the catalog system with a picture of the produce. Many stores already have a self-checkout that allows customers to scan produce if it already has a barcode. This will be a similar process. If the produce does not come with a barcode, the customer will type in the item code and the information will quickly pop up on the touch screen.

Interviews And Preliminary Support

 

We have interviewed several people who are avid produce shoppers and all have expressed enthusiastic support for Produce Power. Three of the participants were in college at the University of Michigan; two were female and one was male. The male, aged twenty, affirmed that he would use the scanner if it were available. One female, aged 21 added “I would use it; especially with organics because It’s sometimes more questionable which standards they are using. So yeah, I think I would…not 24/7 because after a while I would start to trust certain stores, and some foods I just don’t care about.” The other female, aged 20, said she liked the idea so she could figure out how many “food miles” the produce had and whether the food is in the local area, sustainable and fresh.  She also shared a personal story about her experience looking for local honey so she could decrease her allergic sensitivity, adding that a scanner like this would have been helpful. A slightly older female from a different location in Michigan, age 51, said that she thought this was a good idea. She also gave a story of a time a highly health-conscious relative came to visit, and they couldn’t buy food for her because she would only eat from certain farms and they couldn’t find out where any of the food at the store was grown.

 

How big is the potential market for your idea?

The potential market for this idea extends to any person who shops at a large supermarket.  While not everybody would take the time to use the scanner, in places where people are environmentally conscious, such as Ann Arbor, and want to eat from their favorite local farms.  More organic stores such as whole foods would probably benefit more from this product than other chains as it’s estimated by Ann Arbor News that only 1% of food consumed in Washtenaw County is locally grown.

How is your idea innovative?

Currently there are no products in stores for us to compete against. However, there is a product “HarvestMark” that uses QR codes to match products with manufacturers and growers. While this is very similar to what we want to do, it requires a smartphone to use and requires farmers to buy their own QR code.  Our product will be available for anyone to use at a station in store. We want to make the information that stores already have available accessible to the public.  Stores know where they are purchasing products from, it is just a matter of putting this information into the public eye.  

How will your idea be financially sustainable?

In order for this project to be fiscally sustainable, the grocery store would pay to install the scanner into the store.In order to cover the cost of maintaining the database, we would ask that farmers pay us a subscription fee to enter their information into our database. This information would then be available in every single grocery store where their product was sold. If the farmer did not wish to share this information with us or pay the fee, when a customer scans their product in the store, an icon would automatically appear with the words “information not available”. The fee for this product would be small, so as not to put too much pressure on the farmers. Most of the revenue would be taken from the grocery stores, who will be willing to pay in order to show how much they value transparency and their consumer’s choices.

Why are you and your team the right people to develop this project?

 We are the right people for this project because we are the target audience for this product. We are very interested in food policy, and where our food comes from. We believe that people should have the power to know where their food comes from, which would help us make sustainable food choices and support our local farmers. We are also young, dedicated college students who are highly dedicated to ensuring transparency in our supermarkets, with the time and energy to see this project through.

 

 

 

Advertisements

About karelynm

23 Ann Arbor University of Michigan '14

7 Responses to “Providing Farm Location Information, Via Produce Station, to End Consumer Frustration”

  1. I think this is a needed product in our grocery stores! Your idea reminds me of the Non-GMO project which works to provide transparency to which foods have GMOs. My question is about the financial sustainability and competition of this project. How will you convince stores to adopt your product? While I believe that many Ann Arborites and members of other communities care about the source of their food, are there enough shoppers that wouldn’t go to a certain store without this information? The grocery stores may buy the product — but may result in more expensive foods to pay for the service. Also, for shoppers that really do care about where their food comes from, they may already shop at the Co-op (or similar stores) or the Farmers’ Market. I think these are important close competitors that you will need to evaluate.

  2. Such a good idea, guys! It’s an innovative way to make it easy for shoppers to be conscience about their consumption and nutrition. I think technology like this has the real potential to revolutionize the way we buy and eat fresh food. Unfortunately, most people won’t take the time to hunt down the home of their produce, but with a scanner easily accessible in the grocery, it would not take too much extra effort and it could really pay off. With pressure from consumers, grocers might choose to source their produce more locally, boosting the local economy and helping reduce the amount of fossil fuels used in transporting food.

  3. This idea seems really innovative to have in large chain grocery stores, such as Meijer, Walmart, and Kroger. However, in order for this to be useful to many consumers, they would need to already be informed about the difference environmental, ecological, and economic effects of buying local, versus in season, etc. For example, sometime fruits and vegetables are not local (because they never can be, such as mangos in Michigan), but still in season, which is better than buying mangos in the middle of winter (or whenever they are not in season). Therefore, may I suggest adding a component of not just “food miles” but also peak season information (such as apples from Michigan are in peak from September to November). This might be too much to have on a little scanner screen, but I think it could be beneficial to people who are not that knowledgeable, but want to be more conscious about where they food comes from.

  4. This is an excellent idea!! I find it really difficult to buy locally grown produce sometimes, simply because it’s not well-marked at some grocery stores. It would be really great for me to be able to know exactly where my food is coming from. This is definitely an innovative idea, since there are no in-store devices like it. Depending on how expensive the device would be, I’m not sure if grocery stores would be willing to purchase something like this. Perhaps add some type of incentive for the grocery stores to buy the product. Other than that, I think it’s a really nice concept. Good work!

  5. Karelyn, Ryan and Katie Beth — Easy to visualize, practical, big market — this idea has a lot of great elements, include a short punchy name! The biggest challenge I see is that grocery stores have notoriously thin profit margins, like two or three percent. So there just isn’t a lot of money left to spend on things like this unless it is core to getting or keeping customers. I agree with Erin’s observation that it might be good to create incentives for grocery stores to participate. Maybe your idea is a nonprofit supported by grants that allow you to give the equipment to grocery stores for free initially. It would be great if you could talk to a manager at a large market or a media relations person at a large market chain and see what they have to say about your idea. Also, there has to be an association of super market managers. What do they think? I would like to see some evidence backing up your assertion that markets already have info about the origins of their produce in easy-to-upload chunks. Also, when you’re beginning to work on a product idea, you need to start by talking to people about their unmet needs or problems. In this case, you want to know whether they have an unmet need related to information about produce. Don’t jump straight into telling them about your idea. Many people will be nice and say it sounds like a great idea, even if they will not use your product. Instead, design your product to fix a need that you’ve uncovered through your interviews. Be open to changing your idea substantially based on what you learn through the interview process. I look forward to hearing more about how this idea develops!

  6. This kind of seems like an unneeded product. It is a very niche market that you’re trying to tap into, and that market, I don’t think, needs something like this. Furthermore, I thought the recipe idea was a really bad idea. It complicates the whole shopping experience when that should be relatively easy. Plus, I think most people would do that recipe research online before going to the store. Sorry, but I don’t think this is totally viable. I don’t see any problem that you’re trying to solve.

  7. Wow, thanks for your honesty I guess. We’re all just trying our best here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s