Katie Beth Halloran
Providing Farm Location Information, Via Produce Station, to End Consumer Frustration
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.