What we did last week:
- Optimized API for speed and updated several of the APIs as we beta test version 1.2 of our iPhone client
- Moved our API codebase to the latest version of Goliath, and made it easy to update in the future
- Built an admin app that makes it easy to add and edit individual sources
- Added CSV import to the admin app, so a Foodtree admin can bulk upload sources
- Built JQuery Mobile version of foodtree.com, so you can see source profiles and their connections through your mobile browser. The list of sources is sorted by your geolocation
What you can expect when you wake up on Tuesday, August 30:
- Initial functionality for our Store Locator Map product, which includes the ability for a user to create a map for a food source of where you can find their foods
- A new landing page for Local Food Shift, a site built for our customer in Boulder, Colorado. It will begin to integrate their existing site, eatlocalguide.com into its permanent home at localfoodshift.com
- Completed beta testing of 1.2 of our iPhone app and submission to Apple. This is a major update, which includes commenting, the ability to follow other users, foods and sources, improved social sharing, and “add” functionality that makes it easy for early-adopter food geeks to use outside of the farmers market, as well as some UX/UI tweaks. This version will also roll-out Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto.
- Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto added to communities on foodtree.com
- A couple more tweaks at Local Food Shift, including improved UI around adding sources to favorites and nicer pins on the maps.
Inspired by efforts to create a common visual language, especially The Noun Project and the work of Gerd Arntz on Isotype, we’ve begun work on food icons. Working in collaboration with the team at Industrial Brand, we have a starter set of icons for some common food sources and types of foods. We are releasing all of these icons with a Creative Commons By Attribution License, so if you are interested in the icons, just let me know in the comments. Over time, we aim to create icons for all of the food source types and food types in our database at Foodtree. For more background on our thinking about open food standards, see our list of food and source types (yaml files), please visit our Github repository. We also have all of the icons available in the reverse, with the icon as a knockout of white negative space in a black square.
First, some common food sources.
This group we think of as “origin” sources:
Garden (we’re currently using it for both personal garden and community garden, but will likely become just the personal version)
Next a couple of “Middlemen.” These actually fall into a category that is a subtype of Processors, known as Beverage Processors.
This group are “Retailers.” These food sources usually fall into a “where-to-buy” or “where-to-eat” classification.
Food Truck (a subtype of Restaurant)
Coffee Shop (another restaurant subtype)
Farmers Market (a subtype of Grocer. Ideally there would be two source types related to farmers markets- this one and another as a subtype of “direct sale,” which includes CSAs and U-picks, would also include farmers’ market– owned by farmers.)
Alcohol Retail (admittedly not a great sounding name, but we use just one icon to cover its subtypes: Wine Shop, Liquor Store and Beer Depot)
Now for a few food types:
And finally, association. Associations aren’t a food source type, but they play an important role in the food system. They are what economist Michael Shulman refers to as food-system capacity builders. Groups like non-profit organizations, food policy councils, etc.
What I like about the identity is that it is anchored in the past, as you mentioned with reference to the homesteading movement, but also the logo’s own reference to the tractor badges of yore. It is important to note that our food system hasn’t necessarily had more sustainable methods in the “past.” The opportunity lies in the merger of an understanding of historical lessons, great advancements in soil and natural science, and a fundamental desire to work in harmony with nature. Our food system is certainly complex and Foodtree wants to use technology (mobile and internet communication) to make the complex information easily digestible so we can all eat better.
I also love it’s basis and reference to vintage tractor badges. Like this one of a Fordson Dexta.
An interesting follow-up to the exploding watermelon story I posted about last week. Just in case you were wondering, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency coordinates over 350 recalls each year. In the month of may, they have publicly reported over 14 recalls including salmonella grape tomatoes and listeria salami. Generally, it is only the Class I (eat this and you may die) recalls that get publicly announced. So, unless you are diligently browsing the oh so user friendly CFIA website, you can’t be sure how much stuff you ate that “will most likely lead to short-term or non-life threatening health problems (Class II) or will not likely result in any undesirable health effects (Class III).” nIt’s not any better in the US, with 28 public recalls so far this month, including cheese, chives and more of those dangerous grape tomatoes. (Maybe you DO want to know when tomatoes are in season?)
The solution proffered by a high-priced consultant paid to study China’s food system? Well, it’s one that he probably uses to feed himself and his family, ““You want to cut to the bottom line?” Mr. Morehouse adds. “Buy your produce from somebody that you know and trust and has a track record.”
I go to a coffee shop around the corner from my office a couple of times a week for a coffee and a bagel. It’s often enough that I can order the usual and the owner gave Derek and I a “treat” the other day. A couple of small slices of watermelon. It’s May and there certainly aren’t any watermelons in season in Vancouver. But, as food-aware as I may be, I also believe it is rude to refuse food offered in kindness. So I ate the not-very-delicious watermelon and said thank-you.
Seeing this story about another chemical scheme to boost profits and make whole foods like fruit more like their manufactured counterparts makes me wish I hadn’t eaten the watermelon.
But it also reminds me of the watermelon I’ll be paying a princely sum for later this summer. Sure, I won’t be eating much watermelon, but it will be a delicious treat. And, I’ll have peace of mind knowing its provenance.
If you’ve seen the proposed legislation that makes photographing factory “farms” illegal, you know that there are profoundly undemocratic forces interested in maintaining as much secrecy around food manufacturing as possible. This is not surprising given that information asymmetry is a route to profits for many corporations.
“If genetic modification and cloning are such wonderful things, why aren’t companies eager to advertise the use of these revolutionary techniques?
The answer is that they don’t want people to think about what they’re eating. The survival of the current food system depends upon widespread ignorance of how it really operates.”
…and, what we eat is complex.
One of the smartest women I have ever known, and I woman that I loved in college (which is long before I had any conception of how to properly cultivate that responsibility) had Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” hanging on her wall. The very notion of complexity and multitudes is something that we humans seem to simultaneously know innately and struggle with greatly.
We had a food geek roundtable on Friday afternoon. We’re working with Octopus Strategies to be able to better communicate what we don’t do at Foodtree. The biggest takeaway seemed to be that food (and our food system) is a complex problem.
I don’t really think of it as a complex problem anymore. I hope that we can move beyond our reductionist pseudo-scientific tendencies when it comes to feeding ourselves. Food is too important to be a political football (Here I refer to the American interpretation of the sport). Food is not a nice-to-have, it is a necessity. In short, food is kind of like the Wu-Tang clan. But, these ideas do not lead me to a single solution or message. I’m hoping for something more like the Japanese conception of ineffable beauty.
A long, roundabout intro to some musings about what we eat and the world we eat in…
We live in a backwards world. It is strange to know where our food comes from. Foods that are grown and processed without adulteration have to prove it, but chemicals and manipulation do not have to be disclosed.
The only peace of mind that exists in our current food system seems a kind of Orwellian trick- it is weird to know where your food comes from. By making it normal to not know, you don’t have to worry about it too much. We are beginning to see cracks in the sarcophagus with the occasional beef or peanut butter recall, the fear of food from China and the rise of local food on the fringes. But it is still mainly out of sight out of mind. Foodtree envisions a solution to the ills of our runaway food system by eliminating information asymmetry. It only takes a couple of times for you to be able to choose something you know the provenance of to remind you that it is actually bizarre to NOT know the source of your food.
The only label that makes any difference to consumers in the status quo is USDA certified organic. Anything else is just confusing, unless people are already engaged and have a relatively sophisticated understanding of food and equally sophisticated purchasing habits. Foodtree wants to help by making it easier to communicate complex food information and connect producers with consumers. For suppliers, cheaper than getting certification or trying to sell direct. For eaters, it also allows a more nuanced assessment of quality. And peace of mind.
I also think about social science research into happiness and the importance of connection. Humans as social beings. And the connection between the pleasures of the table, i.e. food and further linkages to origins and context. The best and most memorable meals for me have always been the ones that were fully shared. Not only sharing around a table, but shared knowledge and understanding. Remember the fish you caught or the wine you sipped with the winemaker or the potatoes from your grandfather’s garden? Those things made you happy. Those foods tasted better because you knew something about their origins.
The discussion of happiness and social connection/ relationships also makes me think about the genealogy references with foodtree.
As a brand, we’re talking peace of mind. For producers, distributors, grocers, your extra care and effort won’t go to waste, it can be communicated. For eaters, you’ll have less worry about food safety (albeit in the Joel Salatin sense) and be able to share a sense of connection to each other and the land.
In practice, we see potential for Foodtree to evolve in a couple of ways. One is to completely function simply as a database, IMDB-style, which serves as the information hub to build all sorts of new tools. Another is through stickers and packaging innovation to enable information to travel with food. Imagine the label on a bag of onions having just enough information to connect back to the Foodtree database, but also being easily peeled off the bag of onions so the produce clerk can use that label as the POS material.
Today, our primary concern is solving the pains at the supply end of the food chain. How do I effectively communicate my work and the work of my partners in a way that is easy, organized and reaches people who eat my food or drink my wine?
By giving eaters a taste of what is possible, we may be able to demonstrate that the lack of transparency in our food system is at the heart of the problem and foment a revolution.