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If you liked Information in Your Pocket…

February 2, 2010

Download the Mobile in Retail White Paper

After I posted Information in Your Pocket, I received a great note from GS1 with a link to a kick ass whitepaper they published (strangely enough the same day).  “Mobile in Retail” White Paper can be downloaded from


Potential for brands and retailers identified

The white paper explores the opportunities for brands and retailers as consumers begin to use mobile phones to plan their shopping and during visits to stores. It identifies clear potential to:

  • increase sales
  • increase customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • add value to physical products and experiences through digital services

Key questions answered

By examining the current and future state of mobile services relevant to retail such as extended packaging, mobile coupons, loyalty, store location, shopping lists and self-scanning, the white paper sets out to answer the following questions:

  • What consumer needs can be identified and met using mobile phones in retail environments?
  • How can mobile phones support richer, more enjoyable, more efficient and more relevant shopping experiences?
  • What changes need to happen in retail stores to support this?


Information in your pocket – Smartphones Revolutionizing the Farm and Food Business

February 1, 2010

Smartphones like the Apple iPhone, BlackBerry Bold or Google Nexus One have potential to revolutionize the farming and food business.  They have the potential to further shrink the distance between urban and rural, buyer and seller, producer and consumer that has been consistently eroding with the advent of the Internet.  Smartph0nes are a catalyst to bring the agriculture and food industries into the 21st Century Creative Economy.

They are a tool that provided the right information at the right place and time.  The phone is in essence an anywhere connection to the information you need to increase productivity and efficiency, understand consumer demands, document and communicate traceability, maintain and promote freshness, build and reward customer loyalty, increase sales, foster relationships and build Value Chains. It should be noted though, Smartphones aren’t just revolutionizing the farm and food biz.  They are revolutionizing everything.

The really exciting thing about Smartphone technology is how fast it is advancing.  Each announcement, whether it be the Nexus One or the Apple iPad unleashes new creative uses.  The shift to Smartphones from personal computers has coincided with a shift to decentralized and populist software creation, or in other words, the rise of the App.  The tagline, “there’s an App for that” it true  (140,000 in the roster), and if there is isn’t one, create it.

Here are a few snapshots of the revolution in progress:

Credit Card Transactions On-The-Go Smartphones enable footloose retail.  Whether at a Farmers Market or a pop-up restaurant in a field.  No longer are entrepreneurs constrained by the cord to help customers part with their money. iPhone apps for credit card transactions include Process Away and InnerfenceSquare Up is offering an innovative hardware solution for physically swiping the credit card.

Linking Buyers and Sellers The Smartphone is enabling the creation of new Value Chains, no matter how short they are.  FarmsReach is an innovative online marketplace that connects farmers and chefs.  The farmers can use Smartphone to take a picture of what will be harvested shortly and upload a description to the website.  Farmers can do their paperwork while out in the field (bonus), chefs can browse the listing at their convenience (likely at midnight).  Smartphones can make existing food service supply chains work  better, or can make them redundant.

Transparency Documenting the journey, the back-story or the links in the chain has rapidly evolved from a gimmick to a requirement.  Concerns about food safety, recalls, production practices and fair pricing is driving the push for transparency.  Smartphones put the information in the consumer’s hand at any time and place, but especially while shopping.  Smartphones present the opportunity to gather more information, retrace steps, read  reviews and make an informed decision.

IBM has developed an iPhone App called Breadcrumbs that will enable consumers to use the built in camera to scan the bar code and get ingredients, nutritional information and recall information.  The App is part of a bigger shift towards communications between devices and stuff – the Internet of Things.  Smartphones can allow consumers to find out information about the farm that produced the product similar to the Stone-Buhr Flour website.  The Italian government operates a service that provides food prices based on a national survey via SMS and iPhone App.  rovision of traceability is becoming an expectation.  In the words of Harvestmark, a company that provides barcodes and traceability systems:

“Companies that are transparent about their product’s history help demystify the farm-to-fork process and build trust with fretful foodies,” said HarvestMark. “For Millennial Moms who are tech-native, it’s a no brainer for them to expect their iPhone to connect to farmers they don’t even know. Dialing for data is a high-tech way of thumping a watermelon or squeezing a zucchini.”  – Harvestmark

A further consideration of traceability it the rise of the crowd in fact checking, reviews and provision of information.  Once upon a time, companies had control.  The internet and especially the smartphone has enabled citizens to provide information to each other without filters.  A great example of the technology in action is Ski Report.  Skiers now have the tools to report on the slope conditions themselves.  The result is better information and honesty.

Managing Operations Smartphones can make recordkeeping, task planning and production management more efficient.  Software like iFarmer enables farmers to collect information on daily activities in the field, view tasks, and other important information, and run basic reports from the iPhone. The iPhone can manage farm tasks such as Spray, Irrigation, Planting, Observations, Harvesting, and more.  Using an iPhone to manage prooduction can increase productivity as all work is done in the field, in real time, as opposed to having to find time to enter the data later.

Automation and Monitoring The Smartphone can connect you with products and processes whereever they are in the world.  It might be a simple as turning on the irrigation or opening the greenhouse.  It could also be an connected RFID system for shipping containers. Not only will it enable the verification of plant and container authenticity, but the system can monitor and track conditions and locations of products.

Communicating Freshness Bakertweet is a wall mounted box that enables bakeries to tweet when breads and goodies are coming out of the oven.  Followers receive a notice on their twitter feed and can pop down to buy what is fresh.  Video Trans

Transmitting Location Smartphones can enable mobile entrepreneurs to transmit their location to customers.  The Twitter feed from Kogi Korean BBQ has become as addictive as the Korean tacos.

Customer Loyalty Airmiles and customer loyalty programs can move beyond the card.  Motorola’s Mobile Loyalty Solution allow smartphone screens to display a scanable bar code.  Moving the program to the phone provides the company with real time information and the consumer with customized specials and promotions!.  No more coupons!

So what does the future hold?

All of the ideas above are real and being implemented right now.  The next step will be the further implementation of RFID for purchased (no more credit cards) and traceability.

Using smartphones as a way to integrate with social media applications like Facebook and Twitter will continue to narrow the distance between customers and producers, create transparency and the development of new value chains.  They are an essential tool in the Creative Food Entrepreneur’s toolbox.

Thanks to Springwise for the connection to many of these ideas.

This blog is loosely based on  a presentation I gave at the Scotian Pride 2010 Aquaculture conference.


Check out this ‘Smart Dust’ article from the New York Times.  It covers the possibility for sensors and smartphones::

“Microchip-equipped sensors can be designed to monitor and measure not only motion, but also temperature, chemical contamination or biological changes. The applications for sensor-based computing, experts say, include buildings that manage their own energy use, bridges that sense motion and metal fatigue to tell engineers they need repairs, cars that track traffic patterns and report potholes, and fruit and vegetable shipments that tell grocers when they ripen and begin to spoil.”

Developing Creative Economies with Creative Food

January 10, 2010

The proliferation of artisan cheese fromageries, Farmers’ Markets, craft wineries, and Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) box schemes is evidence of a creative economy renaissance that impacts both urban and rural communities.

An emerging component of the ‘Creative Economy’ dialogue, ‘Creative Food’ endeavours can be distinguished from a more commodityoriented agriculture or food service through emphasis in differentiation, connection to the customer, capturing a higher margin, sustainability and collaboration.  Innovation, adaptation and entrepreneurship are as characteristic of Creative Food enterprises as other more recognized Creative Class occupations in the design, business service or technology fields.  The emergence of Creative Food was well documented in the Martin Prosperity Institute Working Paper – From Kraft to Craft; Innovation and Creativity in Ontario’s Food Economy

The purpose of this article is not to advocate for the further recognition of Creative Food as a category.  Instead, the purpose is to promote Creative Food as a tool to develop creative economies, communities and companies.

In short, Creative Food can attract Creative Talent and generate wealth; as such it warrants a place in the CED practitioner’s toolbox.  The impacts are both direct and indirect.  Here are a few examples:

Brand: Food can play a big role in branding a place.  When you think of Italy or France, you think of food.  Residents of Prince Edward County in Ontario have done an exceptional job of leveraging natural assets into good food and tourism opportunities.  Those Creative Food industries in turn form a significant and visible part of the area’s marketing identity.  In a world often characterized by homogeneity, that local microbrew can help a place stand out.  Creative Food enterprises are the new status symbols for communities.  Vermont has recently explored its terroir, provence, traditions and food identity extensively in the Taste of Place process

Promotion: Creative food is not just consumed locally.  Every block of artisan cheese from Vermont inherently markets the state when it is sold in New York City.  Good food opens doors, reaches eyeballs and spurs conversation in ways that marketing campaigns can never do.  The regional connection can be subversive or overt.  Nudo Italia, an Italian olive grove markets itself by enabling customers to “adopt a tree.”  In addition to receiving a selection of olive oil products from their tree, customers are encouraged to come to Italy to ‘’hug their tree.”

Differentiation: In the talent war, food can be a secret weapon.  A vibrant Farmers’ Market, CSA box schemes, restaurants that feature unique local fare, nearby wineries for day trips or artisan bakeries offering real bread may be the community features that become a deciding factor for a footloose professional.  As documented by Rebecca Ryan’s Next Generation Consulting young professionals are looking for ‘cool communities.’ Creative Food, like the arts, diversity, transportation options and green space all contribute to a place’s coolness.’

Diversity: Diversity fosters the Creative Economy.  Creative Food is both a catalyst for and an indicator of diversity. Farmers Markets are a venue for newcomers to start a business, with customers interested in unique and ethnic foods.  Markets are also places to purchase foods that may not be available from the conventional grocers.  A diverse roster of restaurant options can also be an effective attraction and retention tool.

Inclusion: Opportunities to become involved, engaged and valued in a community are as critical for retention as earning potential and professional satisfaction.  Social and community relationships are roots.  Creative Food industries, by their design, build community.  Farmers Markets are as much a social gathering as they are a shopping option.  They can serve as a civic square, neo-downtown and public space. CSA initiatives nurture a relationship between a farm and group of customers.  Creative Food is an easy way for newcomers to get involved and into a community.

Retention: Creative Food can also be the ultimate perk for companies to retain talent.  The Kaiser Permanente HMO in the US operates a number of hospitals.  It has organized onsite Farmers Markets and CSA drop offs.  Providing a convenient, healthy food option was the major motivation.  The hospital working environment was expected to be intense and stressful, but Kaiser was at least able to offer staff more enjoyable breaks (strolling in the market), better use of their off-work hours (less time shopping) and access to fresh, nutritious food.  Development of small Creative Food enterprises can often help retain residents in rural communities.  It might provide the income supplement or the social fertility required to put down roots, as opposed to moving to urban areas.

Money: Creative Food generates wealth, reduces leakage and can attract and retain capital.  It can contribute to a constructive cycle of prosperity attracting talent / talent attracting prosperity.    In Nova Scotia, The Halifax Seaport Market and Just Us Coffee Roasters have utilized Community Economic Development Investment Funds (CEDIF) to attract millions of dollars in equity capital.  $600 million is annually invested in RRSPs by Nova Scotians – 98% of that amount leaves the province. CEDIFs provide a tool to retain a portion of the investment and put it to work at home.  Monforte Dairy in Stratford, Ontario is employing the CSA model to finance the development of a new facility.  Capital investments are repaid over the long term in the form of cheese.   Creative Food enterprises displace imports and capture spending on food, meals and experience that would normally be lost to external investors.  They not only provide an alternative to big box and chain stores, but increase economic spin-off and recirculation of dollars.

Trendy: It is always easier to surf with a wave than against it, and Creative Food is hot.  Eating good food, knowing the farmer, telling better stories and celebrity chefs are all contributing factors.  The local food trend is backed by other trends for wellness, aging population, mini-preneuring, sustainability and information empowerment.   It shows no sign of cresting and is diversifying and morphing.

Possible: Practicality and impact are key considerations when focusing limited resources.  Creative Food enterprises can be profitable.  Business models, have moved from the experimentation phase and are continuing to develop.  Risks are becoming understood and managed.  Best practices for resources for business development support – training, business planning, networks, logistics, mentors, incubation and marketing – are also being established.  The path for entrepreneurs, communities and development agencies is straightforward.  Creative Food enterprises go beyond just Saturday morning Farmers Market stalls.  The only limits are imagination and could include preparation of ready meals, urban farms, social enterprises, canning clubs, home party sales, short-haul logistics and pop-up restaurants.  Many of the ideas are documented on the SPROUT Enterprise wiki.

Collaboration: Beyond the catalyst role of public spaces like Farmers Markets or occasions like Feast of Fields suppers, Creative Food presents the opportunity to bring numerous and diverse partners to the table.  Food intersects with prosperity, poverty, nutrition. healthcare, aging, the arts, downtowns, urban design, immigration, environment, climate change, youth, education and transportation. The list is endless.  Food shapes cities, conversations and our bodies.  It can be a powerful tool to address the mission priorities of those the sectors.  Food has also become a magnet for citizen engagement.  It presents opportunities to work outside of traditional silos.  In Nova Scotia, representatives from the provincial and federal governments, public health, community organizations, industry, universities and citizens have come together under different umbrellas including the Nova Scotia Food Security Network.  In other jurisdictions, Food Policy Councils , Roundtables or facilities like the Intervale Center in Burlington, Vermont or Toronto’s Wychwood Green Barns have served as the intersection for collaboration.

Creative Food presents a myriad of options, rationales and tools to help develop Creative Economies.  Creative Food presents direct opportunities for profitability, rejuvenation and renaissance for the agriculture and food sectors.   Indirectly, it is a tool that can attract Creative Talent and generate wealth in urban and rural communities.  Creative Food provides an opportunity to brand a place, foster diversity and inclusiveness, and facilitate collaboration.  The positive ratio between community impact and resource investment further solidifies Creative Food as a tool in the CED practitioner’s toolbox.

cross posted at

About the Author: Jamey Coughlin is a Creative Food enthusiast.   He can be reached at

First post

December 30, 2009

This blog will discuss ideas and enterprises captured at wiki.   There is some really cool stuff happening in the world of good food.  There are also lots of ideas and lessons that can be applied to food from other sectors.  It is mainly an extension of my Twitter feed.  Sometimes there aren’t enough characters.   Sometimes there are just too many great ideas posted on