18th February 2013

Geography and Supply Chain Integrity


With the current focus on the integrity, resilience and sustainability of complex food supply chains – the journey food takes from farm to fork – this post looks at how three GeoVation winners and two GeoVation suppliers are challenging the status quo using geography and geographical information.

GeoVation “How can Britain feed itself?” challenge winner Foodnation : The People’s Digital Co-op has a mission to have neighbourhood Foodnation hubs within bicycle-riding distance of most UK households. It provides an on-line platform to connect customers and farmers in their local area, easily enabling them to buy and sell local organic food and find fruit and veg-box delivery schemes around the UK. This is supported by the Foodnation app launched in May 2012. Working with the Transition town network to pilot the scheme, Foodnation founder Louise Campbell sees the model for the Foodnation Co-operative as being fully scalable in transition towns across UK.

City Farmers is a social enterprise set up by Helen Steer and Peter Boyce in 2011 after also winning GeoVation funding as winners of the GeoVation challenge “How can Britain feed itself?”. Its aim is to help local government engage communities and individuals through food and mapping, leading to the creation of new, local growers and increased awareness of the problems with our current food system. They have used open data to create multi-layer maps showing food growing, education, deprivation, exclusion and other types of  “data topography”, which have proved hugely valuable at visualising and framing problems and engaging local communities and government. City-Farmers have focused initially on supporting food projects in Lambeth working in some of the most deprived wards in Britain.

City-Farmers supports existing projects, runs workshops, and has set up related projects such as;  Community Greenhouses and Brixton Beer.  Community Greenhouses recycles glass windows (being replaced by double glazing) in the community into cold frames and greenhouses. Brixton Beer is a small-scale social enterprise involved in growing hops in the local community; in gardens, parks, pots and community areas across South London. They have then worked with a microbrewery to produce beer (Prima Donna) sold locally. The enterprise has proved a great way to introduce local people to growing crops and starting conversations about establishing a circular food economy. The enterprise is profit making and the business plan will be open-source and scaled out to transition towns nationally. They are currently working on a local food strategy with the NHS and local government.

City Farmers have co-published a children’s book, Mission:Explore Food, with GeoVation winner the Geography Collective as part of the www.missionexplore.net gamification platform. Mission:Explore Food’s battle cry; “It’s good to play with your food”, sets missions for kids aged 8 to 80! that explore: the soil, growing, harvesting, cooking, eating and food waste – something for both parents and children to get their teeth into this half-term!

GeoVation “Neighbourhood” challenge winner Ed Dowding is developing Sustaination, a business to business dating site for food enterprises to connect up and trade more easily using social, local and mobile web technologies. The food web will map and analyse the resources in any given area, bringing data driven advantages to small businesses where the activity is – an attempt to “introduce greater resilience to our food systems and help revive the prosperity of our high streets”.

Traceability and transparency in supply chains is a growing issue; whether its how palm oil is grown and sourced as an ingredient to numerous consumer products, the source and journey

keep it local banner

of meat in burgers or where and how our T- shirts are made. GeoVation sources it’s OpenData Master Class tour T-shirts from Rapanui, the Isle of Wight based  Eco-Fashion company, that makes Organic, Ethical clothing using Renewable

Energy with award-winning traceability. Rapanui’s traceability maps trace the entire product supply chain from the planting of the seed, the processing of the fabric, manufacturing, energy use and transport to the shop.

Meanwhile, back at GeoVation headquarters here in Ordnance Survey, BaxterStory who run our restaurant, and therefore supply food to several of the GeoVation team; are promoting local, seasonal food on the restaurant “table talkers” (pictured). Hmmmm… I wonder if they would sell locally micro-brewed beer from locally grown hops using Brixton Beer’s open-source business model?  Maybe a lubricant for a future GeoVation Camp..?? Stay tuned…!