App helps consumers find locally grown food

Last updated 05:00 05/11/2012
NETWORKING: Sam Rye of Enspiral, a business that nurtures start-up companies, providing capital, office space and other support – so long as there is a strong grounding in a social mission.

NETWORKING: Sam Rye of Enspiral, a business that nurtures start-up companies, providing capital, office space and other support – so long as there is a strong grounding in a social mission.

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Wellington social enterprise software company Bucky Box has tapped into the growing "locavore" movement and is going worldwide with its web-based application that innovates food distribution.

Bucky Box hopes to make it easier for consumers to access organic farming by improving the distribution of food. It gives home-vegetable box delivery schemes such as Wellington's Organic Boxes direct access to suppliers for sourcing locally grown produce.

The trend among gourmands and ethically aware eaters for locally produced food has spread into the mainstream, encouraging people to eat seasonally by buying fruit and vegetables grown by local farmers. Eating locally means people cut down their consumption of foods that may have travelled long distances to be stocked in a chain supermarket and, at the same time, supports the local economy.

The term "locavore" was the Oxford English Dictionary 2007 "word of the year", coming after articles in both the New York Times and Time magazine about how people who tried to eat locally produced food were preserving fossil fuels used to transport foods and supporting the continuation of sustainable production at nearby farmland.

Bucky Box was founded last year by Will Lau within business collective and incubator Enspiral. Its communications manager, Sam Rye, said the company wanted to contribute to re-localising the way food was distributed, after the supermarket shopping revolution of the twentieth century that stopped New Zealanders having milk delivered to their doors and buying meat from a butcher they knew well who was supplied by nearby farmers.

"We're facing a lot of challenges with the health of our soils, the quality of our water, big picture things such as peak oil because a lot of our food system is reliant on cheap oil for transport," Rye said.

"When you get people that little bit closer to where their food comes from, they start asking questions. When you go to a farmers' market you meet the farmers, when you use a vegetable box delivery scheme you ask where the organic rocket came from, for example. A small-scale farm isn't able to produce quantities that a Countdown will need, but it can work with more niche companies such as online food delivery company Urban Harvest that comes from an ethical place."

Bucky Box aims to have 300 to 500 distributors using the software by the end of next year, who would be reaching about 10,000 people through the customers to whom they sell food.

The company has a social conscience, wishing to redistribute 60 per cent of its profits to local food programmes.

It is soon moving into Australia, through networks Rye set up when previously living in Melbourne and connections he made at Sydney's Sustainable Food Summit. He is to visit North America and Europe, with meetings set up with distributors and local food advocates in New York, Iceland and Western Europe.

"I hope more Wellingtonians will start eating locally and supporting farmers who rely on them every day to put food on their plates. We often forget that when all our food comes wrapped in plastic and polystyrene, but I'd like to see people appreciate that more."

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