Saturday, October 25, 2008
FOOD: Distribution Systems: Beeline
In the United States our food travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from farm to plate. Local food offers many benefits: cost, freshness, security and the preservation of open land. But merely localizing food production does not guarantee efficient delivery or the profitability of small farms. Many farmers often make less than ten cents on every dollar spent on their produce.
HOW IT WORKS
Beeline is a virtual marketplace and distribution system for fresh produce in the Pacific Northwest that was designed to support local farms by reducing the cost of transporting produce to retailers.
An online system connects retailers and restaurateurs to growers. As orders are placed, Beeline automatically plans transportation routes with a robust Global Positioning System and radio-frequency identification tags to “pool” pickups and deliveries. The system saves individual farmers from having to deliver their own product.
A version of Beeline is currently being tested in Portland, Oregon by Ecotrust’s Food Hub initiative.
Not only does Beeline’s system save time and reduce driving miles, it also provides small farmers with greater access to the marketplaces that keep them in business. By aggregating products from a number of farms, Beeline helps small farms stay competitive without having to resort to single-crop monoculture.
+ Maximizes transportation efficiency
+ Reduces costs to individual farmers
+ Helps local farmers compete