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The original promise of the organic movement

Although I personally have strong opinions about food and farming practices, as a technology, Foodtree is agnostic. It does not say x farming practice is better than y. Our users will be able to set preferences like that for themselves, but our goal is to enable transparency.

The organic movement originally relied on the idea of actually, physically knowing your farmer. 

From the Wikipedia organic food entry:

     Early consumers interested in organic food would look for non-chemically treated, fresh or minimally processed food. They mostly had to buy directly from growers: “Know your      farmer, know your food” was the motto. Personal definitions of what constituted “organic” were developed through firsthand experience: by talking to farmers, seeing farm conditions, and farming activities. Small farms grew vegetables (and raised livestock) using organic farming practices, with or without certification, and the individual consumer monitored. As demand for organic foods continued to increase, high volume sales through mass outlets such as supermarkets rapidly replaced the direct farmer connection. Today there is no limit to organic farm sizes and many large corporate farms currently have an organic division. However, for supermarket consumers, food production is not easily observable, and product labeling, like “certified organic”, is relied on. Government regulations and third-party inspectors are looked to for assurance. A “certified organic” label is usually the only way for consumers to know that a processed product is “organic”.  


I believe that the internet can solve many of the difficulties in “knowing your farmer.” Much of the information asymmetry  in food exists because a cost effective way to make information travel with the food hasn’t been applied. It is starting to happen in silos, for flour, for chocolate, and for wool, but soon the full power of the semantic web will be applied to food. It is too early to tell whether Foodtree will be the preferred solution, but if you are looking for evidence that people want more information about their food, here is a snapshot sent to us yesterday.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. localfoodwisdom #

    I’m likin’ your vision, Anthony. Now more than ever, we need transparency because our collective dissociation from the origin of our food has produced significant energy, environmental, social and wellness consequences for the current generation… and it will surely impact our children and their children. Much good can come from us knowing more about the provenance of our food and the path it has traveled from farm-to-fork. I agree that the semantic Web will give birth to what I’ll call “foodsonomies” (collaboratively developed annotations and authentic narrative about foods–with all due respect to Thomas Vander Wal) and I’m excited to see Foodtree preparing to enable that.However, I don’t feel that transparency begins and ends with “meta-food”, or data/information about food. We need much more to catalyze a cultural shift in the awareness and appreciation for food and food systems. In 1989, the late organizational systems expert Russell Ackoff introduced the “DIKW hierarchy” which might serve as a useful blueprint for the development of foodsonomies. In simplest terms, the heirarchy is: data > information > knowledge > wisdom. Web 1.0 gave us data and information; Web 2.0 offers us collective knowledge and insights; Web 3.0 promises to provide us the platform and access to experts that enables all of us to become a bit wiser about the provenance of our food.Your thoughts?

    June 8, 2010

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