Finding Local Wherever You Are: there’s an App for That

Thursday, July 30, 2015

So your home base, your work place, and your summer getaway are all in three different areas, but your craving for fresh, local food stays with you, wherever you find yourself.

What if, in these 3 different places, you want to find a specific product, or the closest market, or perhaps a restaurant nearby that serves local?

Well, there’s an app for that.

About 2 years in the making, Ei.Ei.Eat is putting the finishing touches on an App that will organize and centralize all of this local food information, distributing it to you through your phone or computer – a one-stop shop (or app, rather).

The aim is to connect consumers and wholesale buyers with farmers, producers, restaurants and markets, giving buyers a fast and easy way to find verified local food, while also offering sellers an innovative way to market their products to a growing, moving crowd.

Like you, your concept of ‘local’ might be on the move, and creators Marcia Woods and Ajit Singh don’t think you should have to spend time searching numerous resources to find what’s fresh and local, depending where you are when. Their app will streamline your local food hunt, helping eaters and producers find what they’re looking for (each other).

With an easy-to-use mapping functionality, the app will allow you to search for specific local food, show you exactly where to get it, and with user-sharing capabilities, even what you can do with it through recipe sharing. The web app is planned to launch in August, with the mobile app following closely behind.

“We are a highly mobile society and that makes local food a moving target,” says Woods. “People don’t want to jump from one source to another, they want an app like ei•ei•eat – one quick and reliable source to find & verify local food as well as connect and share their local food experiences with likeminded people.”

Individuals and businesses that sign up can design their profile, creating a new social network of sorts thats connection is rooted in all things food – search for specific ingredients that are currently ‘in stock’, follow your favourite producers or restaurants, add your comments or reviews, or share and find recipes using specific local ingredients.

Restaurants, retailers, producers and chefs manage their profiles (i.e. market themselves), which in turn populates a map, showing what products they have, and exactly where users can get them. The claims are all verified, too: if a restaurant states it uses local beef, the producer has to verify they sell their beef to that restaurant.

The app will also offer “fresh reports”, sending you information on products you’ve followed, letting you know when and where they are available (information uploaded by the producers). It’s summertime, perhaps you’re looking for somewhere nearby with local strawberries – this information would be sent to you in a fresh report.

Along the lines of a social network, users can further customize their experience as well with their own food-based preferences they’ve preloaded when they registered, such as identifying certain food restrictions (e.g. vegetarian, celiac), to filter out certain foods.

Woods says this personalization and quick-to-use network will make it easier to invest in the local economy. As one specific example, she goes on to explain: perhaps a chef can find somewhere closer that has the local ingredients he or she is looking for – they would also cut down on their car’s KM’s.

It’s evident there’s already quite an interest in this innovative tool, with over 600 user sign-ups just as the pre-launch beta group, including producers and farmers, as well as 76 businesses. Registration is free, but when the mobile app is launched in the fall, there will also be premium options offered at a cost (with benefits like gaining more impressions through the fresh reports).

Woods tells us they found a real need for this sort of resource through their 8-month research, where they connected with businesses, chefs, markets, producers, and a range of consumers, and collected information through surveys, interviews and focus groups.

The main problem they found from the consumer side was that individuals found it frustrating and confusing trying to find local (when and where exactly to look); whereas businesses found it overwhelming to connect with consumers and have their voices heard in a busy, loud, multi-stream market, with numerous regional networks and, sometimes, the restriction of local being defined by KM’s.

“Local food is a growing trend but knowing where to find and what to do with it once it’s in our fridge challenges our interest and ability to eat local,” says Woods. “The vast majority of us want to improve our health with a diet rich in fresh, local foods while supporting local farmers and environmental sustainability. However, available information and distribution systems don’t make it easy and that has put up some barriers. ”

The app intends to address these barriers by centralizing and streamlining all of this information in one spot, for both consumer and producer. They are bridging the gap the way a lot of people connect nowadays: with technology.

Woods, who grew up in rural Ontario with a farming background, tells us that for her, the development came out of sheer frustration in a blatant disconnect between buyers and sellers. It’s not the producers fault, she explains, but we need to find an easy way for businesses to reach their markets.

Woods feels agribusinesses and producers are underrepresented online, and they want to put the producers in the middle of it all. She sees huge opportunities in the future for collaboration as well, particularly in sharing their collected data.

In the meantime, individuals and businesses can join via the website now and start building their personalized profiles.

In a time where it seems as though there’s an online app for just about everything, it sure seems fitting to have one connecting eaters and producers.

Technology often plays an obvious role in connecting us, but it’s sometimes understandably argued that it deceptively does the opposite – however, as our food landscape changes, and the distance between eater and producer grows, it certainly makes sense to find innovative ways to use that technology to our advantage in bringing us closer to our food.

We’re eager to watch the Ei.Ei.Eat App grow, with high hopes that Golden Horseshoe (and beyond) farms will find and connect with new consumers through the click of a button.

The GHFFA Action Plan focuses on Five Opportunities for Change.
One of these pillars is Foster Innovation: Encourage and support innovation to enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of the Golden Horseshoe food and farming cluster. As part of that pillar, we are working to feature a series of Innovation in Agriculture stories. If you have a story idea, get in touch with us so we can share more #InnovativeAg!────────────────────────────────────────────────────────