“Common market” offers innovative solutions to fresh food distribution problems

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By John Bare, vice president, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation |

The third wave of innovation in urban ag is upon us, and it’s all about supply chain and distribution.

The first wave of innovation demonstrated the potential to grow fruits and vegetables in the middle of cities. Worldwide, now 800 million people are doing it.

The second wave of innovation revealed the sweeping demand among low-income families for fresh produce. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that SNAP spending “at roadside farm stands, farmers markets, and directly from local farmers” reached nearly US$19 million in 2014, “a nearly six-fold increase since 2008.”

The next challenge is finding efficient ways to aggregate and distribute fresh produce to small-area geographies and to neighborhoods that lack sufficient density to attract traditional suppliers. In a world where we have digitized nearly every transaction and substituted virtual for personal transactions, the innovative solutions here will have an old-school look. There will be trucks, refrigerated warehouses, and personnel washing, bagging, and delivering food.

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