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  • Anthony Coble

3 big ways collaborative market data would empower the food system

By sharing a little we all stand to gain a lot.

Today regional food systems largely operate in the dark; this lack of data has impacts that reach well past the walls of your food hub. Below are three failures that would be resolved if we all had proper insight into regional supply and demand.

Better Crop Planning

How many carrots should I plant this year? How much zucchini? Should I expand into kohlrabi? Today most farmers have to rely on intuition to answer these questions. Typically, farmers’ default intuition is to plant those crops they know how to produce well. Unfortunately, this leads to too many farmers (for example) planting zucchini, far outpacing demand, while demand for carrots goes unmet. Not only does this cause imbalance in supply and demand, but also price inefficiencies, as farmers have to make up revenue for the zucchini loss in pricing other crops. Moreover, as food hubs, you have little visibility into regional supply and demand and are restricted to market information based on those crops your farmers are growing.

Imagine having the insight to see that a neighboring hub has significant demand for root vegetables that struggle to grow in their heavy clay soil, but would grow great in your local sandy soil. That’s an opportunity to collaborate where everyone wins.

Similarly, imagine having a conversation with one of your local farms where you see unmet demand for turnips, but they are planning on growing more zucchini than you will ever be able to move. That conversation is going to go a lot better if you had some solid data to cite on what the return on those turnips and zucchini would each be. That could save the farmer a lot of labor going into a product that won’t sell while making a better return by growing something people are actually demanding.

Crop Insurance

While crop planning is limited by a lack of market data, crop insurance that is tailored to support specialty crop growers is completely blocked. Without a regional data source to inform them on expected yields and prices for a crop in an area, insurers are unable to establish the value of a crop to insure it. This leaves them completely unable to insure small and medium-sized specialty crop growers in the midst of a particularly vulnerable era as climate change intensifies. Without insurance, farmers are unable to acquire any type of revenue assurance for a crop failure - something commodity growers rely on. Just by sharing this market data, we could drastically reduce the risks our regional farmers face and ensure their continued existence.

Federal programs

Just like crop insurance many federal programs require market data to operate. Last year’s food box programs initially intended to rely mostly on regional farmers. However, due to a lack of market data, the government (!!) was unable to establish fair market prices and couldn’t create contracts for fair payment in many regions. Some hubs were able to establish pricing history and land some of those contracts, but if we had a source of regional market data we could have had universal regional support.

Want to know more?

Curious how we can create a repository of regional market data? See how blockchain is a great answer to fair and responsible collaboration here or why a blockchain is a better place to store your data than a traditional database here.

Want to help? Help spread a good idea, share below and sign up for our newsletter here. If you would like to be part of the collaborative to support a data standardization and blockchain effort for regional food systems you can sign up here. For specific questions, connect with Tony at

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