Spatially Enabled Food

Some people might have seen the flurry of tweets last week about food and food miles from Joe, David, Tom, Nick and myself.  Where your food comes from is a location based question, and it’s one I couldn’t find an existing solution for from a quick search that answers all my questions.

Tom and I actually started talking about this back in late 2011 at the SSSI Conference in Wellington, New Zealand.  We had left the conference one evening and went for a wander up Mt Victoria, and on the way down stumbled across a restaurant called Ambeli.  This was – and still is to this day – one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had, and we went back the next night to try the degustation dinner.  On the second night, we spent a lot of time talking to the owner, Shae Moleta, about where his produce came from.  Shae knew every (local) producer by name, knew where the (local) farms were and even knew what type of soil the grapes in our (local) wine grew on.  Given we were in Wellington for a location conference, we suggested – a lot of times that night – that he should be keynoting location conferences with this information!

Now, flash forward to last month.  We have a couple of innocuous fruit bowls in the office, which we were filling up with fruit from the local supermarket (although, this morning I filled one up with chocolate eggs).  We started to wonder if there were alternative methods of sourcing our fruit, so we started some investigations.  A lot of this has been percolating away in my head since we saw Shae at the Ambeli.

Firstly, I tried contacting some local farms – by going through their web sites – to see if we could go direct to the farmer.  We knew there would be limitations on what you could get by going down this route, but none of the ones we contacted responded, except for one that explained it wasn’t worth their time to deliver to Leederville (we are 3km from the central business district of Perth).  After that dead end, we went with a fruit delivery service that plainly advertised they only deliver Western Australian fruit.  We thought, given some of the fruit producing regions in Western Australia, we’d get a reasonable range of fruit.  In the second delivery, we had kiwifruit from Italy in the delivery.  So we cancelled it immediately, despite protests from the company that this is how the locally grown industry “works”.  Calls to other similar suppliers still couldn’t get us a guarantee that they would not include imported fruit from overseas.  So we’re back to square one at buying Californian oranges from the local supermarket.

That Californian orange travelled pretty close to 20,000km to get to our local supermarket.

There are some calculators out there for entering countries and calculating food miles, and there’s even an open food movement out there.  But what I want to be able to do is to not only work out where my food came from, but was it worth it? Was it more resource efficient to grow that orange in California, then ship it to Perth, than it was to try to grow oranges here in Western Australia?

Spatial industry, give me a solution!

If you have solutions, or are interested in helping create them, then leave details in the comments in this blog post, hit me up on Twitter or drop me an email.


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