Innovative Urban Food System – digital market of agricultural products
Thematic field: AGRI - Agriculture, fisheries, forestry and food
The pilot activities focused on the innovation of Urban Food Network in the City of Košice, improving the rural-urban linkages with the surrounding areas. The pilot tested the Project-in-a-day method for joint planning, the Living Lab approach for the ICT service design, and motivational video for communication purposes.
The efforts lead to the development of a digital marketplace of agricultural products to match the local production of the rural areas with the demand mainly from urban areas. This virtual marketplace will enable citizens, restaurants, canteens and other customers in the city of Košice to buy products directly from local farmers of various sizes – from single individuals and families to large producers.
Within the pilot, several methods were tested:
- Project-in-a-day method for joint planning of complementary initiatives of the Innovation Network,
- the Living Lab approach to design the ICT service – digital marketplace – upon end users´ needs
- and creation of concept of motivational video for communication purposes.
As the result of the effort the digital marketplace for agricultural products was successfully developed, ready for “go-live” mode. The marketplace is the environment for presentation of local farmers as well as their production and the tool enabling citizens and other local consumers (like hotels, restaurants and school canteens) to buy processed or unprocessed agricultural products. This ICT tool can be described by following features:
- Multi-media presentation of the local producers and their business stories
- Intuitive management of product portfolio, delivery and payment conditions
- Advanced searching tools – including the search according the category, seller / producer, or distance between user and the seller
- Interactive map of the sellers/producers enabling filtering according to categories and other characteristics
- Easy processing of the purchase by final customer
- Tools for feedback – reviews, comments – with aim to enable fast identify products or farmers who do not comply with quality requirements
- High-standards implemented for technical security/trust.
THE ROLE OF END-USERS IN PILOT DEVELOPMENT
The development of the digital marketplace for local agricultural products was realized according to Living Lab approach, involving the future users in the design and development phase since early beginning to co-design the direction of future movements. The Living Lab approach helps to decrease the risk of low future usage of the platform by proving the concept (project idea) and willingness/propensity to use the planned products/services, and motivates future users by incorporating their expectations for product/service features.
The interaction with the stakeholders was a long-run procedure. As the starting point of interaction, the analysis of regional environment and relevant actors was conducted to identify the potential partners and the set of smaller group of mostly relevant partners – acting as connectors to others - to be involved from the very beginning. Following that, the set of several bi- and multilateral meetings took place all over the region, covering policy level partners, business support organizations, businesses, research and innovation actors, civil society organizations and citizens, all with the aim to firstly understand their various needs and motivations in order to attract them for interaction within the design of the pilot activities. At later stage, we opened up to review of concept and new ideas outside of the region of implementations – the concept of the pilot activities was presented at two external and thematically very relevant events. This resulted in joint implementation of various complementary initiatives and enlarged community of stakeholders being involved in the pilot. All the efforts were supported by workshops, where the digital marketplace, still in “work-in-progress” status, was physically tested by the future users.
Even for the future, the functionality to gather the feedback is an essential part to make the provision of the system sustainable.
MAIN STAKEHOLDERS INVOLVED
- Technical University of Kosice
- Kosice Self-Governing Region
- European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation Via Carpatia
- Gemer Craftsmen Association
- Agency for Support of Procurement Innovations
- Association of ecological farming - EKOTREND Slovakia
- Association of young farmers ASYF
- Local Action Group MAS Lev from County of Levoča
The pilot project was very beneficial to for the starting phase to trigger the complex program of rebirth of agricultural production and processing in Košice region. Thanks to participatory methods implemented, the proof of concepts could be performed in very early stages, and interesting ideas were generated for the future services and tools to be provided, and for the communication concept activities. However, not only these immediate outcomes count. The launch of the digital marketplace would directly help in solving the challenges identified within the region, having the mid- and long-term spirit:
- Weak marketing - very weak marketing policy and low skills of agricultural producers, mainly of companies of lower sizes and low level of investments realized in the activities related to sales activities and promotion.
- Distrust to unknown (not tried yet) products – The trust of consumers to unknown producers causes the low propensity to buy from newly established / emerged food producers.
- Positive side-effects of buying local production not fully perceived – the positive difference in local food quality and positive effect on environment (lower need of transport) not well perceived by consumers – price is mostly the criterion No.1 for selection.
Indirectly, in longer horizon, solving of above mentioned challenges should improve the situation in networking and new value chains to be formed:
- Increasing the percentage of agricultural production processed in the region with higher added-value
- Triggering the improvement of storing, logistical and selling infrastructure for local products
- and improving attractiveness of local products through improved visual design.
By all the efforts, we believe we can help in rebirth of agricultural sector and other interlinked sectors having positive effect on local, and especially rural, employment and prosperity.
The complex problems take long time to be solved and long-term participatory process is essential. In the case of the Košice Pilot in Agriculture, is was understood that our efforts are only one element within the puzzle, and they need to be coordinated with other regional soft initiatives and followed by infrastructural investments (physical logistical premises, markets, takeaway points, etc.). On the other hand, due to efforts done, the complex problem was very precisely analysed and the steps to be taken are identified. Therefore, although the pilot results are promising and motivational for all participating stakeholders, the solving of the whole challenge has just begun.
In addition, for the complex issues, the joint approach via clustering/networking is inevitable. Therefore, the approach taken by URBAN INNO project combining the Clustering for strategic support with the Pilot Actions as an evidence of changes done works very well. This is justified even by the fact, that governing institutions (mainly regional and local) face the problem of lack of knowledge, competencies but also resources to solve the problems by themselves.