FreshFinder App

8 Aug

iPhone App: Fresh Finder

Team: Derek, Nicole & Sam

Intro

Say you want rhubarb, fresh rhubarb. Not everyone sells rhubarb and some growers sell better rhubarb than others. Currently, there is nowhere to go on the iPhone for this information if you live in Seattle. FreshFinder plans on changing that.  This mobile application will be the go-to source for everything related to farmers markets in the Northwest.  A unique app with minimal competition, FreshFinder will quickly gain popularity as a resource for the growing community of farmers market’s devotees.

Scope

The FreshFinder mobile app connects consumers with the information they need to better explore Seattle’s thriving farmers market community. It will benefit both shoppers who need information “here and now” and those who do some planning. On a couch or at the bus stop, whenever a user needs to plan their next trip to a farmers market and see what’s in season, they can always access FreshFinder.

FreshFinder is a mobile guide to farmers markets in Seattle and plays the role of a tool, media, and social actor. It will answer such questions of users as: Who has the best produce and fruit? Which local growers and artisans are at each farmers market? What are they selling and at what times during the year? When are markets open? Where are they located? How do I get there?

Our application will be targeted to iPhone users and will exploit its GPS-feature for localization and multitouch map integration (Google Maps). FreshFinder is a hybrid mobile application that has a downloadable interface that communicates with a web-based database over the phone’s network connection to request information about recent changes of farmers markets schedule, locations, and user-generated feedback (comments, reviews).

The core function of FreshFinder is to display on phone screen what produce is in season and which farmers markets sell it with address provided. On the next stage of application development, this feature will be expanded with information about produce sold by each vendor.

The search function in the app allows users to instantly find the closest farmers market by food, arts/crafts, vendor, and user reviews. Results are displayed on Google Maps and integrated with GPS to calculate route to the farmers market.

Another feature of the app is a calendar displayed with highlighted days and hours of operation for each market. In addition, it shows a description (years in operation, parking, number of vendors and visitors, ownership) and contact information for each farmers market. This requires integration with iPhone built-in voice call and email services.

A social feature of FreshFinder allows users to leave comments and reviews about certain markets and/or vendors. Let’s say you met a nice couple selling homemade soap at the West Seattle Farmers Market. The soap is blowing your mind each and every morning. A person can leave a review about the soap, the vendors or the market, and users can take this recommendation to heart if they’re looking for soap. Heck, even if they’re not looking for soap this type of user-generated feedback can entice one to buy. The comments can be also shared via Facebook, Twitter.

On the next stage of mobile app development, FreshFinder’s comments and reviews could be used to create a “Best of…” feature that lists the top farmers markets to find certain fruits, vegetables, arts, crafts, trinkets and more.

Rationale

Farmers markets are a form of street market, oriented to support the retail trade of local grown products and to connect agricultural producers directly to consumers. The business is based on a new marketing approach and targeted to consumers who seek freshness, wholesomeness, and distinctiveness of products (Hinrichs, Gillespie, & Feenstra, 2004). Shopping at farmers’ markets has gained popularity in Washington in recent years.

Washington is among the top 10 states in the US with the fastest growing rate of farmers markets (USDA, 2010). According to the Farmers Market Report of King County Agriculture Program (2010), the number of farmers markets in King County has increased since the early 1990s:

– in 1999 – 9 markets,

– in 2009 – 39 markets.

Surveys also demonstrate that 85% of King County residents buy locally produced food more than once each year.  As much as 89% of these people buy this local produce from farmers markets.

This growing business attracts new farmers who want to sell at farmers markets. For instance, in 1993 the Seattle-based University District Farmers Market had 17 farmers and the Fremont Sunday Market had 8 farmers selling agricultural products. By 2009, this number has reached at least 250 farmers selling at farmers markets in the county. Of those, approximately 100 were King County farmers and the rest were from all over the Washington State. Sales at farmers markets have also grown dramatically – to $20-30 million in 2009 from approximately $3.5 million in 1999.

Studies show that farmers markets can play role of mediating social institutions that encourage social learning and innovation by farmers and vendors through engagement with customers (Hinrichs et al., 2004).

Consumer Embeddedness

Farmers markets, in comparison with large supermarkets, leverage consumption based on desire and satisfaction rather than necessity. Many studies show that consumer motivation for shopping at farmers markets is tightly connected to person’s lifestyle and consists of 3 reasons (Smithers, Lamarche & Joseph, 2008):

– the most significant motivation is the desire to support local farmers and sustainable agriculture, in general;

– the second reason is more materialistic – the need to buy qualitative food, and diversify shopping opportunities. These shoppers want to “get there early, get what you need and get out before the hordes arrive”;

– the third reason is the desire of social interaction and communication between friends and relatives, from the one side, and personal interactions between farmers and consumers, from the other.

Hinrichs et al. (2004) explain it: “Rather than the self-interested movements of atomized, “rational” economic actors, as assumed by neoclassical economics, economic behavior is embedded in and mediated by a complex, often extensive web of social relations.” The gaining popularity concept of embeddedness explains the motivation of consumers for shopping at farmers markets with desire to buy food produced locally and therefore fresh and healthier, in contrast with large supermarkets where food is delivered from distant places (Feagan & Morris, 2009).

Mary Embleton, director of the Cascade Harvest Coalition, confirms: ”According to recent public opinion research commissioned by King County, most consumers indicated a willingness to choose local produce if they were aware of where to find it and how to distinguish it from non-local items.”[1]

Another growing trend is agritourism when tourists perceive food as part of a travel experience, symbolic and ritualistic activity, especially during holidays or Sunday markets (for example, wine, cheese, and meat products).

Information Gap

The main feature and, at the same time, main disadvantage of farmers market is direct marketing approach in building consumer base. For instance, the main channels of advertising are world of mouth, roadside signs, flyers, brochures. Internet and mass media have relatively lower share due to limited marketing budgets of farmers markets (Logozar & Schmit, 2009). Thus, many new and small farmers markets face such obstacles as law visibility, lack of promotion and problems with customer base creation.

From the other side, consumers who did not shop at any farmers’ markets indicate among the major reasons for not attending farmers markets was that they didn’t have information about them in addition to “no farmers’ market around” (Govindasamy, Zurbriggen, Italia, Adelaja, Nitzsche & VanVranken, 1998).

In these circumstances, FreshFinder has double the benefit. From one side, it provides consumers with information about farmers markets in Seattle and King County and contributes to the promotion of these markets and expansion its customer base.

Overall, it is clear that the business of farmers markets in the Seattle area is booming and continuing to grow.  Creating an application that would tap into this cultural phenomenon would be a smart business move and would likely be well-received by the farmers market community as nothing like FreshFinder already exists.

Audience

They call Seattle the Emerald City, and that was before the metropolis of 617,000 went “green” with environmental civic pride. Ours is a community united in sustainable practices—from compostable coffee cups to the nation’s most expansive recycling program. It’s not just the people, either. It’s the politics. Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment works to make the area a healthier place to live, and Mayor Mike McGinn (as pro-green as they come) recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to accept the city’s $20 million grant for energy efficiency and conservation programs.

Whew! That’s a lot to take in. But it’s a quick and necessary snapshot of the lives we live as Seattleites. Even if we aren’t “green” ourselves, we certainly know some people who are. There is so much to be proud of here, and our passion for local food and fresh produce is evident in Seattle’s robust farmers market community. There are at least a dozen weekly farmers markets in the greater Seattle area, not including iconic Pike Place Market downtown. Many of the city’s farmers markets pop up on the weekends and have been located in the same spot for years. They are part of the city’s fabric, and they are growing still.

Farmers markets attract a diverse crowd and so it’s important to identify the various types of shoppers as the FreshFinder audience.  A survey conducted in February of 2010 by the University of Illinois recognized five particular categories of people who regularly attend farmers markets: market enthusiasts, recreational shoppers, serious shoppers, low-involved shoppers and basic shoppers.  These categories bring to our attention that there are differing motivations for people to come to Farmers Markets – while some attend for weekly produce, others go for a social experience and some just love markets and supporting local vendors.  Despite the category of shopper a market attendee may fall into, FreshFinder will be a great resource as the mobile application will provide helpful information involving many different aspects of the markets.  For example, the most important thing to a market enthusiast would be knowing when, where and what time all local markets occur and this information would be readily available in the FreshFinder application.  To a serious shopper, the most useful information might be what produce is available at each market to ensure that they will find what they are seeking.  The attending vendors feature and community photo upload feature would help provide this information to that serious shopper.  The review feature will ensure that those in all five categories of farmers market shoppers will be able to find out which markets best fit their style of shopping and interests.

The study at the University of Illinois identified that freshness was the largest draw of farmers markets as opposed to regular grocery stores.  Therefore, those in the audience for our application are people who place importance on fresh foods.  As local foods tend to often be the freshest due to less shipping, our audience tends to gravitate towards local vendors.

While people of all ages attend farmers markets, multiple studies have shown that the largest percentage of attendees are over 51 years old.   FreshFinder targets multiple age groups, however this is the most crucial age group to focus on generating interest.  Unfortunately, only 17% of iPhone users are over 55 and this is one our greatest challenges.  It is our hope that the iPhone users in this age group accepts our application and that our application generates interest in farmers markets among younger generations.

Competitive Analysis

The most important thing to keep in mind when creating a new application is that it doesn’t matter if it is a new idea, as long as it’s the best in how it functions.  There is a small number of existing applications that center around farmers markets in the iPhone app store, however none of them offer all of the features included in FreshFinder and most do not service the greater Seattle area or the Pacific Northwest.  Below are the existing apps that are the most similar to FreshFinder and there direct competition.

California Farmers’ Market Finder (Darwin 3D, LLC):  This is the most robust farmers market resource available on in the iPhone app store.  At this time, it is restricted only to California, which makes it an indirect competitor of FreshFinder.  The biggest complaint discussed in app reviews is the limited cities the app is available in – FreshFinder would remedy this by growing and adding other markets other than Seattle.  The positive features of this application are that the database features over 500 markets, it lists locations/directions, the ability to filter by county in California and a feature where a user can enter a market update on the application and it automatically updates the related website.

Farmers Market Companion (J2 App Dev):  This application is also not a direct competitor to FreshFinder; however it offers many features that would compliment FreshFinder and work well with our locator feature.  This includes a veggie identifier, tips on how to select good produce, information on how to best store different fruits/vegetables, as well as recipes and tips on how to prepare market finds.  This application is available for $0.99.

Farmers Markets (Phlogistic Apps):  This application offers a market locater, which is the basis for FreshFinder, however it offers little else.  It provides the addresses of local markets and maps.  While this would suffice for “market enthusiasts,” it provides little information that a “serious shopper” would find useful.  This application is also available for $0.99.

Farmers’ Markets (Apptika, Inc): This iPhone application is the most expensive farmers market application and it sells for $4.99.  It is difficult to gain a solid understanding of the positives and negatives of this application as there are no reviews posted.  The description of this app states that its features include the addresses of local markets, what products are available at each market, the months/days/hours of operation, market contact information and the web address for each market.

Data Source

Considering FreshFinder is a hybrid mobile application that requests much of its information from a web-based database, the data it delivers to users is much deeper and far more detailed than would otherwise be available to a standard native application. This gives FreshFinder a wide range of possibilities and a roster of features that is unmatched in the mobile marketplace.

Most of the data used will come from outside sources, including nonprofits and government reports, though it will rely on updated information from the markets and vendors themselves to stay accurate and up to date. FreshFinder’s website can accomplish this task by maintaining a submission form for markets/vendors that automatically updates their information.

Here are FreshFinder’s features and a short explanation of where the application’s data will come from:

  • Locate a farmers market nearby—Use existing GPS features to localize search and directions through Google Maps.
  • Hours of operation and contact information—Available through the King County Agriculture Program’s annual Farmers Market Report and other online resources; users can make calls or send emails using the iPhone’s built-in voice call and email services.
  • See which vendors are at each farmers market—This information is readily available online through multiple channels including the FMR and NWS; it will also take communication between the FreshFinder team and farmers market organizers.
  • Find what each vendor is selling—Also readily available online; an easy-to-use submission/update feature must be included on the companion website so vendors/markets can keep this information current.
  • Discover what’s in season—Washington state’s seasonal crops are widely known and can be input into the web-based database. Epicurious has an amazing interactive U.S. map with this information, and a localized version of this would be a nice addition to the FreshFinder roster.
  • Search by food, arts/crafts, vendor, user reviews—This information can be pre-populated from within the application. If users want to search for strawberries, for example, the application would use the market/vendor information to relay the search results.
  • Leave feedback and share via the Social Web—All of this data is user-generated and can be implemented through standard iPhone integration. Feedback/reviews must be stored on the web-based database, while adding Facebook and Twitter sharing is simply a matter of coding.
  • Learn more about each market—Available through the FMR and by working with market organizers. This can include history, neighborhood information/location, number of visitors each year, etc.

A great deal of FreshFinder’s information is readily available online. Building the web-based database is certainly a time-consuming endeavor, but once it’s complete it will require less resources as vendors and organizers are indoctrinated to the submission process. This can be as simple as building a web-based form that can be updated whenever a vendor feels it’s necessary. Because many small farms and farmers struggle to reach a wide audience, a simple submission process via FreshFinder can work wonders for their marketing and reach. It will take time to implement this process, but it’s a worthwhile process that would benefit the vendors, markets and, most importantly, the consumers they are trying to reach.

Sponsoring Organization

There are nearly 40 farmers markets representing 250 farming families in King County alone.  Many of these families depend on the sales from farmers markets to remain on their land and continue farming. Many markets are nonprofit organizations, while others operate as part of a sponsoring organization such as the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance or Kirkland Downtown Association. In Seattle, there are three associations that sponsor 13 farmers market—the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance (NFMA) is the largest, with seven markets operating under its jurisdiction.

Though farmers markets are a countywide success story, FreshFinder seeks one sponsoring organization to take the lead in the mobile space. We recommend the NFMA as FreshFinder’s sponsoring organization, as it is the largest and most successful of the county’s farmers market associations. It is also the most tech-savvy of them all, according to Compete.com, with its website pulling in nearly 9,000 unique visitors per month as opposed to the 5,000 for the Washington State Farmers Market Association.

The NFMA is a 501(c)3 with an 11-member board of directors, four of whom are farmers who sell at the markets. It employs eight full-time staff, including Director Chris Curtis, a 1973 graduate of the University of Washington, and has offices located in the University District. The NFMA supports small farms and farming families by providing direct sales sites to small farmers. It also educates consumers about local farm products and the benefits of buying direct from local farmers. No arts and crafts can be found at any of the NFMA’s seven farmers markets, as vendors are only allowed in who sell local farm ingredients. This is referred to as a “producer-only” event, where farmers sell direct to their shoppers and earn the full dollar value of their products.

FreshFinder is a natural partner for the NFMA because of the organization’s countywide success, reach and influence. It is a community organization that was developed in response to the growing popularity and public support of the neighborhood farmers markets in Seattle. It does compete with other farmers markets, but the all-for-one, one-for-all mentality of the local farming community is what makes this movement so strong. The NFMA can bring some much-needed publicity to itself and its farmers markets by sponsoring FreshFinder for the greater good of farming families across Washington. In 2009, the NFMA collectively donated more than 47,000 pounds of fresh food to local food banks and in 2004 received the Mayor’s End Hunger Award in recognition of the work it does on behalf of the hungry in our communities.

Clearly, this is an organization that cares about the greater good. Partnering with FreshFinder would only help the NFMA’s marketing strategies while benefitting farmers markets across the city and small farms across the state. Farmers markets play an important and valued role in their communities, and their missions are similar despite their differences: support local farmers, bring fresh, healthy food to the community, provide an opportunity for small business to sell their goods, and create a lively, family-friendly community activity (FMR, 2010). It’s this last reason that makes FreshFinder’s case for an NFMA partnership strong. Curtis, who has been called the mother of Seattle’s farmers markets, said in a 2008 Columns magazine story: “Markets add value to the community on so many levels. They’re such a great way to support local farmers, a place to go see your neighbors. To slow down a little bit.”

By partnering with FreshFinder, the NFMA can bring the very best farmers market information to a wide audience. The application enhances the farmers market experience for existing and new customers in our region, and allows each market organizer to implement a targeted marketing strategy that increases awareness for their market and vendors.

References

Feagan, R. B. & Morris, D. (2009). Consumer quest for embeddedness: a case study of the Brantford Farmers’ Market. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 33, 235-243. doi:10.1111/j.1470-6431.2009.00745.x

Govindasamy, R., Zurbriggen, M., Italia, J., Adelaja, A., Nitzsche, P. & VanVranken, R. (1998). Farmers Markets: Consumer Trends, Preferences, and Characteristics. #36722, P Series. Rutgers University: Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics. Retrieved from http://econpapers.repec.org/RePEc:ags:rutdps:36722

Hinrichs C.C., Gillespie G.W., & Feenstra G.W. (2004). Social Learning and Innovation at Retail Farmers Markets. Rural Sociology, 69, 31-58. doi:10.1526/003601104322919892

Jarosz, L. (2008). The city in the country: Growing alternative food networks in Metropolitan areas. Journal of Rural Studies, 24(3), 231-244. doi: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2007.10.002

King County Agriculture Program. (2010). Farmers Market Report. Retrieved from http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/waterandland/agriculture/documents/farmers-market-report.aspx

Logozar, B. & Schmit, T.M. (2009). Assessing the Success of Farmers’ Markets in Northern New York: A Survey of Vendors, Customers, and Market Managers. #55941, EB Series. Cornell University: Department of Applied Economics and Management, http://econpapers.repec.org/RePEc:ags:cudaeb:55941

Smithers, J., Lamarche, J., & Joseph, A. E. (2008). Unpacking the terms of engagement with local food at the Farmers’ Market: Insights from Ontario. Journal of Rural Studies, 24(3), 337-350. doi: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2007.12.009

USDA (Aug. 4, 2010). USDA Announces that National Farmers Market Directory Totals 6,132 Farmers Markets In 2010. Retrieved from USDA website

Wakeman, I., Light, A., Robinson, J., Chalmers, D., & Basu, A. (2010). Bringing the Virtual to the Farmers’ Market: Designing for Trust in Pervasive Computing Systems. In Trust management. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-13446-3_17

Wooldridge, D. (2010). The business of iPhone app development: making and marketing apps that succeed. New York: Apress.

Zepeda, L. (2009). Which little piggy goes to market? Characteristics of US farmers’ market shoppers. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 33(3), 250-257. doi:10.1111/j.1470-6431.2009.00771.x


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