ShopShareCrop: How to support a closed food loop economy

ShopShareCrop presents a crowdsourcing solutions for grabbing those last-minute grocery items – without the excess fees of Instacart.

On a recent trip home, I noticed that my mother-in-law had a few overripe bananas on the counter. I thought to myself, ‘Those are just perfect for banana bread, maybe I’ll make some tomorrow.’ The next morning, I noticed they were gone. When I asked what happened to the bunch of bananas, she casually mentioned, “Oh, I threw them out because they were going bad.”

The unfortunate journey of those overripe bananas is far too common – as a country, the US wastes over 20 lbs. of food per person per month , most of it deemed unwanted based on appearances of defects, over ripeness, or minor bruising. While some of this food waste is mitigated through food banks, most of it truly ends up in the trash.

One idea to solve this problem and create a community appreciated by foodies, environmentalists, and  frugal shoppers alike would be to create an online market where individuals can crowd source excess food from neighbors, barter produce from their own gardens, and help eliminate food waste and excess food spending within local communities. I’ve coined this model, “ShopShareCrop”.

ShopShareCrop is an online platform that will allow users to perform the following tasks:

Shop – Users can type in the name of produce that they are looking for i.e. 2 cucumbers, and purchase these items from other users nearby. Transportation of the goods would be negotiated between users

Share – Users can list excess produce that they would like to donate to others online, in addition to sharing recipes, tips on picking the best produce, etc.

Crop – Users can crowd source recipes and ingredients from “shop” and “share” members. For instance, if John is looking to make a healthy snack, he can search through recipes shared by other users, and narrow this list based on the availability of the ingredients for sale/exchange/donation currently on the platform.

Value Creation

ShopShareCrop will create value for four distinct types of consumers:

Grocery Shopaholics – Many consumers tend to buy groceries either in bulk or in excess of what we actually consume. The shopper who sees a ‘4 for $2’ advertisement for tomatoes will often purchase all four instead of buying two. With ShopShareCrop, this shopper can either list the 2 tomatoes online for sale or exchange them for another form of produce.

The Frugal shopper – College students and young professionals often seek to purchase groceries at a discount, which leads to purchases skewed toward processed foods instead of fresh produce. When a recipe calls for tomatoes, it typically requires an impromptu trip to a grocery store. With the ShopShareCrop model, these students would be able to source such ingredients from local neighbors in for purchase.

The Green Thumbs – Many middle-aged adults take pride in having their own gardens and creating a mini farm-to-table ecosystem within their own home. However, as these adults can only consume a portion of their produce, ShopShareCrop will give them an outlet to sell or donate the excess produce to their neighbors.

Environmentalists – While food waste is a societal problem that affects us all, those consumers who are more environmentally conscious would prefer to sustainably purchase and share produce in a way that supports a closed food loop economy.

Value Capture

This site will capture value by making transaction data available to local farmer’s markets and food co-operatives, as it will allow them to understand where there is demand for produce sourced outside of the standard supermarket environment, and will also reveal which crops are in high demand, low demand, overpurchased, etc. The platform will be free for users who sell/exchange produce less than 5 times per month, but for avid users looking to monetize their home gardens or recoup losses from overspending on groceries, there will be a small transaction fee ( i.e. 3% of the total resale value).

Why communities will love this

In addition to the reasons outlined within the value creation section, users of this crowdsourcing platform will also appreciate the ability to connect and build relationships with neighbors with whom they would ordinarily never come into contact with. The proverbial “borrowing a cup of sugar” from a neighbor no longer exists in the world of FreshDirect and Instacart, leaving little opportunity to interact with neighboring apartment tenants in metropolitan cities. As the world seeks to make everything virtually connected, opportunities to swap your overripe bananas for tomatoes with a neighbor, while sharing recipes for banana bread and bruschetta, are few and far between. ShopShareCrop seeks to change that.



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Student comments on ShopShareCrop: How to support a closed food loop economy

  1. This is a brilliant idea! I find it very interesting because the majority of consumers eat fruits and vegetables when they are under-ripe. Bananas are a perfect example. They are truly ripe when they have brown spots and no green tips, but the majority of people eat them when they are under-ripe, which can cause digestive distress. I suspect this is the same for many other types of fruits and vegetables.

    I think there’s a lot of potential here to scale this (of course, this is HBS, we have to scale…). Once the user base becomes large enough, I could imagine a central warehouse where people could drop off and pick up overripe food. It reminds me of “The Dump” when I was a kid. We would take our trash there each week, in addition to used household items, such as old clothing and furniture, to place in the “Swap Shed.” I could see a food swap central location. This is very similar to what Trader Joe’s is trying to do, selling expired food at huge discounts.

    The only issue I see is liability – what happens when someone gets sick? Does the app’s reputation ruin? Or do people take it with the territory?

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