With the burgeoning demand for fresh, local produce and small food producers facing the common challenge of access to marketplaces, the new FreshList app is a welcome tool for both customer and vendor. The app uses the Twilio API (application programming interface) for text messaging which permits people to purchase and sell produce in real time. This could mean big changes in sales for those food businesses that either don’t have the staff, resources or time to build websites with constantly updated inventory or a means of online sales.
FreshList takes the word straight to the virtual streets instantaneously. This practical, yet innovative application merges social entrepreneurship with the issue of food access via a text-based marketplace, making it a straightforward process for users to make business deals on local produce so that food is diverted from waste streams.
FreshList was a product of the Cleanweb Hackathon, a competition that ambitiously charges participants to create a new app in all but 24 hours from zilch using nothing but their own data, code along with APIs and datasets supplied by partner organizations, sponsors and government sources.
Creators Hoa Huyn and Freshr founder Joshua Rosen wanted to construct something that would help stop the waste of perfectly good produce that is in need of a connection to local customers. Rosen recently told Fast Company, "I came up with the idea around 1 p.m. on Saturday, but I've been working in the agriculture space and looking at building online marketplaces for buying and selling fresh produce... The next step is building this into a more robust platform.”
So let’s say, for example, that you’ve got a few overflowing avocado trees, many of which are rotting away unnecessarily on the ground and you need to get rid of 100 avocados quickly. As a seller, you would simply text your avocado inventory to a list of local buyers. Buyers type in “list” which brings up all the produce being sold on the market in their vicinity. Once a buyer has made their purchasing decision, the seller gets a text message with the buyer’s contact information, after which they can remove that inventory item from the list so it remains up to date for future browsing consumers.
Ideally, this service could be utilized by more than just individual producers and consumers, but also restaurants, farms and other food service businesses. Time will tell if this app will really take off, but it seems FreshList has the potential to put local produce literally at folks fingertips with just a few punches to the smartphone keyboard.
Lesley Lammers is a freelance sustainability consultant and journalist, focused on the intersection between the environment, food, social impact, human rights, health and entrepreneurship.