2. Local goes hyper-local
In 2020, more of us will be looking to slim down the intensity and environmental footprint of modern digital living. We’re seeking more sustainable, more hands-on, more tangible experiences wherever we can find them. That’s bringing food production ever closer to the home. Local is going hyper-local.
Thanks to huge advances in technology and pervasive digitalization, hyper-local precision horticulture is becoming a viable option for everyone, even on a micro scale. It opens up the possibility for everyone to grow food with reliable results, no matter how little outside space we have – or time to spare.
FarmBot, for instance, has created “humanity’s first open source CNC farming machine.” The horticultural startup’s unique combination of fully automated hardware and a digital platform allows customers to plan and grow their own food, in their own spaces, according to their own needs. Sowing, watering, weeding, harvesting — innovations like FarmBot offer the prospect of labor-free home farming for all.
Consider, too, how Infarm is bringing high-tech modular farming to food production. The indoor farming company created a cloud-based platform that learns, adjusts and continuously improves itself, so each plant grows better than the one before. It can re-create growing conditions from around the world, bringing plants that were previously too delicate, rare or expensive to consumers.
Hyper-local networks also present new opportunities for convenience and radical innovation. Take Alibaba-owned Ele.me (rough translation: “Are you hungry?”), which is leveraging China’s mobile-first economy to rapidly expand its local logistics services to deliver meals (and now other products) across the country. It’s a win-win for consumers, who get fast delivery to their door, and local restaurants, which get access to a larger, digital customer base.
For Alibaba, the aggregated data Ele.me provides is a potential goldmine of new insights into hyper-local patterns of consumer tastes and behaviors. It’s also a low-risk but super-agile way to test out new food concepts and ideas, using individual restaurants to explore which innovations work in one locality before scaling up nationally.