Local Food Distribution Going Global

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Ooooby
Locally produced food is packaged by an Ooooby worker for delivery to a customer.

From Waiheke Island, New Zealand, to the World, exporting bits, not bites: Ooooby is on a mission to make local food convenient, affordable, and fair everywhere. And, with money recently raised on the equity crowdfunding platform PledgeMe, it can now set a path to do just that.

Ooooby—which stands for “Out of our own backyards”—connects growers directly with customers, while in the process reducing transport, handling, packaging, warehousing, and merchandising costs. The result is fairly-priced, fresh food (much of it organic) for customers and the opportunity for small producers (even home gardeners) to enter the market.

Seventy thousand boxes of locally produced food delivered to 5,000 households in five years is good proof that the system works. From its launch in the Auckland area, Ooooby has added other food hubs in New Zealand and has already entered the market in Sydney and in Fresno, California.

As a committed social enterprise, Ooooby aims to address genuine need, focus on value over profit, and care about stakeholders (customers, community, and the broader environment) at least as much as it does about shareholders.

“Crowdfunding was chosen as our capital-raising method because it perfectly aligns with the philosophy of food for the people, by the people,” said Ooooby co-founder, Peter Russell.

The newly invested funds will be used to perfect, expand, and market their software and systems to allow local food hubs anywhere to launch and grow at speed without the typical trial and error misadventures. All you need are 150 households wanting local food delivered weekly to their door to make the service viable.

Ooooby charges a small fee for use of the software system and a bit more if the local organization wants some hands-on help in the early stages.

Consistent with the goal of reducing environmental impact through local food production and paying farmers a generous 50 per cent of the retail value of food sold to customers is Ooooby’s uncommon investment approach.

The founders have transferred 90 percent of their shares to the Ooooby Foundation, with any dividends earned used to support projects such as community gardens, food-growing education, and buying land for local food production. Investors will not receive cash dividends. Instead, their earnings can be converted to Ooooby store vouchers if they have a hub nearby, or contributed to local food production initiatives.

Crowdfunding and social enterprises like Ooooby are part of an unfolding story, building on the likes of triple bottom-line accounting, benefit corporations, and companies making natural capital declarations. These are all developments that give hope for the sustainable and desirable future we so need.