Farm to Table Business Model Affecting the Food Tech Sector

Call centre trends for 2021
Introduction

The Farm to Table movement has taken the restaurant industry by storm, and traceability of ingredients has never been more important to guests. The industrial agriculture and food (agri-food) industry are responsible for feeding the US and many of its trading partners. In a push towards greater efficiency and scale to meet the needs of the future, industry leaders have invested in robotics and automated technologies. Staying ahead of the technology curve means strengthening your competitive advantage. The farm to table movement is not a passing trend. It's designed to change the culture around how we eat. As many as 1,200 school districts around the country, from Alabama to Iowa, have linked up with local farms to serve fresh vegetables and fruit to children. Last year, Iowa's Woodbury County mandated that its foodservice suppliers buy from local farmers.


What is Farm to Table?

Farm to table, also known as farm to fork, can be defined as a social movement where restaurants source their ingredients from local farms, usually through direct acquisition from a farmer. Most traditional restaurants get their produce from other parts of the country or around the world. These ingredients need to be shipped long distances, and as a result, they are usually picked before they are ripe to lengthen their lifespan or frozen to prevent spoiling. All of this results in food that is bland and less nutritious. On the other hand, farm to fork restaurants get their food from local farms, so the food is picked at peak freshness and is abundant with flavors and vitamins. Because the produce is usually very flavorful, many farm to table operations don't dress their food up with complex sauces and overpowering flavors, instead preferring to let the freshness and flavor of the food speak for itself.


What is Farm-to-Table Business Model?

The farm to table movement broadly refers to food made from locally sourced ingredients, often natural or organic. Farm to fork is another way to refer to the same thing as farm to table. As Rutgers puts it, farm to fork is "a food system in which food production, processing, distribution, and consumption are integrated to enhance the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of a particular place." While most of us see the term used in restaurants, it can be applied much more broadly than that. Farm-to-table is a phrase that can mean different things to different people. At its heart, farm-to-table means that the food on the table came directly from a specific farm without going through a store, market, or distributor along the way. It is not a regulated phrase, so it can be employed by anyone who considers their offerings to fit the definition. Similar expressions include locally sourced, farm-fresh, and farm-to-fork.


The Problem and the Solution

There is consumer demand for fresh, locally grown foods, but there is a disconnection between wanting those goods and the ease of purchasing them. For instance, if you are working Saturday mornings or are busy otherwise and miss the local farmers market, it is tough to find and buy locally grown fresh food. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 35% of Americans work on weekend days. Besides the farmers market, there are limited options to find locally sourced food. With Farm to Table connecting farmers and consumers, more farmers will be able to profit off of their food, and more consumers will be able to enjoy the benefits of eating local.




The Principles behind Farm to Table

The main driving forces behind the farm to table or farm to fork movement, whichever you prefer to call it, have to do with the ethics of food production. Unsurprisingly, it was the accompanying environmental awakening that ushered in such exponential growth. A Rutgers outlines, there are four pillars to the movement:

  • Food security:

  • The farm to table movement increases the scope of food security to move beyond the food needs of individuals or families and look at the needs of both the larger community, focusing on low-income households.

  • Proximity:

  • The farm to table movement hinges on the notion that the various components of a food system (or a restaurant) should exist in the closest proximity to each other as possible. The goal is to develop relationships between the various stakeholders in a food system, such as "farmers, processors, retailers, restaurateurs, consumers", and more. Additionally, proximity reduces the environmental impact of transporting ingredients across states or countries.

  • Self-reliance:

  • One of the goals of farm to table is to generate communities that can meet their own food needs, again eliminating the need for outside resources or long distance transportation of food.

  • Sustainability:

  • The core idea here is that farm to table food systems exist in a way that doesn't stifle ‘the ability of future generations to meet their food needs,’ meaning that it doesn't destroy resources in the process.




Aims of the Farm to Table Strategy

The driving force behind "farm to table" methodologies centres on ethical and moral principles. The main goal and focus of the Farm to Table Movement is to increase the overall health and wellness of local communities and increase consumer access to fresh, organic, all-natural food items.

The Farm to Fork Strategy aims to accelerate our transition to a sustainable food system that should:

  • Have a neutral or positive environmental impact

  • Help to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts

  • Reverse the loss of biodiversity

  • Ensure food security, nutrition and public health, making sure that everyone has access to sufficient, safe, nutritious, sustainable food

  • Preserve affordability of food while generating fairer economic returns, fostering the competitiveness of the supply sector and promoting fair trade




Pros of Farm to Table:

The farm to table movement has had an enormous impact on the foodservice industry and how restaurants source and prepare their food. Here are some of the main benefits of farm to fork:

  • Farm to fork helps to boost the local economy and support local farmers. Because farm to table restaurants deal directly with the farmer, you can be sure that the money spent is going directly to helping farmers grow their businesses and fuel the local economy.

  • Both the restaurant and farmer benefit from farm to table. The restaurant gets delicious and fresh produce, and the farmer receives recognition for their hard work as well as guaranteed business. Additionally, farm to fork restaurants with a close relationship with one particular farm can usually request that they plant certain foods.

  • Serving farm to table food at your restaurant is an excellent way to make local and organic food more available to your community.

  • Farm to fork is a viral trend, and associating your restaurant with the trend can help bring in customers and create excitement about your menu.

  • It can help the environment. The produce doesn't have to be shipped long distances, meaning less time on a truck and fewer greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere.




Farming and the Environment

Inevitably, farming has an impact on the environment. Through farming, the land is physically and chemically transformed. Since farmers use the land for generations, it is in their best interests to ensure their land remains healthy and productive. One of their priorities should be protecting their land and, by extension, the environment in general.

However, as some cultivation methods and particular products may have adverse effects on the environment which pass unnoticed by the individual farmer, scientific and official regulatory bodies exist to alert him to possible damage. As discussed earlier, one measure is the regulation of pesticides to ensure that they are not harmful to the environment or to humans.


A Plant-Based Future?

According to the Menus of Change 2016 Annual Report, "in the past year, terms like 'plant-based,' 'plant-centric,' and 'vegetable-forward' all started to enter the mainstream of the national lexicon." The publication explains that the most noticeable food trend in 2016 was not just menus but entire restaurants putting "plants first" in their food. The farm to table movement has recently led chefs and restaurant owners to get increasingly involved in the growing of their ingredients and even buy their own farms. As the Wall Street Journal put it, a shift is underfoot from ‘simply sourcing to becoming the source’.


It's Changing Consumer Habits

One of the more noticeable impacts of farm-to-table is the way it's changing consumers' appetites. While the Great Recession played a significant role in stagnating consumer buying habits, many industries have made a considerable comeback. A recent study showed that millennials are spending 44% of their food dollars on eating out. Consumers are leaving the house more than ever before to chase the latest trends, helping bring the farm-to-table movement into full swing.



Farming and Food Quality

Food quality is a stable of the farm-to-table movement's ability to change the restaurant industry. The spotlight is now on local suppliers who can decrease the distance between a restaurant and their produce. Short shipping routes on a regional scale have opened the door for the transferring of high-quality goods that actually maintain their quality instead of goods that risk spoilage when shipped over long distances.

The quality of farm products begins with the genetic potential of the plants grown or the animals raised. This, however, is just the beginning since farmers must provide an environment in which plants and animals can develop their full genetic potential. This involves matching animals and plants to the natural environment, providing plants with nutrients, and animals with the food necessary to ensure optimal growth.

Food quality is where a lot of heavy lifting is required of chefs and restaurant operators. If they want to participate in the farm-to-table movement, they need to do their homework and discover which local food producers are available to them. On average, restaurants purchase from local farms for 20 weeks out of the year, or only 36%. This means working with multiple suppliers throughout the year to meet procurement demand.



Farming and Food Safety

It is easy for the consumer to determine the taste, smell, appearance and consistency of food, but wholesomeness and safety are often difficult or impossible to judge. Spoilage, which can be a sign of unsafe food, may be noted, but appearances can be deceiving even here, for what is spoiled food for some may be a delicacy for others.

In general, two types of food safety can be distinguished:

  • The absence of chemicals at levels which may be harmful to health (either acute or long-term)

  • The absence of micro-organisms and their toxins in amounts that may cause illness.

Chemicals may be naturally occurring toxins in the farm product itself or come from external sources due to farming practices or chemicals in the soil.

Sensitive products such as pesticides or products used in animal health are subject to strict regulations. They undergo rigid testing procedures before they are accepted for registration by European or national authorities for specific use. This testing must prove that the product:

  • Has real value and will work as intended

  • Will have no adverse side effects in humans, either during use on the farm or from residues that may remain in the food

  • Will have no adverse environmental effects

Present Scenario of Farm to Table Business Model:

On Instagram, there are 3.2 Million #farmtotable posts. In 2007, Oxford's word of the year was locavore: A person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food. In today's society, it appears that more and more people are becoming increasingly concerned about what they eat and where it comes from. The National Association of Restaurants' 2016 Culinary Forecast lists locally sourced meats and seafood and locally grown produce as its number one and number three food trend. Additionally, its number four top food trend is hyper-local sourcing, and the number 13 trend is farm/estate branded items. The consumer demand for local food is evident, whether in numbers or social media movements. Consumers are becoming more curious about where their food is coming from and more aware of the benefits of eating locally. There are three main benefits of consuming locally sourced food.

  • First, by buying from a farm instead of the grocery store, you support your local farmer instead of putting more money into the pockets of chain retailers.

  • Second, the quality of the food you buy locally is easily higher. Typically, a farmer's primary goal is quality, whereas a retailer's main goal is quantity.

  • Third, the environment is positively affected due to the lack of miles travelled to distribute the food to be consumed. This means less fossil fuels are being depleted.

While consumers are excited about the farm to table movement, they are also willing to pay too. A study in South Carolina concluded that consumers were willing to pay an average premium of 27% for local produce and 23% for local animal products. This study is essential to ensure the success of the Farm to Table business model, demonstrating that consumers are willing to act on their beliefs and not just admire locally sourced food and the ideas of supporting farmers and a sustainable lifestyle.

Conclusion

Local and regional food systems will continue to grow as consumers demand produce from their communities and establish stronger relationships with their local farmers and ranchers. Producers, community members, consumers, educators and many others will continue to be involved in developing functioning local food systems. CogentHub can provide Food-Tech companies catering to Farm-to-Table Business Models with personalised solutions to transform these investments into profitable returns. Partnering with us will greatly improve your profitability and take your business to new heights.


About the Author

Swarbhanu has completed his post-graduation in Applied Geology from Presidency University, Kolkata, India. His key areas are Content writing and Research Work. He is in this industry for one year. His areas of interest include Structural Geology, writing, Rock Climbing and Trekking, Painting and Playing Guitar.