Boxomatic and FoodChat open source initiatives

Boxomatic is a software system we originally developed in 2012 for a local produce box scheme we co-founded in our local community in Bellingen NSW.

My close friend Steve Smith had an idea to work with local food growers and create an affordable weekly box for locals. This prevented the produce from being sent further afield for sale, or even worse not being sold at all.

The project, “Bellofoodbox” was immediately successful, with locals wanting to pitch in and help, and growers grateful to be able to sell their produce locally.

2012_box-o-matic_logo_PNGAfter administering the box scheme for a few months, it was obvious that as the scheme grew, administration of the customers, their orders, payments and also the calculations associated with what would go into each box, were time consuming and were going to be our Achilles Heel.

At first we tried a few off the shelf solutions, but nothing seemed to do exactly what we needed. Although we developed a simple spreadsheet for handling the box packing calculations, managing the customers and their repeat orders proved to be a real challenge.

This is when Boxomatic was born. Luckily, being a software developer, I was able to get the resources together to build a custom system specifically for handling local food systems.

So, Boxomatic started handling all the operations at Bellofoodbox, but the development of the software also made us realise that there was a real need for systems that allow food to be distributed in new and more efficient ways.

Since then we’ve been working with the Open Food Foundation on discussions regarding open food systems; systems that belong to the community to allow conventional supermarket distribution networks to be bypassed and communities to take the power back when it comes to food grown in their local area.

If we can better connect growers directly to consumers, quality produce is much more affordable for the consumer, the grower gets a better price and the food is fresher as our open systems are designed to distribute produce, using the most direct path possible, with the identity of the grower and the origin of the food, being communicated all the way through.

We’re really excited to be part of this food revolution. So far, we’ve recently “open sourced” our Boxomatic software, which means that its free to download and contribute to. This means that if any community uses this software, they can be confident that they can change it themselves, and actually own their own local food systems. This also means that the code is open to be reviewed, critiqued and disseminated, so such a crucial part of community infrastructure is transparent and kept accountable for the community.

We’re also excited to be working on an open food communication standard which we call “FoodChat”. This will allow all open food systems to connect to each other, so the consumer will be able to see exactly who grew their food, where it came from and what happened to it on the way to them.

Boxomatic and the FoodChat are Snapfrozen community initiatives, which have been contributed to the Open Food Foundation.

Please contact us if you’d like to get involved, or you’d like more information on these initiatives.