When I got here there were two things I knew I needed to work on. One, since our app is food centered, I needed to engage with Portland’s unique local food culture (whatever that would mean) to determine what people actually wanted and would respond to. Number two, I needed to learn enough about coding (software development) and the language thereof to have at least a marginally comprehensible conversation with other developers and industry regulars I would encounter about the app we are building. As I’ve set about doing this, and the more time I spend in these two spheres side by side, I can’t help but muse about why Ripelist sparked my imagination so vividly in the first place; the incredible potential I saw in local food tech, the marriage of technology and local food .
Although the purported dangers of technology taking over our lives is definitely warranted, I am always excited about a new innovation or application that actually seems to enhance my life in a healthy way. It was this marriage of food, or more precisely the local exchange of food, something so base, necessary and well, ancient, with this digital mobile technology that’s been around about as long as Justin Bieber’s been on the radio, that fired me up. A true food tech combination. With Ripelist, my brother and I saw the potential to help re-establish the practice of locally exchanging food, a custom that has largely disappeared in urban centers in the undertow of industrial progress over the last 150 years.
I am by no means an expert on the history of food sourcing but I do know that prior to the industrial revolution, the majority of people were involved in agricultural production and most likely processed and preserved much of their own food. It also seems reasonable to assume that these same people were at least somewhat dependent on local vendors as well as their neighbors to supplement the food they hadn’t or couldn’t grow or make themselves.
Food was much more central to people’s lives during this time, not in a, “I’ll take the spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette ” sort of way but, “I need to slaughter the sheep, grind the grain and wash the dirt off the onions” way. Granted, before the industrial food system relieved many from the burden of producing their own food, famine, among other things, was a very real danger for people so one cannot eschew every industrial advance as detrimental. The fact is though, because food production was largely a local affair, people were familiar with where their food came from and at the very least had relationships with those that produced it. A far cry from our situation today.
It has been exciting to see a movement in recent years back to sourcing food locally, with natural food stores and farmers markets on the rise. In addition, more and more people are finding satisfaction in producing their own food again even if as a hobby. Whether it’s gardening, canning, urban farming, raising chickens, micro-brewing or just simply cooking with whole ingredients, people are seeing and embracing the value of being more engaged with their sustenance.
Perhaps the most beautiful potential this movement has though, is connecting people with their neighbors through one of the most basic, yet vital components of human existence. That is food of course. With the industrial revolution and thus industrially produced food, people were no longer dependent on their neighbors for food or anything else for that matter and as a result lost that central aspect of their connection with their immediate communities. This is where Ripelist comes in. By giving people in our modern time-pressured culture the tool to conveniently advertise and obtain food within their neighborhood, we can perhaps once again engage in and benefit from the local exchange of food in a way our ancestors have shared for millennia.
Honestly speaking, Ripelist offers no new service exactly. What it does do though, using modern mobile technology, is offer us a way to retrieve a crucial element of our pre-industrial lifestyle that fostered healthier, more sustainable eating habits as well as closer knit communities. Of course no system is perfect, and honestly there may be some neighbors you would rather not know, but as a whole I believe the local food movement, and what Ripelist can do for it as a food tech service, is one worth promoting.
We are getting reeeally close to launching a beta version of Ripelist so if you are interested in testing it, please go to our webpage and sign up. We have a limited number of spots! If you just want to know when it’s ready to download sign up as well and we’ll make sure you’re the first to know!
Revision: We have launched! Find out more here and download the free app!