22nd February 2018

Gloucestershire researchers have launched a Smartphone app to help people source local food.

For the last two years, researchers from the Countryside and Community Research Institute, at the University of Gloucestershire, have been working with Marco Della Gala from the University of Calabria to develop this smartphone app, which is available to download for free from iOS and Android app stores.

The app, which was named ‘MiLarder’ via an online Twitter competition, answers the question “where can I buy local fresh products?” It is designed to help consumers research information on local products and tell them where they can find them. They can search the different local food sources in their area, for example farmers’ markets, farms, box schemes, community supported agriculture, food hubs and pick your own, and can view details, such as description, distance and opening times.

Consumers can also find information regarding which farmers are attending a farmers’ market and what products will be available. Information on special events, promotions and other related news can be found on the app and consumers can tell other app users about their local food experiences.

For producers, the app provides the opportunity for free publicity. They can spread the word about their products via the app and insert and update their own data, such as who they are, their production methods, and at which farmers’ markets they can be found and on which days. They can advertise special promotions, update information on their products and use photos to demonstrate them.

Work on the development of the app has been funded by the EU Horizon 2020 program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions – Individual Fellowship, which was awarded to Marco Della Gala. Marco, who started work on the app in June 2016 under a project called Sofia, said:

“I’m hugely excited to see the app launched. We have worked really hard to ensure that it comes loaded with information with over 500 farmers markets and farm shops, which will increase as more and more producers and consumers adopt the app.

“The app allows consumers to search for local foods, shops or markets that they are interested in, whilst farmers, producers and stallholders can let them know where to find them.”

CCRI Senior Research Fellow, Dr Matt Reed, who assisted Marco on this project, said:

“For years now the CCRI has been telling farmers, growers and consumers about the benefits of local food. As part of this process we have reviewed over 100 other food apps in order to refine the features of this one. One of the key aspects of the app is the opportunity to share your food experiences with other users.”

In November, the CCRI took a demonstration version of the new app along to farmers’ markets at both Cheltenham and Cirencester to show to stallholders and shoppers, where it generated lots of interest.

Marco Della Gala presents the winner of the Twitter app naming competition with her prize

Marco said:

“People were very excited about the possibilities the app offered. It is a free service and we are not therefore asking people to sponsor the app’s development or clutter it with adverts. It exists simply to connect those interested in local food. If you sell local food it is easy to enter and update your details so that people can find you quickly and easily.

My time working with the team at the CCRI has been a very productive one, allowing me to develop this app in a research-intensive environment, and I’m now looking forward to working with the team to promote the app, which is the next step of the research.”

To help-spread the word about the app, Marco and his research team are running a competition to give app users the chance to win a hamper of local food products.

The app allows users to post photos and during March, April and May, everyone who posts a picture onto the app of themselves with a stallholder at a farmers’ market will be entered into a random draw. It couldn’t be easier – just download the app, take a picture at your next visit to a farmers’ market and post it – and you could win a local food hamper!. As a little bonus, we have a bottle of something for the stallholder in the winning picture as well!

Matt added:

“We have recently seen that food finding apps have a role in the food sector with ‘JustEat’ being listed on the FTSE 100. The question is “how can technology help smaller food businesses?” We think that this app can provide part of the answer to that. It can help connect existing local food businesses to new customers, in particular the younger generations. As we have used EU funds to develop it, we are able to offer it as a free service which will be of great benefit to local food businesses and producers.”

The Twitter competition to name the app created lots of attention and entries. It was won with the winning name of ‘MiLarder’, submitted by Jenni Hobbs of Hobbs Dairy, Gloucester.

The app can be downloaded via the following links:

Apple iTunes

Google Play

Two video tutorials explaining all the functionalities provided to both consumers and producers are available on the following links:

ENDS

Editorial Notes

About the Project:

SOFIA – Situated Learning Opportunities (SLOs) fostered by ICT applications in Alternative Agro-Food Networks – is a training-through-research project funded by the EU Horizon 2020 program, under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions – individual fellowship (call 2015).

The fellowship was awarded to Marco Della Gala from the University of Calabria, who is working under the supervision of James Kirwan, with support from Matt Reed and Rob Berry. The aim is to create ICT based tools, in particular mobile applications, to facilitate the exchange of knowledge between farmer and consumer networks and help people access local food.
The project began on 1st June, 2016. Sofia website.

Contacts:

Dr Matt Reed, Senior Research Fellow
Email: mreed@glos.ac.uk
Telephone: 01242 715314

Marco Della Gala
E-mail: mdellagala@glos.ac.uk