We are living in unprecedented times that at once, are looking globally, but also focusing locally. The now normative smartphone has given access to information and businesses like never before. Potential customers can stumble upon a business almost by accident, either by good marketing or a lucky stroke. However, too often technology is seen as the antithesis of artisanship and directly opposed. At Ashfount Investments, we believe in the power of technology to simplify our processes, maintain efficacy, and help artisans to do what they do best – whether that be raising cattle, running a restaurant business, or making the best quality, small-batch vinegar money can buy.
Simplification means many things for us. It means distilling processes in such a way that they encourage efficacy and leave more time for the real work of growing food and feeding people. It also means utilizing the most current advancements to minimise stress and maximise ease of communication with potential customers. Keeping an ear to the ground while keeping the eye on the prize can be difficult and confusing at times. By committing to simplification, we can help ease the uncertainty of investment, facilitate clear communication, and develop highly competitive, forward-thinking businesses.
As this article exemplifies in Entrepreneur Magazine, technology has driven the food industry forward leaps and bounds; “Advancements in data and technology have led to incredible developments not only in the way we grow and harvest our food, but also in the way we obtain and consume it. From seed to table, technology is affecting the entire food supply chain in remarkable ways.”
We believe that rigorous and forward-thinking food businesses should capitalise on these advancements to find a symbiotic relationship between technology and artisanship.
The Problem: Losing the Human Touch
Many artisans and small-scale food manufacturers lament simplifying and inviting in more technology to their lives as they see it as a hindrance to personability. In the face of being able to buy everything online, several of these producers feel that ‘going back to the good old days’ is more genuine by inviting a phone conversation, or requiring the customer to visit the shop to buy. However, this is no longer the case – it is possible to find a happy medium where the simplification of systems and processes can be aided by technology, thereby making the connection between business and consumer easier and more accessible.As this IEEE Technology and Society article puts it,
“Artisans are looking for ways to stay competitive and relevant in today’s ever-changing technological world…[and] in order for artisans to remain viable in the competitive food industry and keep pace with the larger grocery chains, an innovative platform that can serve as a fully-managed online channel so they can manage all aspects of their businesses is imperative. Additionally, the platform should also build a bridge between the artisans and the consumers who want to purchase these specialty products, providing a better shopping experience that is seamless, reliable and efficient.”
This exemplifies perfectly the necessity of integrating technology effectively in order to maximise time spent managing a business, to encourage further healthy growth.
The Problem: Bureaucracy
When the words ‘processes’, ‘systems’, and ‘management’ are utilised, many immediately associate this with bureaucratic systems. We understand that many of those who work in the food and agriculture business have enough bureaucracy on their plates, which can impede the work they truly enjoy. It can seem like a hurdle to overcome, to integrate new processes and systems and, understandably, many shy away from this idea. However, we at Ashfount Investments have the belief that effectively created systems, with a focus on creating more space to focus on the business at hand can be incredibly beneficial to any business.
As part of our service, we aim to support the development of these systems, in direct dialogue with all actors, to ensure the most efficient use of time and resources for all parties involved. We believe that in creating these management processes, communication is clearer, more effective, and, ultimately, requires less duplication of information or work.
Increasingly, digital platforms are minimizing workloads for workers in all industries world-wide. Although some industries have been slower to integrate, and notably so the food and agriculture industry, the benefits are no less impressive and game-changing. This is keenly felt with the digitisation of food-delivery platforms, from those such as JustEat, Deliveroo, and taxi-turned-delivery service UberEats. But it doesn’t stop there – now even Amazon is able to deliver fresh groceries within hours of ordering. So, how does an innovative business (operating from arguably different values) compete with these megaliths? We believe that this is where the specialty markets are at their strongest – by providing consumers with an antithesis to these services, that still manage to meet with technological and consumer demands.
The value of integrating these technological systems into management, seller, and business structure is described well by the Paris Innovation Review, by exemplifying that for the agricultural businesses, online platforms now serve as a new ‘marketplace’. These ‘marketplaces’ can be utilised in much the same way as the traditional farmers’ market, and often are used by businesses alongside their physical sale points with great success.
CSA’s, fishmongers, and bakers are just some of those that have utilized online and digital platforms as a catch-all to managing orders and marketing directly from a single device. We see this as a beneficial step for the food and agriculture industry, as it has the ability to remove the middleman – allowing producers and farmers to maximise their value, and earn a decent living. Additionally, the benefits of consumer accessibility is greatly multiplied. Keenly felt in our more recent history, the ability to access good quality, healthy, local products has never been more important. And yet, increasingly consumers (and producers) are faced with physical limitations which can minimise availability of sales. Whether this be physically, mentally, or economically, gaining direct access to consumers (and vice versa) greatly affects operational costs, pricing structures, management levels, and efficacy positively.
We also believe that the immediate availability of produce, and of the farmers or artisans story, helps develop a robust interface for human connection. To us, this is a win-win.
By incorporating technology, not only can management of resources and consumer access become more efficient and direct, but the availability of human connection and interaction becomes much more immediate.
We believe in taking advantage of our innovative times to help customers find businesses, and businesses find customers. Our projects aim to utilise this as a positive, integral part of daily communication, marketing, and processing. Rather than removing ourselves from the technological benefits of smartphones, etc., we encourage a symbiotic relationship with these technologies. We need to move forward with the times, in order to ensure long-term survival and sustainable, healthy financial frameworks that meet with customers’ expectations.
By minimizing the steps needed to contact a business or provider, it drastically increases the accessibility of a business. Not only does it make it much easier to get in touch with someone, it also allows the consumer or interested parties access to information immediately.
This creates an opportunity for introducing our company and values firsthand, without needing to call someone first. The immediacy of current technology allows individuals to gain a deeper understanding of a business, its values, and ‘buy’ into the ‘idea’ of it early on. It simplifies the marketing process, and involves outside parties directly. It creates a story – a background – that can be communicated and shared, inviting others into your lifestyle and business.
Moving with the times doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the past behind. We believe a hand-made approach can coexist with modern technology. Artisanal products, traditional farming methods, and sustainability can become more accessible, more financially robust, and healthier industries by tailoring in bespoke technological solutions that will minimize financial outputs, generate efficacy, and simplify processes, so you can keep focusing on what you do best.