Podcast

CropMobster.com

CropMobster: How To Put Your Local Food System To Its Highest Use

A plug-and-play solution for any community
Monday, June 5, 2017, 5:05 PM

In the developed world, we waste a LOT of food.

In America alone, it’s estimated that up to 40 percent of the post-harvest food supply is discarded, according to The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That represents more than 1,200 calories per day for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. -- just thrown into the trash.

Yet at the same time we have food access issues and nutritional deficits that result in widescale health problems and hunger nationwide, despite having more than enough nutritional calories to go around. Our food system is a mess -- and it doesn’t have to be that way.

In this week's podcast, we talk with Nick Papadopoulos, founder of CropMobster; an innovative company focused on helping communities dramatically improve the potential of their local foodsheds. Nick explains how CropMobster provides a platform that any community can build on to connect local producers with local consumers in ways that boost economic development, reduce wastage of food and other resources, and assist local hunger relievers:

We started with a specific focus on this food waste challenge. We had this idea that we could leverage the existing relationships in the community to prevent, recover, and find a home for food at risk of going to waste -- and then create something valuable out of it; either a sale, a donation, et cetera.

But as we progressed, we saw that folks were using our platform for a lot of other different reasons, too. In a food system, if you think about it as a bicycle wheel and each spoke as a relationship, we started out focusing on the different transactions that could help prevent food waste -- but now it’s evolved to the point where multiple relationships and multiple types of needs are being addressed.

We’ve got sales at full price, donations, trades, bartering, people posting that they have jobs to offer in the local region, people posting that they’re looking for work or they have a service to provide. A lot of folks start their small businesses trying to raise money and do crowd-funding, like a Kickstarter or Indiegogo. But guess what? As a new venture, they have no crowd yet. So they’ll post their crowd-funding offer on our site and we help give them a nudge towards success.

And so, what we’ve teased out are a host of different relationships that happen in every community that are required for a resilient, healthy food system. We’ve evolved to where we can support any one of those types of exchanges, where people can post an alert saying 'here’s what I have' or 'here’s what I need' and then we rally the community not just around the transaction or around the commodity, but inspire enough folks to get involved, share those alerts, and deliver an impact for whomever it is who’s had the guts to make a post on the platform. Usually something good turns out.

At the end of the day, it’s really about helping the people in a community meet their individual needs. This gets to the point of Peak Prosperity and its emphasis on developing resilience. How can we also not only help ourselves, but help others while doing to?

To sum it up, we're really like a Craigslist meets the local community Grange. We really try to equip communities to train and hire local leaders to run these exchanges, so that they're in control to empower their community to strengthen and improve the dynamics in their food system, given their own unique local assets and needs.

Click the play button below to listen to my interview with Nick Papadopoulos (39m:34s).

Transcript: 

Adam Taggart: Hello, and welcome to the Resilient Life Podcast. Resilient Life is part of PeakProsperity.com. It’s where we focus on practical and actionable knowledge for building a better future. I’m your host, Adam Taggart.

In the developed world we waste a lot of food. In America alone it’s estimated that up to 40 percent of the post-harvest food supply is discarded, according to The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That represents more than 1,200 calories per day for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. just thrown into the trash, yet at the same time we have food access issues and nutritional deficits that result in wide scale health problems and hunger nationwide. Despite having more than enough nutritional calories to go around, our food system is a mess and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Today, we’re talking with Nick Papadopoulos, founder of CropMobster, an innovative company focused on helping communities dramatically improve the potential of their local food sheds. CropMobster provides a platform that any community can build on to connect local producers with local consumers in ways that boost economic develop, reduce wastage of food and other resources, and assist local hunger relievers.

CropMobster’s model has received impressive praise. In 2014, it received honors from the United States Congress, the Red Cross, and the U.N., and its efforts have been featured in major media outlets like Time Magazine, NPR, PBS, China TV, just to name a few. We’ll talk with Nick about the CropMobster platform, how the model works, and how a community like yours can learn how to tap into it. Nick, thanks so much for being our guest today.

Nick Papadopoulos: Thank you, Adam and thank you to your listeners at Peak Prosperity. It’s an honor to be on the show with you.

Adam Taggart: Thanks. It’s an honor to have you. Well, to get started can you provide a little bit of background on CropMobster? How did it get started and what key benefits and services does it provide?

Nick Papadopoulos: Sure thing, Adam. You know CropMobster got started like a lot of my ideas have in the past. I was working on my family’s farm in 2013 in Sonoma County, a 50 acre vegetable farm, and we had been making a lot of progress growing our business. We developed a CSA program working to sell to local grocers and really trying to be a part of the local food movement. The origins of CropMobster, I think, started when I was standing in the vegetable cooler of our farm on a Sunday night and guess what I saw? It was about seven or eight boxes of premium, beautiful, organic produce that had gone unsold and that would have been fed to chickens.

That just drove me insane in that moment. I think just something triggered in my mind and my heart to say that it was a problem for our farm. We’ve invested our money, our love, and our effort into growing this beautiful, nutritious produce. The problem for our community is that there are a lot of folks, whether they’re foodies looking for the best food in the area or local hunger relievers looking for donations, there were a lot of people who need that food and I just decided to take action. And so, CropMobster started when we started fiddling around with email and social media to do instant alerts any time we had extra food to sell or to donate.

So, the first time around we decided to post a deal: we said hey, folks we’ll give you a great deal on this food. It needs to move quickly, let’s say by tomorrow morning, so within 12 hours and we’ll cut you a deal. It will be a win for our farm and we’ll recover some costs. It will be a win for you. You’ll get a great deal on some premium food and I think for our community it would maybe be an example of getting something done that’s positive.

The next morning a mom rolls up in her minivan – keep in mind I was just doing experiments on Facebook – she loads up the food and pays us a little bit. It was definitely not full price, but we made a good wage for that and then we heard by the end of the day she had delivered it to about 20 neighbors in her subdivision in her local community there. The next weekend the same thing happened, except that we had decided that the food had come back from Farmer’s Market unsold and we decided to make an alert and a donation to hunger relievers. Oftentimes, it takes a lot of time to find the right match for your food donation.

I just wanted to see if we could make it happen quicker and more effectively and the same thing happened. About two weeks in, we got feedback that what we were doing was inspiring and having a little bit of impact. It was clear that there was something there and so me and my buddy Gary decided to jump in and we jury-rigged an initial platform in the barn out at our farm and we launched CropMobster, to hopefully initially have an impact on food waste, food and security, and things like that.

Adam Taggart: Wow. That was just in 2013 when you had that initial epiphany in the vegetable cooler at night. So, four years later do you have any sort of estimates of the scale at which CropMobster has helped connect those who want this type of surplus food with those who have it?

Nick Papadopoulos: So, in terms of the scale, there’s our model and how we’ve grown, but there’s also the important aspect I think of inspiring others to take action. We weren’t really aware of the food waste crisis in the U.S. or the world when we launched in 2013, but we realized that that was about the same time that a lot of awareness was growing about this issue. We expanded from our farm to our local community in Sonoma County and the San Francisco Bay Area, and then we expanded to the eight San Francisco Bay Area regions within the first year.

Then we sort of plateaued there. We really were interested in seeing what works, seeing how we could improve the model, seeing how we might be able to grow and scale and then communities started reaching out, like leaders in Sacramento County and the greater Sacramento region in California and were saying; hey, can we hire you to come on board to build a community exchange, a local network for our community?

So, I think the scale of impact, to your question, with numbers we’ve had millions of pounds of food find a home either through sales, donations, trades, or freebies. We’ve been able to engage a good number of people in those regions to really get involved in their food system and to get involved in what folks call the sharing economy. Millions of dollars has been generated. Again, when we talk about food insecurity we can’t forget that there’s farmer and economic security and the insecurity that hunger relievers face when looking to raise funds or things like that.

So, we’ve been able to generate quite a bit of money in these exchanges to really help these small businesses and organizations survive and thrive. So, in terms of pounds of food in nutritional servings, we’ve had a lot of impact. We can’t see all of it because we don’t take control of the full transaction. Again, with money there’s a good amount of impact, but I think the biggest impact has been the inspiration of the thousands of people that have gotten involved either through our model or through our story getting out there. There’s a lot of action now in terms of different models emerging that are dead-set on tackling the food waste problem and really thinking about how to drive improvements in our local food system ,and food sheds.

I think our inspiration of even other organizations and examples around the world has been tremendous, too and that’s a little bit harder to measure. I hope that helps answer your question.

Adam Taggart: It does, and it’s certainly impressive how much you’ve been able to do in really just four short years. It’s a pretty big expansion you’ve had in that small period of time from starting with a stack of a couple of boxes in your vegetable freezer. There’s so much in here that I want to unpack, so if you don’t mind, let’s walk through a little bit of what you just said there.

Nick Papadopoulos: Let’s do it.

Adam Taggart: First, let me just deconstruct to make sure I’ve got the model right because it does sound like you started this as a way to get surplus food in the hands of consumers before the surplus food went bad. As I understand it from having poked around the CropMobster a little bit you do more than that these days and so the platform is expanding. I see you as having two main constituents here. One is local producers and first, you focused on the smaller producer, right? You’re not as concerned about really big agricultural producers like big Ag type companies. Is that correct?

Nick Papadopoulos: Yes. It tends to be small to medium-sized businesses, non-profits, and farms that get involved in what we’re doing. Also, we’re open now so anyone who feels the need to engage with us and hopefully have some of their problems solved or to really engage in this community, anyone is welcome to participate. We have had large volumes and large farms and businesses involved, but the focus is at the individual level, garden level, small farm, and small business level and the community non-profits that do God’s work in communities. So yeah, hopefully that helps clarify things a little.

Adam Taggart: That’s great, and of course I love that my bias of local resilience and certainly local food producing resilience is really important and so providing a way for any resources that help the smaller providers hang in there and make an economic living at this I think is really useful. So anyway, you’ve got two main constituents; you’ve got those that are producing the food and those who want to get their hands on it. It looks like the benefits are, for those local producers that CropMobster offers economic development, so you’re actually helping them grow and be more profitable at their businesses.

Clearly if focuses on helping preventing food waste and I also believe there are additional resources that you help serve as an exchange for, and then third you mentioned your support of hunger relievers. Am I getting that correct? Are those the three big ways that we’re helping local producers in these communities?

Nick Papadopoulos: Yes. You’re really honing in there, Adam and I think definitely enough to chew on here for this call. Let me just back up and say we started with a specific focus on this food waste challenge and how to find a home for it and maximize the value of that opportunity that’s about to be lost, so helping farmers sell, helping hunger relievers receive quicker, easier, higher-quality donations and then helping make use of all the resources that went into that food.

So, our start was really around this idea of the relationships in the community that could prevent, recover, and find a home for food at risk of going to waste and create something valuable out of it; either a sale, donation, et cetera. Then, as we learned we saw that folks were using us for a lot of different reasons. In a food system if you think about it as kind of a bicycle wheel or a web and each spoke as a relationship, we started out focusing on the different transactions that could help prevent food waste and then it’s evolved to the point where multiple relationships and multiple types of needs are being addressed.

We’ve got sales at full price, donations, trades, bartering, people posting that they have jobs to offer in the local region, people posting that they’re looking for work or they have a service to provide. Crowd funding; a lot of folks start their small businesses trying to raise money and do crowd funding, like a Kickstarter or Indiegogo or something, but guess what? No crowd, so they’ll post their crowd funding on our site and hopefully we’ll help them give them a little nudge to success.

And so, what we’ve teased out are a host of different relationships that happen in every community that’s required for a resilient, healthy food system, and we’ve evolved to where we can support any one of those types of exchanges where people can post an alert saying here’s what I have or here’s what I need and then the idea, Adam is to rally the community not just around the transaction or around the commodity, but hopefully inspire folks enough to get involved, share those alerts and deliver an impact for whoever it is who’s had the guts to make a post on the platform. Hopefully something good turns out.

I mean at the end of the day it’s really about helping yourself and that’s what a lot of platforms offer, but how can we develop something that really focuses on helping people in their individual needs? I think this gets to the point of your show and part in resilience. How can we also not only help ourselves, but help others, and so I think at the end of the day to sum it up, it’s really like a Craigslist meets Community Grange and then the other piece we need to talk about is how we moderate or run it. We really try to equip communities to train and hire local leaders to run these exchanges that they control to empower their community to really strengthen and improve the dynamics in their food system.

That’s a little bit of a mouthful there.

Adam Taggart: Actually, you took a few words right out of my mouth which is the comparison to Craigslist. That was one of the things that really caught my eye about CropMobster as I began to spend more time on the site. It really seems like you’re providing that same function that Craigslist provides for the average resident of an area. You’re doing that, but you’re doing that with the filter of local food production on top of it. It’s really inspiring to see the huge variety of things that people are using you for, so while you started with a single focus on food waste, it’s very clear that you’ve evolved into something much more burgeoning than that. I think that’s because the community really needed this type of digital exchange.

You referenced the Grange model. That’s sort of what I see you guys are, is that you’re sort of the new, digital version of the Grange, which is wonderful. Let’s build on that because you talked about how you initially started in Sonoma County here in the Bay Area and then you’ve now had other communities reach out to you to have you come and basically replicate the model in their area. As I understand it, that’s what CropMobster was built to be. It was built to be a platform that could be deployed in really kind of any community that wanted to use it.

You mentioned Sacramento, and the way I’m thinking of you guys is that I’m thinking of you as like this sort of Craigslist/digital Grange, but I’m also thinking of you as like a local food system in a box that you can just partner with somebody in a local community and they can take your platform and voila. All of a sudden they’ve got everything they need to be able to connect all of the different producers and consumers in an area in a way that perhaps they weren’t connected before. Is that an accurate way to think of you guys?

Nick Papadopoulos: Yeah. I mean, everyone has a different perspective and one of the challenges and opportunities always is to get on the same page in terms of lingo, but let’s start with Craigslist in a box or a local food system in a box and let’s open the lid and see what’s inside.

So, when we first started, of course, like a lot of innovations we’re thinking; okay, technology is going to be the Holy Grail that solves the problem here, but guess what? It’s not. You need human beings involved and the offline is as important as the online, so when a bold leader of a community like a board of supervisors or a chancellor at a university or a sponsoring business gets involved with us, for sure we develop and replicate an exchange for their local region. It could be a county or a series or counties or some other demographic. Maybe it’s the 100-mile radius or food shed around their municipality, so replicating the technology is one piece of it.

What we’ve learned very early on is that you can’t just chuck technology at a problem and expect to solve it or expect to do something that’s lasting and sustainable, so the second big piece of it, we realize, is this idea that; wouldn’t it be great if we could identify promising, emerging food system leaders that know their community better than we ever will, and equip them with the mindset, the skills, and the training to partner with the technology, do community outreach, work with stakeholders – Farm Bureau, food banks, slow food chapters, beekeeping clubs – and get these folks rallied together around the tool and to drive impact that way.

So, the technology is one piece. The most important piece, I think, that goes along with it is identifying and training on an ongoing basis strong local leaders. We love working with the youngsters, because they’re our future, right, to then take hold of the exchange in their own community and with a bucket full of passion and what we call infectious enthusiasm get out in the fields, get out in the streets and in the farmer’s markets, and engage with their community to use these tools, to do trainings, to do coaching. And so, the human side is very important to this.

It’s also a big challenge in terms of adopting. You’ve got to make sure this gets out into the community, that people in a simple way learn how to use it; they see the benefits, et cetera, et cetera. So, I think the clearest example I can share with you is a new one that’s actually launching right now. In Merced County in California, a rural community, the University of Merced has recently been built in that community in the Central Valley of California. There are high rates of food insecurity with a need to bring their community together and there are a lot of students looking for tangible ways to get involved in solving the world’s problems. Farmers, hunger relievers, and a lot of others need help.

And so, the chancellors and the trustees at the University of Merced found out about us. It was a guy by the name of Charles Neese, who’s the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. He said; hey, could we do CropMobster Merced for our community and could we by chance have you teach our students and youth how to run it for our community, and drive the impact today in the hopes that we might be able to equip and grow a few leaders of tomorrow. So, it’s really exciting that it evolved to the point where we’re supporting the commodity transaction in a whole food system in host of relationships.

We’ve learned the need to train local leaders to drive their own impact and then now we were so excited to work and to train and coach young leaders in a community to drive the exchange, to drive the impact, and to grow, hopefully, even more into the leaders of tomorrow. So, we’re really excited about that project because we feel like it blends the need just like in perma culture or in resilient food systems, the need to really layer impact so we can find a home for food waste, save those natural resources, raise money in sales for farmers, but at the same time as we deliver that impact the young leaders are learning.

They’re learning how to conduct community meetings. They’re learning how to do real-time coaching of folks with the need or they’re not sure how to make a post, so it’s just really exciting to combine those into an impact model that we can take to leaders of the community and then say; hey, let’s turn this on. Let’s make some magic happen in your community and let’s try to bring folks together across our different buckets: farmers, hunger relievers, government agencies, in a new way that drives the impact but also brings us together around this ethic of let’s get together to help our individual interests out, but also let’s help each other out.

That’s what’s great about technology. It’s this new gear we’ve got to really tap into and revitalize some really old-school ethics that are in our communities and that we want to raise even further.

Adam Taggart: There’s so much about what you’re doing that’s right in the bulls eye of our mission here at Peak Prosperity. I just love it. I’m going to ask a leading question here, which is; as I understand it, again this is a platform that was built to be scalable and to be deployed in more and more communities. Are you actively looking for more communities to reach out to who might be interested in using this platform?

Nick Papadopoulos: Oh. Leading question; great one, Adam, and the answer is definitely yes. This is our passion. We’ve spent four years in our small team working on honing this model. We are always open to talking to new leaders in a community who want to bring this on board. Right now we’re in deep actually in a state of Mexico experiencing a tremendous amount of food insecurity. The International Community Foundation, which is based in San Diego, but serving the states of Baja, reached out to us and said; hey, let’s explore launching an exchange for a state in Mexico. So, we’re working on that.

We’d like to grow to the state of California. We’re open to talking to anyone in the world that sees the need to solve these problems holistically; that sees the need to engage their local leaders to doing something new and impactful. Aside from those leaders that would bring us in are the funders or the social investors. One of our favorite things to do in the world is to listen and meet folks. I get a call or an email almost every day now from people around the world saying; can you apply this to our community? I wish I could meet the needs of those folks right away and turn on their exchange. We’re not quite there yet. It involves getting to the leaders of those communities and inspiring them to bring us in.

I’d say under the path to scalability we’re in the middle. We can turn on an exchange very rapidly, but the key is to do the organizational and community development that puts together the other behaviors and practices to allow it to be really successful, or else it can just sit out there as a site and guess what? No one is visiting, no one’s signing up, and no one’s using it to do important things. So, we’re right in the middle where we have a model where we can bring the technology in, the training, the on-boarding, the launch, all the post-launch coaching, and we’re just excited as heck to hopefully with your help and others to connect with leaders in communities, regions, counties, states, and say; hey, what will it take to do this in our region? We’re ready to talk.

Adam Taggart: All right, well I’m going to make the assumption that of the thousands of people that are listening to this – knowing the Peak Prosperity audience as I do – there’s going to be a lot of people that are inspired by this model and want it brought to their communities. Some of those people are probably going to be some of the community leaders you’re talking about. So, if someone is inspired here, and they want to reach out to you what would be the best way to do that? And then maybe just quickly walk through what are some of the first steps in activating the platform? You mentioned getting local leaders involved and whatnot, but is there a progression that folks should have an expectation in their head that they need to go through?

Nick Papadopoulos: Sure thing; my contact information is [email protected], or [email protected] always works. Our website is CropMobster.com. We’re always open to folks reaching out. We’ll talk to anyone. The ideal partner is a bold community leader at a government agency, a university, or someone who has a broad view of many pieces of needs in their community, from economic, environmental, social; bold leaders reach out to us and the first step is really to take time to get to know each other and to listen to the community’s particular needs. For instance, sometimes rural communities are wondering; hey, a lot of new models benefit urban areas but not rural. How can you help us?

We spend a lot of time talking about issues like that. What do you do if there’s a rural area with not a lot of internet connectivity? Does CropMobster still work? The answer is yes, so we a solution to that that’s not quite internet-based, but you get the point. We spend a lot of time in discovery and listening and really getting a sense of whether there’s a win/win partnership in the works.

The other piece is that there are different ways to fund this. It could be a grant; it could be a private donor, or a social impact investor. We’re even open to that although we’re really careful about where we take our investment from, but the idea is that we can start up an exchange and equip the community pretty rapidly in a few months to get rolling. It starts by customizing the exchange from a technological standpoint.

It also starts by listening to the community, so right now in Baja, Mexico where we’re exploring there are a lot of questions about whether or not this is a fit. Our real response and point is; hey, let’s listen to the community and let’s ask the community, so sometimes we even do community surveys up front to get a sense of community readiness and whether or not there is a need. We shouldn’t always assume there is.

And so, up front being able to establish the technology, customize it to a region’s geography, county, ZIP code and things like that and then being able to hire and locate young leaders and others who can drive this exchange and take our training. So, it takes time to identify the right people to run this, so that’s a big part of it. We spend time customizing that region’s look and feel in pictures and graphics and things like that. We spend a lot of time in training, running scenarios, getting alerts ready to post, and then we work on the PR media sites to engage stakeholders and others to really adopt this.

This isn’t for us; this isn’t just for the folks that bring us in. This is for the whole community, so I’d say the most important piece is to spend a few months up front reaching out to different groups and organizations and individuals to listen, to share how it works and how we hope it work and what the desired impact should be, and to make sure that folks feel like they’re a part of it, part of the mission, involved and that they know how the nuts and bolts of how it works.

So, that’s what we’ve been doing in the Merced County community for the last four months is really preparing the community, listening to the community to adopt this. Once it’s ready to go, all systems are go, both the technology and the cultural and organizational and the community outreach aspects we let it rip and we get out there. We encourage folks to make posts. We go the extra mile whether or not the post gets out there on email or social media and finds a result.

We get on the phones. Our moderators call people, text people; we make sure they go the extra mile to make sure folks get an impact right away. That builds momentum that is crucial in the early days to getting these off the ground and running. With a technologies and a lot of models the most crucial aspect is that you’re almost developing a new organization here. The most crucial aspect is getting that early adoption, earning the trust of the community, and getting folks tangible results.

You know today – I’ll just switch gears a little bit – I’m looking at CropMobster SF Bay and there’s a guy with two hens that need to find a home. It’s time to move, so the hens need a new home and it thrills us like nothing else as moderators to be able to redo the outreach, do what we call food system deejaying and make sure the word gets out so within minutes or hours those hens egg-laying have found a new home.

Strawberries at a farm called Live Oak; their strawberries are just ripening. They’ve got an acre-full that are not quite fully sold. We want to get them a good price, so we’re out there doing networking and making sure they get results, so I think after four years of doing this we’ve developed a success model that isn’t only technologically based; it’s about making sure that there’s an interest in the community and adoption of the platform from a user standpoint and people interested in taking part. It’s also making sure that folks on the supply side – whether it’s an event, a job, an amount of food – are interested in participating and they get results.

Then there are a bunch of other factors that are critical to being able to launch this, and so that’s pretty long-winded, but basically we have a model that we can go into a community with success factors and our technology to give the exchange, the local food network the best possible chances for long-term success.

Adam Taggart: Yes, and that’s what I think is so important here and kind of why I refer to you guys as like a local food system in a box. It’s not just the code or the platform; it’s all the expertise that you guys bring in, in terms of who are the key people in the community that have to line up their support in advance and then how do you mobilize the community itself? You and I have known lots and lots of other ventures in the local food industry that have died not because the product wasn’t a good product, but just because the community wasn’t prepped for it, right?

What you guys are doing is that you’re taking a holistic approach and the average person who’s trying to fight the good fight in their community oftentimes doesn’t have a lot of the seasoned experience that you have in terms of the critical key success factors and best practices.

So, I love that we take the lid of your box and then into your community, whoever is doing that is benefitting from all of the experience that you’ve had in launching this in previous communities before. It sounded to me from how you were detailing it that I’m sure it’s different from community to community, but it sounds like you can be up and running in about six months, right, from someone reaching out to you to finding the key people to get on board to customizing the platform and getting the PR and stuff all cooked up. Roughly six-months-ish it sort of sounds like what you were talking about. Is that an accurate assessment?

Nick Papadopoulos: Yes. We do six months and it all depends on the leadership awaiting us when we come into a community, but yeah three to six months is about how much time it takes.

Adam Taggart: It’s not that long. I mean it’s pretty quick, which is great.

Nick Papadopoulos: Exactly, and what we’ve found is – and this is the same as our philosophy for our social venture and business – there’s no need to rush. You’re not going to solve these problems overnight. The challenges and opportunities are always going to be there, so if we’re not ready to launch and those success factors aren’t in place and we don’t have the pieces ready to roll, it’s okay to take a few more days and weeks. So, we really just try to be thoughtful about how we do this work and partner with communities because the goal isn’t to have a solution that is there for six months or a year or two years or five years.

We’re really interested, Adam, in how to drive impact in the short term, but how to provide communities with their own exchange, locally controlled that is lasting for many years and decades. Think NASDAQ, think platforms like Craigslist, think of these exchanges and these community organizations like the Grange who’ve lasted decades and so there are a lot of questions on that one in terms of how to go about it, but our vision is to do whatever it takes, no matter how slow we go at times, to really be thoughtful. When we earn the trust of a community and we’re invited and funded to come in and do our work, we don’t really want to leave. We want to keep that trust.

The last thing that we want to do – and we’ve seen this a lot over the last few years – is tens or twenty millions of dollars raised for startup ventures focused purely on the rapid growth. Go into a large region where farmers are in need, start driving a lot of sales and then guess what? They’re not hitting the growth targets and so maybe in mid-summer they crash and they end and they leave those customers hanging and those farmers hanging.

And so, our vision – and it’s a lofty aspiration in many ways; this is a day and a week and a month at a time at CropMobster – is once we earn the trust and respect of a community, we want to do our darnedest and we want to do whatever it takes to make sure that all that we’ve invested in and built creates something that is lasting for a community. That, at its root is what resilience is all about.

But, it’s a hard road I’ve got to tell you, so with that I’ll just stop and see what other questions have bubbled up for you.

Adam Taggart: Okay. Well, just to begin to wrap up here, I want to let folks know how I first found out about you. You know Adam Parks, whom I actually interviewed a couple of weeks ago here on Peak Prosperity, and we did a great podcast about sustainably raised meats. Adam and I were running a meat CSA in Petaluma that you’re probably familiar with, Nick and we took it over from its previous owner. Their inventory management hadn’t been spectacular and as tends to happen in the ranching business or the meat CSA business you get a lot of demand for the popular cuts, and then less demand for other parts of the animal.

So, when we opened the freezers there for the first time we had a huge amount of bones and fat. We really needed to clean these freezers out to make room for higher-margin product for us and we were trying to figure out what the heck are we going to do with this? Adam knew about CropMobster and we put this stuff on CropMobster and we had to beat people off with a stick. I mean it was crazy how effective this was. I think literally within like an hour of putting it on CropMobster we were almost completely depleted. I think we had almost like a dozen people find us within 60 minutes.

It really caught my attention as something that is filling a clear need. Again, that was just on the excess surplus supply dimension, so anyway I’ve seen your product in action and it really impressed me but of course as we’ve talked about on the podcast here, there’s so much more that it brings. Talking to people across the country here, whether they’re urban or suburban or rural, again you and I have spent time in Sonoma County, which has a real surplus of small producers and we’re very lucky that way.

Most other local areas don’t have those benefits. For them to be able to tap more of what we have here by leveraging a platform like yours really excites me, so anyway I think you did a really good job of going where I was going to go and talking about what does success look like to you, where it’s really your model duplicated across many, many communities that want to bring it in and make it their own and build that local community resilience.

Here at Peak Prosperity we’re all about driving action at the local level and individual level and hopefully collections of local resilient individuals then build up to a higher layer where they’re creating resilient local communities. Solutions like yours I think are exactly the types of things that are going to help us do that. So, in beginning to wrap up here, you had mentioned I think before we actually started talking here that CropMobster – which by the way there’s absolutely no business relationship between Peak Prosperity and CropMobster; it’s just an innovative model that we find very interesting and inspiring and worth consideration – so we’ve got no business relationship, but you’ve mentioned to me, Nick that you guys might be undertaking a new round of funding soon.

And so, I take it that if anybody who’s listening who may be inspired by the mission of your company but may also be interested in learning more about that fund raising activity; A., are you indeed going to be raising funds soon; and B., the contact information that you gave out earlier, is that the same contact information that somebody who might be interested in learning more about potentially becoming an investor in CropMobster, is that the right contact information that they should reach out to?

Nick Papadopoulos: Yeah. The right contact information is [email protected] and I’d say before that of course raising capital, raising money is important to us, but most important to us is raising relationships. And so, we’ve learned to really take our time to talk with interested funders to make sure there’s a fit in terms of value, to make sure there’s a fit not just financially, but in terms of the opportunity to tap into new skills and abilities of the funders that are coming to the table. It could be a foundation interested in a donation through one of our nonprofit partners to start a local exchange. It could be an impact investor looking to do something remarkable with the hopes of a return down the road.

So, we have a lot of ways to engage. I would just encourage folks who, through this interview, have triggered something within, to reach out to us and start a dialog. Nothing is going to happen overnight. We’ve found that the best financial and investment relationships happen through dialog and taking time to get to know each other. And so yes, whether it’s a philanthropist wanting to get involved or an impact investor or an everyday person interested in putting in some time or effort of sweat equity, we’re open to any and all of it because this is sort of like a community project where folks are doing this together.

It hasn’t just been because of me and my idea. There has just been a tribe of folks who have gotten together from foundations, small local investors, and others to really make this happen. And also communities who have maybe a food initiative or some other fund that is focused on the local food movement and developing food hubs, supporting farmers; we have contracts in place to do work for communities, so there are just a lot of routes folks can follow.

Finally, we like to have fun. We have a store where we sell fun and quirky food pun shirts, so if you’d like a bill and have that on a shirt, give us a ring. We sell those shirts. Repairing the system with a pear; we’ve got one called Flower to People; check out our online store and you’ll have a good time just maybe wearing a new piece of merchandise that will help a little bit along the way as well. So, those are the ways folks can get involved and there are probably others I’m thinking of, but were just waiting to build more resilient relationships with people who really want to get involved with us for the long term.

Adam Taggart: Well, great. So, I will post the contact info that you’ve provided here along with a write-up of this podcast, so anybody that wants to get in touch with Nick or learn more about CropMobster can. Nick, I will warn you; I think you will get a few folks reaching out or maybe even more than a few. Even though our audience kind of skews middle-age, we do have a number of bright, shiny millennials and Generation Z’s that listen as well. It sounds like a door there as well is open to anybody, but particularly that younger generation that’s looking for how they can make a difference in both helping their local communities as well as just the future of the planet, correct?

Nick Papadopoulos: That’s correct; senior citizens, our elders, youth, or anyone who sees an opportunity to do something remarkable in their community, whether it’s with money, with time, with new ideas, reach out to us. Let’s start a dialog and see what happens. We know for one thing that one transaction, one alert, and one share at a time we’ve seen tremendous impact happen. We’re ready to go and we’re ready to get rolling with new communities. Thank you so much.

Adam Taggart: Great. Well Nick, thank you so much and really thank you for everything that CropMobster is out there doing in the world. We wish you guys the best of luck and look forward to having you again at some point in the future to update us on all the progress you’ve made since this podcast. We can tell you guys are going to be up to great things and thanks again for making yourself so available to anybody who reaches out to you because like I said; I think your phone is going to start ringing here.

Nick Papadopoulos: Thank you, buddy. We appreciate this so much. Take care and thank you to your community of Peak Prosperity listeners.

Adam Taggart: All right. Well, good luck, Nick.

Nick Papadopoulos: Okay. Bye-bye.

Endorsed Financial Adviser Endorsed Financial Adviser

Looking for a financial adviser who sees the world through a similar lens as we do? Free consultation available.

Learn More »
Read Our New Book "Prosper!"Read Our New Book

Prosper! is a "how to" guide for living well no matter what the future brings.

Learn More »

 

Related content

3 Comments

Adam Taggart's picture
Adam Taggart
Status: Peak Prosperity Co-founder (Offline)
Joined: May 26 2009
Posts: 2766
UC Merced launch successfully deployed

The CropMobster deployment in partnership with UC Merced that Nick mentions officially launched days after recording this podcast:

UC Merced is taking steps to fight hunger and tackle food waste on campus and across Merced County.

The campus has launched CropMobster Merced County, an online food and agricultural exchange and community engagement program to help address issues ranging from food waste and growing local food economies to food insecurity and resource scarcity.

“It’s like an online version of the town square from times past,” Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Charles Nies said. “It’s a place where anyone in the community can sell, share, barter and exchange to help each other, and ultimately, help the community.”

The online platform, licensed and supported by CropMobster, was introduced in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2013 to bring together farmers, producers, hunger relief organizations and community members. The Sacramento region CropMobster exchange started in 2016.

More can be read here

Waterdog14's picture
Waterdog14
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 18 2014
Posts: 114
CropMobster is just what we've been looking for

Thank you Nick & Adam!!  Our loose-knit local food movement has been searching for something like this.  We considered the online farm stores (Local Orbit, Farmigo, etc.) but they were mostly just ordering / shopping cart services.  Instead, we're wanting to build community around local food, and CropMobster looks like a great resource for that.

I appreciate Nick's practical approach (don't rush, these things take time, get the key players in the local food community involved...) and the idea that a local exchange could be set up in 3 - 6 months.  That's actually pretty quick!

I have forwarded this podcast and link to the CropMobster site to several local farmers & ranchers, food & farming nonprofits, our farmers market board, and others.  If the group is in favor, we'll be knocking at your door soon, Nick!  

cropmobster's picture
cropmobster
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 12 2017
Posts: 1
Thank you

Thank you for listening to my interview. A real blessing to have had the chance to connect with the Peak Prosperity community. 

Please reach out when you would like to start a conversation with your community. 

Thank you and at your service.

Nick Papadopoulos

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments