https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Dofalkx8FIGMsJ0EP4-caB_Jv_3DKbk-/view?usp=sharingOpen Food Network to launch Open Road non-profit delivery service and food brokerage in Victoria servicing small to medium sized enterprises
Australia Post announcement to discontinue carriage of perishable food causes national outcry and subsequent reversal decision
Small to medium sized local producers struggle with logistics and regulations to be reviewed by Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombusdsman
Non-profit organisation Open Food Network Australia is piloting Open Road, a collaborative producer direct delivery service for perishable goods. It’s a timely move. When Australia Post announced it “will discontinue the carriage of certain foods destined for consumption”, it placed many producers and community run food hubs or co-ops at risk – businesses already vulnerable under the new covid-normal.
Among those affected by Australia Post’s now reversed announcement were some of the ten thousand users of Open Food Network Australia’s independent online sales services. They guarantee that their low cost, unincorporated model will never be sold nor exposed to radical corporate style changes.
In the last year Australian producers and consumers pivoted to direct and online sales. According to a recent report by KPMG, “the retail industry unlocked and fulfilled five years of online retail growth in just six months.” But the Covid-19 pandemic exposed a major vulnerability in our food supply chain – logistics management.
Research by Open Food Network Australia found logistics represent thirty percent of food producers’ costs. Sometimes more, as their own hours spent driving are rarely factored. Reliance on Australia Post developed due to courier services or personal delivery being cost prohibitive. Plus state regulations are difficult to navigate. Bruce Billson, Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman will now co-chair an industry working forum on this.
The Open Road to Empowerment
As producers and shops now consider alternative grocery logistics, Open Food Network Australia’s trial of Open Road will begin as a delivery service in Victoria, enabling local producers to act independent of corporations. Like their shopping platform this is a low-cost social enterprise with the aim to nurture, educate and empower them.
There are two arms to the plan. The first is moving food in both directions between regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne. The second is a brokerage for producers to reach more customers.
Serenity Hill, Open Food Network Co-Founder, “The lynchpin of Open Road are the drivers. Instead of a random driver at both ends of the service there will be a familiar and trusted face. We see the drivers as honeybees, circulating out to collect and connect while servicing food hubs and distribution centres.”
Amelia Bright, Open Road Coordinator has deep knowledge of logistics and coordination of deliveries via Prom Coast Food Collective, “I see retailers like local grocers, delis, cafe-provedores, health food stores and bakeries as key players, connecting with others in the state.”
The delivery service will begin with a Hume Highway loop working with food hubs including Strathbogie Local, Wangaratta Farmers’ Market, and Beechworth Food Co-Op. A South-East loop will work with food hubs including Baw Baw Food Hub and Prom Coast Food Collective. In metro Melbourne the first to join in are: Melbourne Farmers’ Markets, at Alphington Community Farmgate and Ceres Fair Food.
If the trial is well subscribed, Open Road will spread to multiple locations. It is envisaged that regionally some producers also participate as temporary warehousing, acting as central pick-up points where there is no local food co-op. Rather than each farmer going it alone, they will be part of a collaborative solution so they’re not losing their farming time and can still make a life on the land.
Expressions of Interest are now open to producers, co-ops and retailers and enquiries can be made at