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Local Dirt aims to help focus on local food

Amid movement to buy local, DemoFall start-up Hevva unveils service geared toward putting buyers and sellers together and cutting spoilage.

SAN DIEGO--Earlier this summer, I wrote about the blossoming transition movement, in which local communities around the country and the world are beginning to prepare themselves for a post-peak oil world.

One of the best ways for communities to do this is to focus on local food supplies. With oil prices at peak prices, it won't be economical to truck in food from around the country, and those that do continue such a dependence are likely to experience major financial problems.

But those towns and cities that do put an emphasis on building more sustainable local food infrastructures are the ones that are going to be in the best position to take care of themselves with as little outside assistance as possible.

At DemoFall 09 Tuesday afternoon, a company called Hevva unveiled a system that could help just about everyone in such communities to meet those local food needs.

The idea behind Hevva's Local Dirt system is to create a searchable database of local food that can serve farmers, sellers, and buyers alike with the development of a robust market for locally-grown produce and other foods.

According to the company, demand for local food now outstrips that of organic products. Yet it's hard for just about everyone in that ecosystem to find just what they need when they need it.

One of the unfortunate side effects of the inefficiencies in this market, Hevva argued, is that as much as 40 percent of the post-harvest supply is lost to spoilage. As a result, Local Dirt is built around trying to ensure that the market is as efficient as possible.

To begin with, the system provides a simple search that buyers can use. As an example, someone could search for where to buy pesto made within 100 miles and then see a list of all the purveyors who can meet that request. Similarly, the system shows all the online local sellers who offer pesto for sale right now.

Taking the example further, users can narrow their search results to farmer's markets, and can look to see when each such market is open.

To Hevva, while individuals are important buyers in the local food economy, those who can get the greatest advantage from the platform are larger buyers: grocery stores, schools, hospitals, and the like.

That's why buyers can also search for food that can be delivered to such institutions.

Ultimately, Local Dirt is meant as a way for every participant in the ecosystem--the farmers, the buyers and the sellers--to find the best way possible of getting what they need from the local food market.

Whether this helps communities move towards a future independent from large food producers spread around the country is impossible to know. But it is good to know that there are people working now to build systems that could make it easier for such communities to move forward with their goals of focusing more and more on food grown locally.