Open Food Network

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= "a free and open source project aimed at supporting diverse food enterprises and making it easy to access local and sustainable food".


"The OFN consists of a network of non-profit platform coops, all adhering to a co-created set of values and a community pledge — not only as legal entities, but as individuals and more — an ever evolving eco-system that is collaboratively changing the game." [1]


"We are the Open Food Foundation and the Open Food Network is our first project. It is a free and open source project aimed at supporting diverse food enterprises and making it easy to access local and sustainable food.

The Open Food Foundation is a non-profit, registered charity established in October 2012, to develop, accumulate and protect open source knowledge, code, applications and platforms for fair and sustainable food systems.

While established in Australia, we support global collaboration on open projects for food system transformation. We want to build and support communities that bring the people who need the software together with those who can develop it. We are currently working with communities in the UK, Europe, US and Canada on developing OFN pilots.

The Open Food Network is being brought to life by many wonderful people and organisations. Special thanks to VicHealth, WiCreate, Matt Arnold, Random Hacks of Kindness, DiUS computing, City of Casey and Stroudco and other members of the Online Food Hubs Network. Amazing tech guys: Rohan Mitchell, Rob Harrington, Raf Schouten, Andrew Spinks, David Cook, Alex Serdyuk, Will Marshall, and Yin Shen. Early adopters and trial partners: Eaterprises Australia, Local Organics, Northcote Bulk Food Coop, Grow Lightly Connect, Jonai Farms, Eat Local Eat Wild, Amoro Foods, Earth and Sky Organics, Mildura Healthy Food Connect, Food Connect Brisbane, Kildonan Uniting Care, the South East Food Hub and other members of the Australian Food Hubs network." (


Cynthia Reynolds:

"Over the last few years, new instances have been popping up all over the world, some faster to get going than others. Originally, the platform was only available in english with organisations in Australia, South Africa, the UK and later Canada, but when the Nordic instance needed to use it in languages other than english, it opened up the floodgates for the global community to evolve at an unprecedented level — starting in France, the Iberian Peninsula, India and many more areas. Such is the beauty of Open Source, when a new feature is created, we all benefit." (


OFN compared to FarmDrop

From Bronwen Morgan:

"Open Food Network, by contrast, conveys a hope of growing by variable replication, primarily through sharing the code of its web-based platform and fostering partnerships with small community-based ventures. It has already begun such partnerships with existing local food projects in Scotland and the South-West of England. This difference is closely linked to the design of ownership and control in the two projects. Although there is much less overt discussion of this in the two crowdfunding pitches, one important feature stands out clearly - the open source nature of Open Food Network's software platform. FarmDrop says nothing directly about this aspect of its pitch, but the exit strategy implies a closed intellectual property model, as does the fact that Crowdcube, the funding platform, allows the sourcing of equity-based finance from venture capital as well as from so-called 'mom and pop' investors. Crowdcube also imposes a standard set of Articles of Association (not publicly available) upon funded projects, and FarmDrop is a private proprietary company controlled by its founders.

Interestingly, Open Food Network's company structure is not made visible through the pitch (it’s a non-profit and registered charity) - but the pitch does communicate an important plank of 'ownership and control' very differently from FarmDrop - that of control over the sharing of surplus. FarmDrop proudly foregrounds a specific measureable - and very high - proportion that will go to farmers - 80p in the pound - with 10p to the 'Keeper' who coordinates the local pickup, and 10p to FarmDrop itself. Open Food Network, meanwhile, gives no specific proportions but leaves it up to the farmer to set the price. While FarmDrop's 'pitch' thus seems markedly redistributive (at least, compared to supermarkets) , the more important - and less obvious - point is that Open Food Network delegates control over prices to farmers, while FarmDrop retains it. Given that FarmDrop is a private proprietary company, its promised generosity in terms of distributed proportions to farmers could change in the future. Nothing is built into the legal model of private proprietary companies to prevent this, and FarmDrop's tagline - “The simple principle of missing out the middleman powers everything we do” - sidesteps the issue that the platform is a middleman – and potentially a massively powerful one.

Of course, Open Food Network's pitch is partially silent on ownership and control, at least in terms of the technicalities of legal models. But its commitments to open-source software and delegated price control communicate an ethos that extends what is shared, and on whose terms, more widely than the FarmDrop pitch. Open Food Network’s approach not so much cuts out middlemen as supports multiple small locally empowered networks that subscribe to the transparency of the platform.

Debates over the political and social implications of the sharing economy would be energised and clarified by the combination of a greater appreciation of ethos on the one hand, and more overt, transparent discussion about the legal models that will give structure to the visions glimpsed through the window of crowdfunding." (email August 2014)

Read the full article at: Sustainable Food, Sharing Economies and the Ethos of Legal Infrastructure

The Open Food Network example: large-scale resource pooling

Let’s take the example of the open source Open Food Network (OFN) software. It is supported by a community of individuals around the world who collaborate on its development. The code is under open source license, AGPL, meaning that beyond this community, any other legal or physical person may use it and build on it, provided that these developments are also shared under the same license, thus creating a virtuous circle.

The OFN software aims to support food enterprises distributing through short food chains, in a non-prescriptive way, and thus, to allow these operators to spread, to gain efficiency in their management, to grow and reach the critical size that allows them to be sustainable, etc. Without enforcing a specific distribution model (CSA, “food assemblies”, buying groups, etc.) the software has a vision to be flexible enough to support all of them.

In terms of features, 90% of the needs of these actors are roughly the same, regardless of the operating model, and in all countries of the world. With this in mind, the idea of ​​commoners is to say: let’s develop together a management tool, and let’s share it! This means: division of the development cost by a large number of users of the feature.

What is the relevant level of mutualisation?

The Open Food Network project is organized according to a principle of subsidiarity: mutualisation and related decisions are made at the most appropriate level according to the nature of the common.


There are therefore in Open Food Network 3 “levels of common” governed by 3 communities:

  • Community of national / regional affiliates (in blue): governs jointly the OFN open source software
  • Community of food hubs of a country / region (in green): governs jointly the national / regional affiliate = “cooperative” kind of entity which deploys and offers the OFN software in SaaS access
  • Community of producers and buyers (final eaters, chefs, etc. in yellow): governs jointly the local food hub

This organization makes it possible to keep the governance of the resource “in common” at the apporpriate level, thus ensure the sovereignty of the users over the resource they depend on. It also enable to optimize the management and finance processes necessary for the preservation and the development of this resource.

Read the full article at: Commons: the model of “post” liberal capitalism

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