The Living Lab is situated within the Cloughjordan Ecovillage, nestled in a rural region in the midlands of Ireland. Notably, the Ecovillage boasts Ireland’s first and largest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiative, known as the Community Farm. Through a subscription model, this CSA provides local, organic, and seasonal vegetables to 100 individuals. The surrounding area primarily consists of dairy farms and has a relatively low population.
The Living Lab aims to test a user-owned, Open Source digital platform that functions as an online marketplace for local food producers. Although the technology has been in operation on a small scale for approximately a year, its uptake has been limited thus far. Therefore, expanding its reach is necessary to comprehensively assess its impacts. Producers upload their produce to the online marketplace, and shoppers can select items, add them to their baskets, and securely make payments online. On the agreed-upon delivery day, producers drop off their goods at a designated collection hub, where customers later collect their produce. The hub then ensures payments are appropriately distributed to the producers.
While the expectation is for this system to operate alongside existing market channels in the near future, it is envisioned that as shopping becomes increasingly digitized over time (such as the potential replacement of supermarkets with warehouses and online food shopping becoming the social norm), digitally-driven local initiatives like this one may assume a more significant role in our food systems. They have the potential to facilitate a thriving local economy, particularly as other food distribution systems may become centralized and operate on a larger scale.