In France – or so we’d secretly like to imagine – everybody buys their food fresh at local markets directly from the farmer. Obviously, everybody is carrying a warm baguette under their arm and murmurs “Mhhh, c’est bon” intermittently.
Clichés to one side, the reality is rather different. Food vendors tend to be middle merchants, who take a sizable cut. That’s bad news for producers and consumers, because it means farmers earn less and hungry frenchmen have to pay more for less bread, onion and saucisson sec. La Ruche qui dit Oui (meaning “the beehive which says yes”) wants to change this. This online-offline-platform acts as a bridge between consumers and local producers like farmers, butchers and bakers. Every producer, an apple grower for instance, can make the hive, which then works like a kind of distribution centre an offer – e.g. I’ll deliver 100 kilos of apples for 300 Euros. This offer is spread via the platform amongst the hive members as potential customers who can commit to buying a proportion. If the minimum quantity offered is accepted (say 100kg), the producer delivers to the hive, and the produce is distributed from there to the various customers. Hence middle-merchants are cut out of the chain of fresh regional produce. The idea is to create a world in which small networks based on trust and cooperation overturn megastructures.
The idea has found a lot of supporters. Within the first year, 529 hives were founded across France. The proceeds are shared fairly: 79% goes to producers, 7.9% goes to the local hive, and the rest goes to the umbrella organisation. A hive requires around 40 members. Anybody can apply online to start up a hive, and they then receive the necessary contracts and documentation, along with information, checklists etc. A great example of digital scaling. Europe-wide expansion is being planned.