Novi Sad-based company Eton Digital has developed the first social market of organic food, which has been available to customers since April 2016. OrganicNet enables producers and consumers to communicate directly and set the conditions of cooperation themselves, without intermediaries, unlike similar solutions in the market, which function through a retail system. This makes the sale considerably simpler and more efficient.
The advantages to producers are reflected in an easier and quicker access to the market and the possibility of finding and contacting many more potential customers by promoting their farms and businesses. At the same time, they can share knowledge, advice and the best practices and cooperate, thereby influencing the development and promotion of organic agriculture.
Customers can very easily find organic food products in their proximity, and, by buying directly from the producers, they are not paying for the margin expenses, making the purchase much more favorable. The trade is rated and commented on, and the ratings are visible on the producer’s profile. Producers build their reputation this way.
OrganicNet is dedicated to promoting the organic movement and a healthy way of living, and the model has proven to be a successful solution, with the number of users and products growing every day, as well as the amount of daily orders.
The platform is available in Serbia for now (in Serbian and English), and it’s functional for other markets and countries as well. Since it was developed for global use, it is expected to expand further, first to the market of Great Britain.
An increasing number of consumers want to know how food is produced and by whom. Through OrganicNet, clients purchase the products directly from the producers, and testimonials and ratings of mutual cooperation contribute to increasing the trust and reliability. The ability of users (both customers and producers) to fully adapt the platform to their needs, communicate directly and set the conditions of the cooperation themselves, without a mediator, enables a wide range of fresh, healthy food to be offered, making the purchase and the sale simple and efficient. This makes it different from similar market solutions which circumvent direct contact between producers and customers and use the retail principle.
Each producer within the OrganicNet market has its own counter, where it adds products, their description and photographs, determines the price and options of taking over the product, and, if a product is marked as organic, producers must include a certificate to be available for view to users at any point.
Customers can browse the products by location, type, manner of production (certified products, food in a period of conversion, local food produced without pesticides and chemicals), price, the producer’s rating and food characteristics. After the order has been made, the customer and the seller agree on the manner of delivery, and the payment is made directly during the takeover. Twenty-four hours after the delivery, both sides can rate one another, and only those ratings made by users whose orders have been successfully realized are accepted and become visible.
OrganicNet platform offers a solution to several problems recognized in the
field of organic agriculture and production:
– The problem of distribution and the gap between supply and demand as one of the key obstacles to the development of organic agriculture (the problem has been defined by the International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM)
– Producers either can’t find the market for their products that easily or do not possess the means or the knowledge to promote and market their products, whereas the profits remain low and insufficient to sustain the production
– Consumers can’t find organic food easily and quickly – if they buy at supermarkets, they find lower quality food at higher prices and are often unsure whether the food is truly organic. By purchasing food through OrganicNet, they can see who they are buying the products from, what the experiences of other customers are, and, by buying directly from the producers, they do not pay for the margin expenses either, making the purchase considerably more favorable
– Being insufficiently informed about organic agriculture and promotion (Serbia has great potential for development in this field)
Furthermore, as organic agriculture is largely based on practice and experience, OrganicNet also acts as a network for sharing the knowledge enabling the producers to share their knowledge and examples of good practice, whereas everyone interested in the field can find professional articles and content through the platform and contact the producers.
The project was initiated in September 2015, and the beta version of the platform was launched in March 2016 for producers only. Since April 2016, it has been available to both the producers and the customers.
One of the biggest global challenges at the moment is finding a sustainable solution for producing and distributing healthy food, which will meet people’s needs regarding both the quality and the quantity.
Modern industrial food production is rather flawed and contributes to numerous problems: excessive usage of natural resources, problems related to food disposal, nutritional value of food and human health, and there’s also malnutrition. The harmfulness of pesticides and the fact that artificial fertilizers may contain radioactive matters are also a great threat to human health and the health of the planet.
The solution offered through organic production is in fact a lifestyle adjusted to environmental conservation, which is at the same time the most common motive for producers to opt for this kind of production: providing agricultural products for human consumption free of pesticide and chemicals, preserving the environment, maintaining biodiversity and natural resources and contributing to biological sustainability. This is exactly the idea that OrganicNet promotes and supports.
The platform’s true social and ecological value is shown through long-term results and effects in the form of protection of people’s and the planet’s health and sustainable and safe food production, and the potential of this kind of model is also seen through the possibilities of accelerated development and the strengthening of the local organic product market:
– Great possibilities for the development of rural areas through the development of organic production
– Support to the development of small and medium enterprises and family businesses
– Increasing the employment rate
– Increasing investments in the field of organic agriculture
– Organizing training and education programs in the field of organic agriculture, thereby enhancing and promoting entrepreneurship
Serbia has natural potentials and conditions in which organic production can develop even more intensively. According to the data by the Ministry of Agriculture, organic production in Serbia has recorded a significant growth both in the areas involved in the production, as well as in the number of animals and the number of producers. The production took place on 15,298 ha of land, a growth of 60.25% compared to 2014. The areas have grown by 261.3% in five years.
The OrganicNet market is currently available in Serbia in both Serbian and English. Around 150 sellers have registered so far, which covers around 20-30% of organic producers in Serbia, as well as several thousand customers. On average, there were 6-7 transactions a day this autumn, worth EUR 15-20.
The idea of the founders of OrganicNet is to stimulate small producers, so the sale of products up to the first EUR 1,000 is free of the commission fee, following which the platform charges 10% per transaction. However, although there have been several producers to exceed the number, the service is still free, as the goal is to attract as many users as possible in order to successfully prepare the platform for other markets.
The technology used for the development of the platform is an innovative open source technology, making it flexible, scalable and easily adaptable to users independent of the market and immediately functional for other countries as well. In other words, it was developed for user needs on a global level. Since Eton Digital, which stands behind OrganicNet, is headquartered in Great Britain, the expansion to the markets of England and Ireland is the most probable, and the preparations are already in progress.
That the technology is innovative and functional has been confirmed by the awards won by OrganicNet – E-Commerce Award 2016, for the best business solution in Serbia and the region in the field of electronic commerce and business, as well as the FInish Final Award for the best software-business solution. They also represented Serbia at one of the biggest gatherings in Europe dedicated to innovation – Finland’s Slush 2016, as the winners of the local contest in Serbia.
The European Union provided EUR 140,000 through the Finish accelerator program for the development of the platform, and the identical amount was invested from the company’s own assets. The OrganicNet team was awarded with an additional EUR 10,000 as one of the best teams to take part in this European program.
The programming company Eton Digital is headquartered in London and has two offices in Serbia, in Novi Sad and Nis. It was founded in 2005 and has been gathering top professionals in the field of digital technologies since then. There are currently around 60 of them, using open source technology to develop innovative products and solutions. Eton Digital creates and designs social networks, e-commerce apps, knowledge-sharing platforms, attractive websites based on content management and exciting Android and iOS mobile apps. One of its most important clients is the automotive industry giant Nissan.
The team developing OrganicNet has more than 10 years of experience in creating social networks and electronic platforms.