Food Challenge Finalist Update (CitySprout)

Kakaxi device installation on MacDonald Farm at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec

Kakaxi device installation on MacDonald Farm at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec

Last year, after pitching CitySprout during the Food Challenge Prize event, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Taizo Otsuka of Japan. As an entrepreneur and investor, Mr. Otsuka has helped to launch 15 companies and 2 non-­profit organizations. After the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011, he set his sights on raising agricultural awareness and started a non-­profit in Japan called, "Tohoku Kaikon" literally translated as "cultivation of the Tohoku Region.” support and grow a new generation of sustainable farmers. 
The “Tohoku Kaikon” publication’s goal is to support and grow a new generation of sustainable farmers. By enhancing the connection between consumers and food-­producing areas, consumers have the opportunity to connect with the people that are producing the food they eat. The monthly magazine publication is delivered to regular subscribers along with a certain food highlighted as the feature of the month. 
In the months following the Food Lab Challenge, Mr. Otsuka and I had the chance to talk about the state of our food system. I became fascinated with the idea that while we were talking about hyper-­local solutions, our food system is global and that we are facing the same growing problem, farmers are getting older and few young people are taking up farming as a profession. 
We were able to recognize the similarities of CitySprout (online farmers market) and Tohoku Kaiko (information sharing platform) and have since partnered and created a new social platform, Kakaxi, to connect people to farmers and the story behind food. What has come from our relationship is the merging of the two concepts to create a Farm to Table social network that uses the Kakaxi smart-­farm monitoring device to directly connect consumers with diversified, organic, and “CSA farmers” in their area. 
We know that farmers are busy, many are not accustomed to new technology. We have developed this device to help farmers provide information to customers and allow customers understand the story and conditions behind production. We are currently in a test-­marketing phase and we will begin distributing the device “rent-­free” to CSA-­style organic farms nationwide in Spring 2016. 
The device itself is solar powered with internal sensors that collect key data from the atmosphere (temperature, day length, humidity). External soil sensors pull key vitals, can measure sap flow (photosynthesis), and wind gradient as well. Additionally, the device is fitted with a time-­lapse camera that will take snapshot photos of the farm to be shared with consumers showcasing the seed to harvest story of their food. The device is Bluetooth enabled and stores data in cloud for easy access.