Measure and mix together:

1 cup of farmers

½ pound regional food distributors

2 tbsp chefs

1 cup food policy experts

1 dash of deep concern about making our regional bounty more accessible

Stir in:

2 tbsp software developers

½ cup interactive designers

4 tbsp marketers

1 pound new media entrepreneurs

Stir new media ingredients into agricultural mixture. Mix thoroughly with a group of mentors. Broil for 48 hours. Serve hot to a group of judges.

The weekend of January 17th, over 75 people found themselves involved in such a 48 hour experiment to rethink food production, distribution, and consumption. F5://Food (pronounced Refresh Food) was the first event of its kind in Canada, hosted at Acadia University in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. With new media technology (think mobile and web based applications) as a canvas for developing innovative products and services, the community of participants worked on incubating 5 projects. These projects tackled a range problems including everything from apple breeding to food preparation.

With an emerging set of technologies circling the Internet (web enabled sensors, real time data, the power of the smartphone, social media platforms, and the maturation of the Internet in general), the past several years has seen remarkable new applications of these technologies to the many problems found in the food arena. Food “hackers” looking to collaborate with other like minded innovators have been building infrastructure to support early stage engagement on food technology startups. This includes food oriented hackathons and startup weekend like events such as Hack Meat, The Future of Food Hackathon, F5://Food, and the upcoming Truro Startup Weekend: Agri-Food.

F5://Food spun out of a technology networking group called Refresh Annapolis Valley. With this technology group sitting in the agricultural heartland of Nova Scotia, we believe we have a unique opportunity to develop a major part in the information technology that powers the agriculture of tomorrow. F5://Food was our first initiative to start a conversation with stakeholders in agri-food and technology to explore new experimental collaborations.

To achieve such an ambitious goal, we see F5://Food and Refresh Annapolis Valley as one component of many programs that sustain agri-food entrepreneurism. Guided by the belief that it takes wide community participation to nurture a vibrant and healthy economy, our emerging agri-food startup community includes other important programs and organizations such as the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Agriculture Innovation Accelerator Award, Farmworks Investment Co-operative, Innovacorp, Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre, Just Us! Centre For Small Farms, Perennia, and others.

The opening evening of F5://Food saw 17 people pitch their ideas for elaboration over the weekend. By process of consolidation and voting, the group of 35 weekend warriors settled on 5 projects. Armed with a group of mentors and mini workshops, each group was faced with the task of building out the technology and business vision for their projects. A group of judges and general onlookers were then asked to determine which of the final 5 minute group pitches best defined what could become a successful new product or service.

The People’s Choice Award was a three way tie between: tReecreate, an online apple breeding network; Mash, a cooking app that helps people choose a menu based on the time, ingredients and equipment they have on hand; and Grassroutes, a food distribution service (Rideshare for farmers). AgriGate, an agri-food open data platform, came one point away from creating a four way tie.

FarmG8 to Table, a mobile app that helps locate local produce and farm experiences according to location and available products was the winner receiving a $1,000 prize and $1,000 in business development consulting services provided by FarmWorks Investment Co-Op.

With just over a month having elapsed since F5://Food, it is very exciting the see that several of the groups that formed at the event are still working together to materialize their vision. In this regard we can confidently say F5://Food was a resounding success.

PS - Special shout out goes to the F5://Food sponsoring organizations for making the event possible: Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre, Acadia University, Morton Horticultural Associates, Shift! Mobile, Colibri Software, HarvestHand, Innovacorp, Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op, Nova Scotia Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, Municipality of the County of Kings, Front & Central Restaurant, Farmworks Investment Co-operative, Your Effortless Business

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Rural Delivery.