Barnraiser, a multi-purpose online resource for the food system, recently launched a new community-building platform. The tool, called Discover, is a combined search and recommendation engine powered by machine learning.
Discover invites users to build profiles in a photo-forward format that is integrated with social media and Barnraiser’s own crowd-funding services. More than 40,000 people and organizations have joined, using Discover’s software to connect with thinkers and makers, to explore and design collaborations, and to share and receive personal recommendations. They range from specialty food producers and companies to educators, community groups, chefs, scholars, local growers, marketplaces, and food-focused media outlets.
Digital networks like Discover enable smaller actors to do the kind of outreach that has historically only been available to those large enough to invest in public relations and marketing services. Discover seeks to provide “exposure to producers and brands of all sizes to find new audiences, raise capital, and connect with customers,” said Eileen Gordon Chiarello, Founder and CEO of Barnraiser. “We’re meeting the needs of an entire generation who demand authenticity, connection, and influence in food and health.”
Barnraiser’s Nicole DeMeo says that she hopes the platform will “replicate the experience of a Farmers’ Market online,” by creating a space in which foodies and farmers alike may interact and build relationships that go beyond simple transactions. “The idea that millions of consumers want to support these products and projects, not just when they need funding, led us to add discovery and community engagement to Barnraiser,” she explained.
DeMeo says that those who have joined—representing communities in 45 U.S. states—bring an “incredibly diverse set of stories, passions, and successes” to the table. These organizations include ReGrained, tackling food waste by upcycling grains from micro-brewing into nutritious bars; Good Choice Kitchens, serving affordable foods to communities in New York; Grapeseed Wine, pioneering small batch wines in California; SwallowTail Farms, creating a whole-diet CSA program as first-time organic farmers in Florida; and Amigo Bob Cantisano, saving 80 varieties of heirloom fruit and nut trees from the Gold Rush era.
Barnraiser initially entered the digital innovation space offering a food-focused crowdfunding platform with a success rate almost double that of Kickstarter’s “food” category, and the company has plans for expansion well beyond the Discover platform. “We view our role as building the best tools for this unique group of producers, and connecting them to the communities that matter,” DeMeo says. “So you’ll see a lot of new features from us in the coming months that aid in financing and growing.”
Read Food Tank’s 2016 interview with Barnraiser Founder and CEO Eileen Gordon Chiarello.