Technology meets tradition to enhance farmers’ markets

A new virtual technology project by University of Sussex researchers aims to enhance conversation between customers and stallholders at traditional farmers' markets.

The Virtual Farmers' Market project enables shoppers to access information about stallholders and their produce via their mobile phones while waiting to be served.

The project, being carried out at farmers' markets in Sussex during the summer, involves the use of QR-codes, a type of barcode that can be read by mobile phone cameras to download information from the internet.  Each stallholder has a QR-code that takes customers to a web application. Information can range from the provenance of the product, such as the type of ingredients in chutney, to the latest news about the farmers' livestock and crops.

Project leader and Informatics lecturer Dr Ian Wakeman says: "Our aim is to enrich the experience of shopping.  We are providing bite-sized chunks of information that can provide common ground for conversation between customers and stallholders."

This type of technology is already in use in other areas of business and commerce, particularly in Japan and the Far East. But Dr Wakeman, together with colleagues at University College London and Southampton University, is investigating its uses in UK markets and auction houses where the interaction between traders and shoppers is based on trust.

As Dr Wakeman says: "Our research is aimed at helping people build and maintain trust relationships in a world where computing is pervasive in all aspects of our life.

"The reason why people use farmers' markets is because they are interested in the provenance of products. They like being able to meet the actual producers and farmers and talk about what they are buying.  It is very much a relationship about trust, and this technology is designed to enhance that."

The project, which is a joint venture between the University and the Common Cause Co-operative and is supported by a grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Council, will create virtual communities in which shoppers can create dialogues with farmers and other shoppers.

 Notes for editors

You are welcome to send a reporter or photographer to the Farmers' Market in George Street, Hove, 10am-2pm on May 23, 2009,to see the project in action.

 For more information, visit Virtual Farmers' Market

 Contact Dr Ian Wakeman Mob: 07747601598

or Common Cause Co-operative





By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Thursday, 10 September 2009