To prevent the uncontrolled spread of coronavirus, strict measures have been introduced such as limited population movements, closed markets and part-time trade. In this situation, more than ever before, it is useful to know what and where the products we eat come from, so we talked to the founder of VeeMee d.o.o. Marko Kozjak, which was launched in 2014 and which created a network platform whose purpose is to enable the visibility of the agricultural producer to the end consumer.
The ultimate goal of the Veemee network platform is to increase competitiveness, add value to domestic products, increase specialized production, improve cooperation and collaboration between farmers, distribution companies and retail chains in a transparent and innovative way and this platform is designed to provide consumers with complete information on agricultural the product they are buying. This allows them to PID. What is it in short?
-„PID (abbreviated as “Producer identity”) is a verified identity of the agro-producer which is confirmed by looking at the profile on the VeeMee platform available via QR code from the VeeMee neutral designation of origin which is an integral part of the product declaration. PID profile includes: name and surname of the manufacturer, locations and contacts, product categories and types, certificates, but also other information of interest to consumers, said Marko Kozjak.
–To date, VeeMee neutral designations of origin have been used on more than 1,500,000 items, thus providing origin data for more than 4,500 tons of fresh goods in shopping malls and retail stores.
The platform currently contains more than 1,200 registered producers who collectively carry out production on more than 20,000 ha of land. The platform has been accessed by more than 19,500 visitors from 1,055 cities in 101 countries in the last 12 months.
Due to the coronavirus epidemic and restrictions on movement and trade, there was a need for the delivery of agricultural products. Some of the producers on your platform offer food delivery in the “Digital Marketplace” section. How many currently offer this opportunity and are there new ones who would like it?
–Due to this epidemic, the demand for domestic products has increased, primarily due to the need to avoid interpersonal contacts when buying as well as confidence in the quality and safety of domestic food. Although some of our producers have been involved in food delivery before, our new section “Digital Market” in one place will enable the placement of products for existing and new 150 family farms for which we have checked that they are able to deliver food. Easy access to the search engine and verified contacts allow users of the VeeMee platform “shortest supply chain” at no additional cost.
We can say that VeeMee has set standards of origin in this market through its neutral designation of origin. Our primary focus is precisely to ensure the transparency of information about the manufacturer as well as the purchaser. As part of this, we have developed a methodology for food traceability processes as well as technology for visual identification of agricultural products based on our own AI (Artificial Intelligence) models.
We are aware that a large number of web services use our free online database to find and download data on agro-producers. Nevertheless, at this moment, we do not intend to deviate from our goals and mission and engage in Internet commerce.
Although web sales have been around for a long time, only recent events will ensure a large increase in sales and force manufacturers and web services to standardize access and define processes related to online food sales and delivery.
VeeMee is continuously engaged in providing smart logistics services for a large number of manufacturers and distributors from more than 10 EU countries. In the past period, we secured a placement for more than 1,500 tons of food and saved more than 500 tons from being thrown away. The primary focus of our company is the Retail market. Can our processes also be customized for home delivery? I can, but not “overnight”.
Who, what, how much and where does it produce?
It is certain that in the coming weeks and months there could be shortages of certain foods. Can sufficient delivery and logistics capacity be provided to domestic farmers to ensure food supply for the population, and so that agricultural products do not deteriorate?
-I think that in these moments the private sector has reacted very well. Many new apps, webshops and groups have been launched to ensure no one stays hungry. Whether agricultural products are threatened by dumping depends on many factors: starting from the production itself to the relationship between imports and exports. What worries me the most is that we will need to import food, due to our insufficient production capacity, but how do you know that? We don’t know because we don’t have the answers to the fundamental questions VeeMee has been asking since 2017: Who, what, how much and where it produces.
If we had data, real data, production could be much better organized and optimized, which would reduce the need for excessive imports, and thus an excessive deficit.
Do you have contacts with government institutions and are they familiar with your VeeMee initiative and platform? Do you have the support of competent institutions such as the Ministry of Agriculture?
VeeMee established contacts in the Ministry of Agriculture in a timely manner, and most of the ministry officials, starting with Minister Marija Vučković, were informed about the possibilities of our platform and the results achieved. Unfortunately, we had verbal, but not written, or real support. Despite the presentations and meetings and the promises received, none of them was realized. Maybe because we are in the private sector? Probably the ministry cannot or does not want to establish a partnership with the private sector?
The decision on how a family farm will be presented, ie controlled, is obviously within the competence of the ministry, so we wonder whose ownership is over the family farms, the individual or the ministry?
The complete documentation on the Agro platform project, traceability and food rescue were presented to them on several occasions with the promise of joint cooperation. Unfortunately, even in these difficult times, it seems that new options are being sought again as a solution to old problems.
VeeMee, maintains the vision of the solution in the community and cooperation with all market stakeholders. The segment of IT focused on solutions in agriculture is called “AgTech” and it is a “profession” in itself, and we draw the attention of those responsible to be careful when announcing new concepts. Primarily because of the costs, but also because of the understanding of the service, ie the product.
-Depending on how much data will be presented and how it will work. If he will only state the name of the family and the contact, then one day should be enough for integration, assuming the existing platform satisfies.
I assume that up to HRK 200,000 would be more than enough budget to update and check the data for all family farms in Croatia since this data should already be digitally stored in the records of the ministry. In time, it all depends on the available resources of the contractor, from a few days to a few weeks.
– Unfortunately, we were not invited again. Although we handed over the study “Strategy for digitalization of Croatian agriculture 2020 to 2030” to the Minister “on-hand” in order to help the agricultural sector before these difficult times. Unfortunately, our proposal was also ignored, or rather: “taken over”.
The future is unpredictable, but how do you think COVID-19 will change the current agriculture?
– I hope that attention will be paid to the importance of organized production, as well as a holistic approach to incentives for agricultural production. I go back to who, what, where and how much?
Only then can we see how sufficient we are in agricultural production. Croatia has withdrawn a lot of funds from EU funds for the reconstruction and development of agriculture. Did that prepare us for today’s situation with the COVID-19 pandemic? Unfortunately, it is not. It is necessary to invest in knowledge, invest, monitor, motivate and produce concrete results.
I believe that we will certainly record an increase in sales of Croatian products, which will further highlight the existing production deficit. Luck in the accident could be that this situation helps us to better direct and specialize our agriculture, Kozjak believes.
The article is taken from Gospodarski list and you can read it here.