New Venture Advisors launched the MarketSizer® and HubSizer® Toolsite earlier this year to enable anyone to conduct preliminary assessments of various types of food system infrastructure. The results allow users to refine their food business concepts and due diligence plans.

The Toolsite has been used by more than 1,000 visitors since March 2018. We surveyed a few dozen users to understand how well the tools are working to inform their strategies for potential food system innovations like food hubs, commercial kitchens, rural grocery food hubs, and other enterprises. The majority found the Toolsite helpful in clarifying their envisioned food business, and that their planning efforts will have a measurably stronger work plan for determining feasibility as a result. We are so excited about this feedback and are happy that these free tools are being put to good use by our fellow #foodsystemwarriors!

Some also found the tools challenging. For this reason we published a six-part microblog series, the Toolsite Spotlight, using fictional examples to illustrate how to use each tool. You can find them using the links below.

  • Local Food MarketSizer® estimates unmet demand for locally produced food in a chosen geographic area.
  • Local Produce HubSizer® estimates breakeven sales, acreage and capacity thresholds for various types of food hubs, and provides success indicators related to supply, demand and competition based on geography.
  • Frozen Processing HubSizer® estimates facility size and breakeven throughput, revenue and utilization for blast and cryogenic IQF freezing processes.
  • Rural Grocery HubSizer® estimates potential throughput, sales and profit contribution of a food hub operating out of a rural grocery store.
  • Kitchen Facility HubSizer® estimates the capacity and breakeven utilization for a commercial kitchen or kitchen incubator built out in an existing facility.
  • Produce Facility HubSizer® estimates the throughput (cases, pounds, acres) and revenue at break even and at full capacity for a produce aggregation and distribution hub built out in an existing facility.

In the future we hope to share actual case studies from users to demonstrate how the tools helped their food system plans and small businesses become even more successful.

We want to give a shout out to our awesome team members at New Venture Advisors who came up with the concept and carefully guided each phase of implementation, all the beta testers for debugging each widget, the users for even more great feedback, and last, but not least, the good people at the USDA who administer the Local Food Promotion Program grant that provided much of the funding to make it all possible.

Image: Teerawut Bunsom/Shutterstock

 Whatcom County Food System Plan

In 2021, the Whatcom County Food System Committee conducted a community food assessment that pointed to key opportunities to build a more robust and resilient regional food system. New Venture Advisors partnered with Whatcom County staff and the Food System Committee to draft a Whatcom County Food System Plan that builds upon these findings. This Plan focuses on five key goals for building a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient food system, and was informed by an inclusive community engagement process. The Food System Plan will provide the county with a policy roadmap that will strengthen the local food system for years to come. (2023)

 Whatcom Local Food Campus

The Whatcom Community Foundation invests in activities and organizations that improve the ability of people to help themselves, increase connections among people, and take cooperative approaches to community issues. WCF is exploring the development of a local food campus on a waterfront property that would become a multi-tenant site, anchored by a collaborative production kitchen benefitting food access, school system, and community organizations. The goal is strengthening Whatcom County’s local food system by promoting health equity, forging tangible strategic connections between food production organizations, and helping farmers connect with institutional markets. The facility will also feature an incubation kitchen, demonstration kitchen, event and classroom space, collaborative office and conference facilities, and housing.  New Venture Advisors developed the business case for this ambitious project and continues to support its development through engagement and operational development. (2023)