Virtual Cooperative is a WEB application, designed to help farms and conventional cooperatives to unite and join their forces in purchasing and selling goods. The whole concept is based on the ‘bulletin boards’. Users, which are farmers, vendors and public users are assigned with appropriate widgets which enable them to create ads, to filter among different ads and to communicate with desired users/groups.
This project is funded by FRACTALS (Future Internet Enabled Agricultural Applications, FP7 project No. 632874), under the funding framework of the European Commission
Farms, as the central users of Virtual Cooperative, are creating virtual communities where they discuss their products and needs, and then finally joined in a larger group with the same interest they are posting an ad for purchasing materials and services or selling produced goods. Communities can be created around a certain topic, at user specified geographies. Public users and vendors are able to see the ads on the ‘bulletin board’, to filter the desired ones, to get the notification if the ad with desired topics is published and to respond to them.
The benefits of the application are:
- Farmers are uniting themselves, exchanging information, acting as a bigger user on the market strengthening their position.
- Vendors are having a direct communication with users, having the opportunity to explain benefits of their product.
- Public users and retailers are finally being able to choose the farm products which satisfies their requirements in the best way and to share information between each other by rating the farms.
General objective of Virtual Cooperative is a grouping of smaller farms in purchasing of material or services and selling produced goods. Purchasing material/services united into ‘super user’ can guaranty price reduction of seeds, chemistry etc., in the range of 5-10% depending on the group size. The same discounts are expected for services, such as veterinarian, mechanics and similar.
When it comes to the selling of goods if buyers are larger retailers or supply chains benefit of grouping may result with stronger market position increasing the price up to 5%, but secondary benefits may be in cheaper transportation, up to 3% of the total sum. Selling goods in smaller quantities to public user may bring the biggest benefit as proven quality products may be sold for a price higher up to 20%.
Conventional cooperatives are offering some of the services in purchasing materials and/or selling of goods. However, those cooperatives are small (the statement reflects Serbian case), mostly non-transparent organizations. The advantage of Virtual Cooperative is that it doesn’t necessarily territory dependent, especially in the part where farms (farmers) are discussing interesting topics. The second thing is it brings farms directly to vendors, opening two-way communication and inherently increasing the knowledge.
When it comes to selling of goods, an option for public users is buying on the market from ‘random’ sellers and buying from retailers (supermarkets) including a possibility to purchase online which is available now. Those traditional services will remain as they are, at least in the near future. Nevertheless, more and more public users are interested in buying good quality farm products (vegetables, cheese, eggs, etc.) directly from known producers. It doesn’t apply only to organic food it is the general trend. Farms can sell their goods on the market, which is a demanding job with respect to time and money invested in it. The second option is to sell to retailers (e.g. ProduktnaBerza), where the price is lower and the quality of the product is hard to valuate. The option Virtual Cooperative is offering for selling of goods is mostly convenient for selling of high-quality goods in smaller amounts.
As a conclusion, the biggest advantage of Virtual Cooperative is in bringing a bigger number of participants in farm business into one place, enabling them stronger influence to the conditions on the market and allowing them to achieve benefits from the potential quality of their products in more transparent manner.