By Zak Stone
When Andrew Twaits relocated to the countryside outside of Melbourne, Australia, and planted his first garden, he made a common rookie error: "In my enthusiasm, I planted way too much of the same thing at the same time. As a consequence, I had an abundance of beetroot, spring onion, snow peas, tomatoes, et cetera."
His neighbors informed him about a local "harvest exchange"--a type of meetup where gardeners trade excess produce. Somebody with a lot of cucumbers will walk home with someone else's excess citrus, for example. His first time going "was brilliant, and I met some great people," he says. "I came home with a bunch of sensational produce...all in exchange for stuff I was going to give to our chickens or thrown in the compost."
Twaits realized that the informal connections formed at the harvest exchange were ripe for translation onto an online platform--a meetup for gardeners where they can list exactly what produce they have too much of. His new site, Veggie Swap, is one of a crop of websites that's risen up recently offering similair services to gardeners (including the similarly named U.K. version Vegswap and the Australia-based Local Harvest).
Twaits says the advantage of bringing the harvest exchange online is that it lets him and his neighbors maintain a list of "what we were growing and communicate with each other in advance about what we were keen to swap. There's also a buy-sell function, which he says he added mainly so his kids could sell fruit "online, and drop the produce at the buyer's front gate with no human contact and no cash."
While those transactions may seem like a reasonable place for VeggieSwap to intervene and impose a fee to monetize, Twaits says that the project is mostly a passion one for now, partially a result of a midlife crisis ("I think it was related to me about to turn 40") and partially just scracthing a do-gooder itch to use technology to "help people eat better, save money, and reduce their food waste," he says. (It helps that his last venture was Betfair, an online sports gambling site, which he says was "turning over about $4 billion [Australian] when I left in January last year.")
Despite its Australian origins, the site can be used anywhere in the world, but for now it's only in English.
Copyright 2013 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.