The match-making program MarketMaker began humbly enough in Illinois as a way to help connect that state’s food-related industry to local markets. Over time, the database grew to include nearly half the states, including Mississippi through Mississippi State University, and the District of Columbia.
However, a new day has dawned for the database MarketMaker — it is going global. And those in the food-related industry in Mississippi are expecting large returns.
Managers of the database recently signed a contract with Riverside Research, an independent 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, scientific research institution with offices in six states. Riverside signed a licensing agreement with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which first developed MarketMaker, for the exclusive rights to the web-based information and communication resource designed to revolutionize the food supply chain.
Riverside Research plans to invest in additional research and development to expand MarketMaker’s capabilities to new markets and regions, both nationally and globally.
“Riverside Research is the ideal partner for MarketMaker,” said Darlene Knipe, co-founder and director of the National MarketMaker Program. “The company has great experience and expertise in information systems, a long-standing commitment to the greater good, and a high-integrity business culture. These qualities are critical to the future expansion of MarketMaker and realizing its great potential to fight world hunger.”
Led by researchers Richard and Darlene Knipe, the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences partnered with other land-grant agriculture colleges and universities — including MSU — to enhance MarketMaker’s capabilities. This includes improvement of access to emerging markets; facilitating local sourcing of agricultural products; enhancing the efficiency of food distribution value chains; and supporting agro-economic research in food distribution networks.
“Addressing the food and nutritional needs of a growing global population is a significant challenge,” said Richard Annas, president, Riverside Research. “We will apply our corporate strengths in information sciences with MarketMaker to address this challenge and make meaningful contributions to the solution. That’s our purpose — technical excellence and trusted solutions.”
Here in Mississippi, much is expected of the new, expanded MarketMaker (www.marketmaker.msstate.edu). Ken Hood, a Mississippi State University Extension Service professor in agricultural economics, said, “The new globalization licensing agreement gives us a stronger link between the different groups, because of the resources available at Riverside. In the past, the different universities had to pay an annual fee that went toward maintaining the system overall, and now that will be handled by the corporation.”
MSU and other land-grant universities enhance MarketMaker’s capabilities to improve research in food distribution networks, and Hood feels Riverside Research will help take MarketMaker to the next level.
“They have dedicated teams available that can devote more time and effort to get the job done faster,” Hood said.
MarketMaker currently offers many searchable options. Researchers can browse by age, household type, race, income, education, foreign-born and food preferences. Users can find a business under the categories of farmer/rancher, buyer, eating/drinking place, farmer’s market, fishery, food bank, retailer, processor/packaging shed, wholesaler and winery.
The site also offers free registration for businesses that want to be included in the database.
Riverside Research’s Chantelle Hougland said details of her firm’s work to broaden MarketMaker’s footprint are still being hammered out, but the globalization efforts have already begun. Riverside Research just signed a partnership agreement with Tamil Nadu Agricultural University located in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India. She said Riverside Research would officially announce the new compact in the coming weeks, and that the contract marked Riverside Research’s “toe in the water” to begin efforts to take MarketMaker global.
“This partnership (with MarketMaker) helps fulfill our charter of doing good works,” Hougland added.
“We have a 46-year history of successfully serving our corporate charter to advance scientific research in the public interest and in support of the U.S. government,” added T.I. Weintraub, executive vice president, Riverside Research. “MarketMaker presents an opportunity to extend our legacy to the food and agriculture supply chain. It’s a perfect match with our charter and aligns well with our growing capabilities in precision agriculture.”
For more on Riverside Research, visit www.riversideresearch.org.