SBS Bank Helping Rejuvenate Rural Communities – One Loop At A Time

Jun 28, 2019
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A Southland project designed to empower rural communities and create connected trading routes has been chosen to take part in 2019 Kiwi Fintech Accelerator programme.

The Longwood Loop is a Western Southland-based trading route with 80 members that is designed to create a self-managed economy to rejuvenate and reconnect rural communities, while reducing reliance on imported goods.

SBS Bank had been seeking a Southland-based team to support in the national programme that is designed to solve challenges in the financial technology (Fintech) sector. The bank will provide the support needed for the team to remain based in Southland while developing their concept.

SBS Bank digital channel manager Andrew Rushton said after a successful Boot Camp held in May, the Loop.Local team was chosen.

“Loop.Local will be an online platform that enables local communities to reconnect economically and socially by retaining trade internally and owning the logistics and retail channels locally.

“Local producers and consumers can trade goods and services in the platform that provides managerial tools for the communities,” he said.

“It’s a special concept and once fully realised, one that can really support rural communities by providing the technology to enable trading platforms to go digital.”

Longwood Loop founder and chief executive Robyn Guyton, of Riverton, said rural consumers often faced challenges trying find food and services in remote areas, while producers often lacked robust logistics and retail channels to offer to consumers, making it difficult to compete with supermarkets.

Growers and producers often had no knowledge of how much to produce, resulting in wastage while consumers miss out at farmers markets when demand outstripped supply, she said.

“How can we trade in rural areas when there are no banks and we’re so far from the city? This is an opportunity to develop some supply and demand software so we know what to drop off at each trading post and growers know ahead that what they grow will be sold.

“It can become a little self-sufficient food economy. Southland used to have 100 little farming communities that got 70 to 80 per cent of their food locally. Now everyone goes to supermarkets and that food comes from global markets.

“We need to know where our food comes from and eat fresh and in season – real food grows in gardens, orchards or in paddocks. We’ve got a baker setting up, people growing mushrooms and tomatoes and people setting up market gardens that will provide food for the loop,” she said.

“It’s very exciting – if we do a really good software programme then it can be used in other areas in New Zealand and the world and could make a real difference in communities.”

The web-based platform would provide management tools to control things like member and vendor settings, enable members to become sellers, develop financial tools such as the ability to top up a ‘loop wallet’, and manage the trade route to enable goods to be delivered to the right person when needed.

It was planned to buy an electric vehicle to collect and drop products off at trading posts around the loop. Eventually the loops will connect to create wider network.

The Kiwi Fintech Accelerator, now in its third year, was established to provide New Zealand fintech start-ups with pathways and access to global markets. The programme, jointly delivered with Creative HQ, runs for 12 weeks and sees teams work intensively with expert support to innovate, build, launch and expand their business.

For more information on the 2019 Kiwi FinTech Accelerator, related events, visit: www.nzfintech.kiwi

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