Friday, November 22, 2013

Electric bicycles

"New Electric Wheel Could Expand Bike Commuting"
2013-11-13 by Kelly McCartney []:
Now that the invisible bike helmet has arrived, among the remaining things that stand between commuters and bikes is the inevitable sweatiness that comes from pedaling your way to work or school. No one wants to start their day sticky and stinky. But traditional electric bikes... well, they kind of miss the point of biking. That is until now.
With only 11 days to go on their Kickstarter drive, the team behind the FlyKly Smart Wheel [] has blown way past their initial $100,000 goal and have almost reached their wildest dreams of $500,000. This little gizmo is a lightweight, all-in-one, pedal-assisted wheel that fits on almost any bike frame. Inside the casing is an ultra-thin electric motor -- with speeds up to 20 miles per hour! -- that is activated by the pedals and a battery bank -- with ranges up to 30 miles on a single charge! -- that gets recharged when coasting or by plugging it in for a couple of hours.
And for the über-techies among us, the wheel is controlled via a mobile app that allows you to set your desired speed, to lock the wheel when the bike is parked, and to track a stolen ride. The app will even send a notification if the bike is going somewhere without its rider or if the wheel needs a check-up.
One concern is that the power-assist wheel, if widely adopted, may reduce the potential health benefits of bike commuting. The price may work against that. However, the wheel plus bike combination is a much more cost-effective option than car ownership, so could expand bike commuting from that population in addition to people who, for health and other reasons, need a power assist. Check out the specs and video below for more information.

Tech specs
Weight: 9 lbs / 4 kg
Range: 30 miles / 50 km
Speed: 20 mph / 25 km/h
Motor: 250 watts
Battery: 36V Lithium
Charge: 2 - 3 hours
Sizes: 26” or 29”
Colors: white, black, grey, blue, red, green, yellow, pink
Lifespan: 1,000 cycles (that's nearly three years of daily use)
FlyKly App: iOS, Android, Pebble Watch compatible
Price: $590

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hydrogen fuel production

"Low-Cost Hydrogen Breakthrough Uses Solar Power And Rust"
Hydrogen fuel cells are emerging as key players in the clean energy landscape of the future, except for one problem: it takes a lot of energy to make hydrogen, and here in the US, the preferred source of that energy appears to be natural gas. That’s hardly a sustainable solution. However, not to worry. Researchers have been turning their attention to renewable energy for producing low-cost hydrogen. The most recent development is a low-cost photoelectrochemical cell that produces hydrogen bubbles in water with the help of a little iron oxide, aka rust.

A Low Cost Photoelectrochemical Cell -
Photoelectrochemical cells (PECs) use solar energy to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. They don’t produce electricity directly like photovoltaic cells do, but they could have a huge impact on the electric vehicle market by providing a path to cost-competitive fuel cells. That in turn would give the auto industry a low-cost, high-mileage alternative to conventional EV batteries.
The sticky wicket is to bring down the cost of PECs, and the latest breakthrough involves one of the cheapest materials around, in the form of iron oxide.
Researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Technion–Israel Institute of Technology teamed up on the hydrogen project, which involved the creation of an electrode based on nanostructured iron oxide particles described as “cauliflower-looking.”
The team was able to pinpoint the movement of electrons through the nanoparticles with the help of transmission electron microscopy, and identify the most efficient configuration.
This “champion” structure became the basis for a 10×10 cm prototype that creates oxygen bubbles in water as soon as it is exposed to sunlight.
That one-step process has the potential to cost far less than other solar-powered water-splitting devices, which typically involve hooking up an electrolyzer to a regular photovoltaic cell.
How much cheaper? According to the research team, in Europe, the lowest cost for producing hydrogen with the photovoltaic cell/electrolyzer combo currently comes in at about 15 € per kilo, and the team’s goal for its rust-based PEC is only about € 5 per kilo.

Dodging The Natural Gas Bullet -
President Obama launched a national hydrogen fuel cell/fueling infrastructure initiative earlier this year called H2USA, which is all well and good but for now we’re giving it the sustainability stinkeye due to its emphasis on using natural gas, specifically shale gas, to produce hydrogen.
However, as we’ve previously noted, the initiative does not preclude the use of renewable energy, and that is already starting to become part of the picture.
On a large scale, we’ve been following one company called HyperSolar for a couple of years, which envisions a network of solar powered hydrogen “farms.” The company announced plans for its first commercial-scale facility last March.
At the other end of the scale, there’s the “artificial leaf” concept of a low-cost, pocket-sized device that could be dunked in a jug of water to produce hydrogen. While not necessarily the most efficient solution, it could provide a renewable, off-grid alternative for households with low energy demands.
In the meantime, you can bet that fuel cells will become a far bigger part of the US vehicle market sooner rather than later. GM and Honda just launched a fuel cell development partnership, and these two companies happen to lead the world in vehicle fuel cell patents.

Dodging The Water Bullet -
As far as long-term sustainability in the fuel cell market goes, energy for producing hydrogen is only half the equation. The other half is water, and in that regard the world’s water scarcity issues could become a stumbling block.
The problem is that conventional hydrogen production involves clean water as a raw material. Now consider the introduction of millions of fuel cell vehicles around the world and you can see trouble brewing on the horizon.
On the other hand, a solution is on the horizon. Researchers have been developing solar-powered systems that involve producing hydrogen directly from “dirty” water, and the aforementioned HyperSolar already has a wastewater process under its belt.
Another interesting example involves the “artificial leaf” device under development at Harvard, based on research initiated at MIT. In earlier iterations, it used clean water, but researchers have tweaked the surface to prevent film buildup by bacteria.
Speaking of bacteria, researchers are already on track to create high-efficiency wastewater treatment systems integrating hydrogen fuel cells with microbial fuel cells.
A good example of this trend is under development at the University of Colorado at Denver, where researchers are working on a system that uses microbial fuel cells to desalinate water and/or treat wastewater while generating electricity, which is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can then be used in fuel cells to run equipment at the treatment facility.

"US Army Could Be Silent Partner In New GM Honda Fuel Cell Initiative"

GM and Honda have just announced a next-generation fuel cell and hydrogen storage collaboration, and since their joint press release rather cagily mentions that the two companies will work with other “stakeholders” to develop a fueling infrastructure we’re guessing that the US Army is or will be holding some of those stakes in the GM Honda fuel cell tent. Just last year, the Army launched the world’s first military fuel cell vehicle fleet in partnership with GM in Hawaii, and for that matter Honda has signed on to the Obama Administration’s new initiative to promote a national fueling infrastructure for next-generation fuel cell vehicles. Wait for it…hey, we built this!

The GM Honda Fuel Cell Partnership -
The new collaboration between GM and Honda is described as a “long-term, definitive master agreement to co-develop next-generation fuel system and hydrogen storage technologies,” and the matchup promises to deliver on its self-imposed time frame of 2020. Between the two of them, GM and Honda rank first and second in total fuel cell patents filed in the ten years leading up to 2012, adding up to 1,200 different patents.
Aside from patent filings, the two companies have also been building up a body of real-world experience.
GM has piled up almost 3 million miles of fuel cell driving for its 119-vehicle fuel cell fleet under the long running Project Driveway program, and Honda began leasing its FCX sedan ten years ago in the US and Japan. Honda launched a successor in 2009 called FCX Clarity and already plans a third iteration of the vehicle for 2015.

The H2USA Fuel Cell Umbrella -
The Obama Administration launched H2USA this past May in order to break out of the chicken-or-egg conundrum facing the fuel cell vehicle industry. It’s the same problem that confronted early manufacturers of gasoline vehicles. Not too many people are going to buy into the new technology until you can make it reasonably convenient for them to fuel up, but how do you get companies to invest in a fueling infrastructure until there are enough vehicles on the road to make it worthwhile?
Honda signed on to H2USA shortly after the initial launch, in which the Energy Department was joined by the American Gas Association, Association of Global Automakers, the California Fuel Cell Partnership, the Electric Drive Transportation Association, the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association, Hyundai Motor America, ITM Power, Massachusetts Hydrogen Coalition, Mercedes-Benz USA, Nissan North America Research and Development, Proton OnSite, and Toyota Motor North America.
As you can tell by the launch partners, one strong focus of H2USA is the production of hydrogen with natural gas, specifically shale gas, and for that reason we’re giving the sustainability stinkeye to the project, at least for now.
However, H2USA does not preclude more sustainable means of hydrogen production, and in announcing their fuel cell partnership GM and Honda emphasize that hydrogen can be generated from wind power, biomass and other forms of renewable energy.

The US Army And Fuel Cell Vehicles -
That brings us right around the to US Army’s interest in fuel cell vehicles.
Last year, the Army launched a fuel cell vehicle pilot program in Hawaii, in partnership with GM. The pilot program consists of a fleet of 16 GM fuel cell vehicles stationed at Fort Shafter in Honolulu, on Oahu. That sounds modest enough but according to the Department of Defense, it’s the world’s largest military fleet of fuel cell vehicles.
The choice of Hawaii for the project indicates that the Department of Defense could nudge H2USA into a stronger focus on renewable hydrogen. Given its lack of local fossil resources and high fuel prices, Hawaii has ample incentive to transition out of fossil fuel dependency. The state has already established itself as a national test bed for transitioning to locally sourced renewable energy through its Clean Energy Initiative.
With military facilities accounting for an enormous chunk of Hawaii’s overall fuel consumption, it’s pretty clear that the fuel cell vehicle project will eventually interact with other renewable energy projects in the state.
For now, though, the Hawaii fuel cell project appears to be focused on gas. The program kicked off in collaboration with the gas company Hawai’i Gas (formerly TGC), which already has a track record in hydrogen production along with a distribution network.

"Honda Introduces Solar Hydrogen Station on Saitama Prefectural Office Grounds; FCX Clarity Used in Electric Vehicle Testing Program to Serve as Mobile Electric Generator"
2012-03-27 from "" []:
TOKYO, Japan, March 27, 2012 - Honda Motor Co., Ltd. unveiled a Solar Hydrogen Station on the grounds of the Saitama Prefectural Office. The initiative is part of the Electric Vehicle Testing Program for Honda’s next-generation personal mobility products with Saitama Prefecture, in which Honda, Iwatani and Saitama Prefecture collaborate to build. In a further initiative, Honda has equipped the FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle with an outlet to function as a 9kW power source. Since the FCX Clarity uses a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to produce power with zero CO2 emissions, with its new outlet, the vehicle will be able to serve as a zero-emission mobile electric generator.
Solar Hydrogen Station

Solar Hydrogen Station & FCX Clarity

FCX Clarity with power supply system

This is the first installation in Japan of a total system to produce, store and dispense hydrogen with ZERO CO2 emissions. A high pressure water electrolysis system, uniquely developed by Honda, produces hydrogen.  With no mechanical compressor, the system is nearly silent and highly energy efficient. Using Solar and grid power, the system is capable of producing 1.5kg of hydrogen within 24 hours which enables an FCX Clarity to run approximately 150km or 90 miles. Honda aims to further develop the system to offer clean energy sources for the home in the future.

"Diesel, Fuel Cells Get Spotlight as Plug-Ins Lose Favor"
2013-11-11 by Angela Greiling Keane from "" []:
With U.S. sales of plug-in electric vehicles on pace to reach half of President Barack Obama’s goal, regulators are following customers and automakers to vehicles powered by other fuels, from hydrogen to diesel.
California, which leads 10 states that require automakers to sell zero-emission vehicles, may alter its system of tradable credits to stop favoring plug-ins over hydrogen-powered cars. That would hurt Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) while helping Honda Motor Co.
Obama, who touted electric cars in his first State of the Union address and gave $5 billion in U.S. loans, grants and tax breaks to spur their development, hasn’t mentioned them in public since July. His administration halted loans for their development and reversed moves to de-emphasize fuel cells.
“I don’t think they should just pick technologies that they say or feel may be better,” Audi of America President Scott Keogh, who’s seeking more favorable regulatory treatment for clean diesel, said in an interview.
Automakers that sell vehicles in the U.S. must double their vehicles’ average fuel economy by 2025 under rules Obama adopted. The target is considered impossible to achieve just by improving the gasoline engine.
Auto-industry executives surveyed by Booz & Co. and Bloomberg LP predicted vehicles running on electricity and other alternative powertrains would account for 20 percent of sales by 2020 -- unless the government stopped its support, in which case their predicted share fell to 12 percent.

Fisker, Tesla -
Obama in 2009 set a goal of having 1 million electric vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015. About 95,000 plug-ins will be sold this year, said Alan Baum, an analyst at Baum & Associates in West Bloomfield, Michigan. He forecasts sales to pass a cumulative 500,000 in 2015.
The Energy Department last made a loan for electric-vehicle development in 2011. While Tesla repaid its loan nine years early, an award to Fisker Automotive Inc. became a talking point for Republicans during the 2012 presidential campaign. The defaulted loan was put up for auction in October after Fisker stopped production and failed to find a buyer.
Early in Obama’s presidency, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu questioned the merits of hydrogen-powered cars and cut funding for fuel-cell research. Administration officials began praising fuel cells in 2012 and, last week, announced $4 million in awards to develop better hydrogen storage systems that would benefit autos.
California in September passed a measure to fund at least 100 hydrogen fueling stations as part of its clean-vehicle plans.

‘Broadening Scope’ -
“They’re broadening their scope,” analyst Baum said of regulators. “It’s kind of an all-hands-on-deck strategy, which includes the internal combustion engine, too.”
California’s proposed revisions would cut the Zero-Emission Vehicle, or ZEV, credits Tesla gets for its electric Model S sedan by as much as 40 percent from 2015. The state’s Air Resources Board on Oct. 24 deferred a decision on the matter until next year.
“I have always felt that there was a hard-core enthusiasm for fuel-cell vehicles among key regulators that was in no way justified by the commercial viability or technical progress” of fuel-cell vehicles, Diarmuid O’Connell, Tesla’s vice president for business development, said in an e-mail.
He criticized bonus credits for fast refueling “designed specifically to reward” fuel-cell vehicles and state funding for hydrogen filling stations.

‘Technology Neutrality’ -
“Technology neutrality ought to be the standard by which the ZEV regulation and other vehicle standards are written and enforced,” he said. “Instead, and with particular reference to hydrogen technology, the bias seems to make sure that hydrogen technology can keep up with the fast-moving market development of EVs in the tortured hope that both technologies will flourish in equal measure.”
Tesla’s sales of emission credits fell to $10 million in the third quarter, from $51 million in the second quarter and $68 million in the first quarter, the company said Nov. 5. Total third-quarter revenue was $431.3 million.
Changing the credit formula may help Honda’s hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity, of which only six have sold in the U.S. this year through Oct. 31, according to researcher Autodata Corp.
The shift also favors General Motors Co. (GM), which hedged its bets by investing in hydrogen technology while producing this year’s best-selling plug-in car in the U.S., the Chevrolet Volt.

GM, Audi -
Honda and GM, the top-ranking holders of fuel-cell patents filed between 2002 and 2012 according to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index, in July announced a partnership to develop a fuel-cell and hydrogen-storage system. Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) and Hyundai Motor Co. (005380) are both planning new fuel-cell offerings by 2015.
Robert Bienenfeld, senior manager of environmental and energy strategy at American Honda Motor Co., said the company has worked on hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell options as well as improving gasoline engines and aerodynamics.
“The challenge for automakers is to find the right balance between meeting social values like lower carbon transportation and finding the new values that customers will appreciate and enjoy,” he said in an e-mail.
German automakers including Volkswagen AG (VOW)’s Audi unit are pushing to change the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mileage formula for showroom window stickers and fuel-economy rule compliance, and to end the 6-cent-a-gallon difference in U.S. taxes between diesel fuel and gasoline.
The formula, Keogh said, favors gasoline cars over diesel because it assumes more city than highway driving. Diesels get maximum efficiency on the highway.

Clean Diesel -
Diesel is about one-third more fuel-efficient than gasoline in comparably sized vehicles, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Changes to engines, the advent of ultra-low sulfur diesel and treatment of tailpipe exhaust mean today’s diesel cars aren’t the ones drivers remember from 40 years ago.
“If you’re referring back to the 70s and diesel products that GM launched, it’s not the case anymore,” Audi’s Keogh said.
Half of Audi’s A3 Sportback purchases in the U.S. are diesel, as are about a third of the Q7 sport-utility vehicle sales, Keogh said. The automaker’s U.S. advertising features its diesel models and pokes fun at diesel’s old image as a dirty fuel only for truckers.

‘Every Base’ -
While Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) is introducing its first plug-in electric in the U.S. for 2014, it’s also working to boost diesel sales and sees hydrogen as “one of the technologies for the future,” Manuel Sattig, project manager for BMWi, said in an interview.
“We have every base covered,” said Jacob Harb, head of BMW of North America electric-vehicle operations and strategy. “There’s no silver bullet.”
In September, the most recent month available, 9 percent of customers visiting the auto-information website considered a non-gasoline vehicle. Hybrid-electrics such as Toyota’s Prius were the most considered at 4.1 percent, followed by diesel with 2.1 percent. Only .8 percent of customers shopped for a plug-in electric hybrid while 1.9 percent looked at fully electric cars.
Consideration on the website is higher than actual sales, Edmunds analyst Jeremy Acevedo said.
“Continued support through government policy as well as automakers developing the technology and getting it out there on the road is going to help the transition,” said Don Anair, Union of Concerned Scientists Clean Vehicles Program research director. “But it’s not going to happen in two or three years.”

Monday, November 11, 2013

How to Start a Grocery Co-op

2011-11-11 by Nina Misuraca Ignaczak []:
Based on An Online Guide to Starting a Food Co-op [] by the Cooperative Grocers Information Network [].
The Cooperative Grocer’s Network lists 362 grocery co-ops in existence in the United States and Canada []. Grocery co-ops are entering the mainstream, as health-conscious consumers demand more knowledge of where their local food is coming from, according to a recent Aspen Times article []. As Yes! Magazine reports [], cooperative businesses across multiple sectors—food, banking, health insurance, even steel-making—are on the rise, partly in response to people’s disillusionment with big business in the wake of the Great Recession. The grocery co-op provides a time-tested alternative business model to the industrialized food system that can both build community and empower individuals.
In the sharing economy, new and innovative business models are being developed for everyday needs like housing, work and transportation; think car sharing, bike-sharing, co-working, and Airbnb.
But one of oldest and tested sharing business models is the humble grocery co-op. Grocery co-ops have been around since 1864, when the first co-op was established in Rochdale, United Kingdom in response to the vagaries of the Industrial Revolution.
The first co-ops in the United States were established in colonial times. American co-ops have developed in multiple waves over the centuries, often in response to economic downturns, according to the National Cooperative Grocers Association.
A co-op is a business that is driven by cooperative values as well as profit. The original Rochdale pioneers set forth a set of seven principles [], which have been adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) [] and govern co-op operations to this day.
As defined by the ICA, a cooperative is “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.”
The Cooperative Grocer’s Network published An Online Guide to Starting a Food Co-op in March 2002 outlining nine steps to forming a grocery co-op. The report details extensive resources and case study examples.

The following is a condensed summary of the nine steps:
Step One: Gather background information -
This step involves familiarizing yourself with the co-op business model, understanding local and regional resources, business costs like space, utilities, and regulatory issues, and most importantly, understanding the needs of the community the co-op will serve, how a co-op might serve as a solution to those needs, and if there is interest in pursuing a co-op solution.

Step Two: Organize -
At this step, a meeting is held to evaluate whether sufficient interest exists to justify starting a new co-op. Now is the time to hold multiple informational meetings in the community to gather input. It’s a good idea to invite experts to share their knowledge of co-op operations. If there is enough interest to warrant moving forward, a steering committee is developed through a consensus process.

Step Three: Research feasibility -
This step involves studying whether or not a co-op can be both successful from a business standpoint s well as beneficial to its members. A feasibility analysis includes surveying potential members, understanding the operations of similar organizations, identifying funding sources, and identifying resources and partners.  Professional consultants may be useful in this process. A final feasibility analysis should include a market capacity analysis, internal capacity, financial needs and options, and the feasibility of design and project specifics.

Step Four: Review findings and vote to incorporate -
The feasibility analysis prepared in step three is presented to a meeting of potential members and a vote is held to incorporate. If the vote is successful, articles of incorporation are drafted, voted on, and filed with the appropriate governmental agency. At this time, a formal board of directors is selected and other functional roles assigned.

Step Five: Recruit members -
In this step, a membership structure is selected and the participation and financial commitment of members is secured. Goals and deadlines for number of members, equity, and loans must be set and tracked. Visual aids to show progress are helpful at this stage.

Step Six: Develop Business Plan -
A specific and detailed business plan and financial model are constructed in this phase, describing all operations, employees, management structure, products, customers, capitalization, and projections for revenue and costs.

Step Seven: Secure financing -
The first source of base financing is members, who may loan or invest in the co-op as part of their membership. Other alternatives may include grants, commercial loans, private investment, and vendor financing. Lenders should be made to clearly understand the implications of the cooperative ownership structure. Contact with local economic development agencies may identify governmental incentives, such as tax incentives, that can be included as part of the financing package.

Step Eight: Begin operations -
The business plan should guide all aspects of this phase, in which a space and equipment is secured, a store is set up, accounts with vendors are established, and a manager is hired.

Step Nine: Open the doors -
Hold two grand openings—a soft opening to de-bug operations, and a highly publicized grand opening with a ribbon cutting and special events. The first year is usually rough, so plan on a nine-month board retreat to assess operations.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Communitarian Farming programs from University of California

"UC plants seeds of growth for local farmers"  
2013-11-02 by Stacy Finz from "San Francisco Chronicle" []:
Flower seller Katie Koch photographs fruits and vegetables during a tour of Washington Vegetable Co. in San Francisco. Photo: Leah Millis, The Chronicle

Emma Torbert, a stone-fruit grower, didn't know what to expect when she got off a bus to tour wholesale food businesses in the Bay Area.
By the time she went home to her farm near Davis, her head was filled with possibilities.
She and 17 other growers, participating in a University of California workshop, learned that being a small farmer is actually a boon in today's market, where consumers are clamoring for fresh and local foods with a story. The demand is great enough that wholesalers are doing something entirely new - passing up large-scale commercial growers for people like Torbert, who farms only 4 acres.
"The trip has been encouraging," said Torbert, 34. "I currently sell to markets in my area, but am interested in expanding. Today, I got the impression that there is a lot of demand."
While some consumers have gone straight to the source, many shoppers are demanding that their neighborhood retailers carry fruits and vegetables from local farmers instead of huge conglomerates that buy from worldwide growers.

Focus on local food -
In 2009, Mintel, a global marketing research company, found that 1 in 6 consumers made it a point to buy food grown regionally to support the local economy. Shoppers also perceived that food produced relatively close to home was fresher, better tasting and better for the environment, according to the firm.
Last year, Mintel found that 52 percent of consumers polled said that it was even more important to buy local fruits and vegetables than organic produce.
Torbert's tour last week was intended to help small growers like her find new avenues to sell their products besides farmers' markets, fruit stands and community-supported agriculture. The tour was organized by the UC Davis Cooperative Extension, the university's Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education Program along with the Agricultural Sustainability Institute.
"Everyone wants to do business with them," David Visher, a project analyst who helped organize the workshop, said of his tour group, mainly farmers from along the Interstate 80 corridor. "We're not advocating that they choose processors over farmers' markets. We're just trying to show them their options and introduce them to the right people so they can make their own choices."
Many small farmers have complained that farmers' markets and farm stands aren't a sustainable way to do business. Transportation and labor are expensive and take them away from the land. Several on the tour acknowledged that they were looking for other, more cost-effective models.
One of the stops was Bay Cities Produce, a large processing company in San Leandro. The company wants to work with local, small farmers and even offers incentives to fulfill Bay Cities' stringent food safety requirements.
"We've gone from 5 percent local to 50 percent in the last three to four years," said Karl Kolb, Bay Cities' food safety executive. "Our clients want quality, and they know that they can get it from the small farmer."
Same demands nationally
In addition to selling produce to grocery stores such as Whole Foods, Andronico's and Mollie Stone's Markets, Bay Cities sells to restaurants, institutional kitchens and hospitals. All have become particular sticklers about having locally grown produce, Kolb said.
"We're seeing it across the nation," he said. "Our clients want to know where the food is sourced, how it's sourced and who it's sourced from. In Kansas they want produce from Kansas."
Kolb said dealing with small farmers - his definition is anyone who cultivates up to 1,000 acres - is more difficult than buying from industrial growers. One bad frost isn't likely to wipe out a commercial producer's entire crop, so the grower is more reliable, he said. Their product also tends to be more consistent in size, shape and color, and delivery times are consistent. Furthermore, the big guys already have safety standards in place.
"But the customer is always right," said Steve Del Masso, vice president of Bay Cities, which was founded by his father. He added that if his clients want small and local, he'll deliver.
Because small growers can't always afford to set up food safety mechanisms on the farms, Del Masso offers financial incentives, including cash, to pay for systems that ensure water and soil quality and ways to trace back produce in instances of food-borne illness outbreaks. Once the farmers comply with Bay Cities' rigid health requirements, Kolb said, "we will meet their price. We pay very well, according to the market."

Broadening his business -
Chip Morris, an heirloom dry bean farmer from Thornton (San Joaquin County), was impressed with the tour. He sells his beans to Williams-Sonoma and specialty markets such as restaurants, but would like to find a midsize distributor to broaden his business.
When the bus stopped at the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market on Jerrold Avenue, Morris started to get excited by his prospects.
"We're not hurting," he said. "We're going pretty strong in California with restaurants. But we haven't done too much with grocery stores, and we don't have a marketing team. If we could find a company like Bay Cities to get us out there, it would be great."