COLLEGE STATION – Texas MarketMaker, an online website, is an all-in-one resource providing information on seafood, agritourism, farmers markets, wineries and locally grown farm products produced in the Lone Star State, according to its collaborators.
“This is a free tool to help connect farmers with buyers,” said Dr. Marco Palma, Texas AgriLife Extension Service economist. “It also provides important marketing tools for farmers. We will be providing information on a wide range of produce, including, fruits and vegetables, livestock and dairy, seafood, etc.”
Texas MarketMaker is available online at http://tx.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/. The project is a collaboration among several agencies: AgriLife Extension, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Texas Sea Grant, which is part of the Texas A&M University System, and the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission.
“The majority of the funding for this project comes to us from the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission as a result of the recovery effort following the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill,” said Dr. Mark Waller, program leader for AgriLife Extension economics and associate department head for agricultural economics at Texas A&M University.
“Commercial and recreational fishing, as well as the seafood processing industry, the tourism industry and supporting businesses, have suffered economic losses as a result of the oil spill and the supply-chain interruptions and lingering concerns among buyers and consumers about the safety of products from the Gulf.”
Waller said Texas seafood producers and industry participants must continue to seek out market opportunities to expand demand for their products and continue to look for ways to identify premium price quality markets.
“This includes examination of the feasibility and opportunities for direct marketing to existing consumers, identifying new potential customers, and diversification into tourism,” Waller said. “MarketMaker is a free online resource linking consumers, producers/farmers and businesses throughout the food chain that boasts one of the largest collections of searchable food industry-related data in the country.”
The database is characterized by buyers, sellers, locations and other demographic information with GIS mapping capability, which allows easy location of nearby food sources and consumer populations, Waller said.
“There is also a specific agritourism category in MarketMaker that should be useful to sport fishing and other nature tourism-related businesses and consumers. MarketMaker should allow producers, suppliers and consumers to improve the efficiency of their search efforts.
Francisco Abello, an AgriLife Extension specialist who worked on the Texas database, said the site features a database of registered food processors and retailers throughout Texas.
“It brings together buyers and sellers of seafood and agricultural products, mostly food and is aimed at small producers,” Abello said. “We are currently targeting seafood producers, but this site can serve as a direct marketing source for all producers.”
Abello said the site serves as an interactive mapping system, linking food industries with seafood and agricultural markets, and connecting producers and consumers.
“Currently, MarketMaker is located in 19 states,” Abello said.
The Texas MarketMaker website will regularly feature individual companies and products in the “business spotlight” and “taste of Texas” sections.
“This serves as a great opportunity for Texas producers to go to the site and register their business,” Abello said.
Palma said future workshops will be offered featuring the Texas MarketMaker online resource.
“We are going to be conducting a series of workshops across the state called ‘MarketReady’,” Palma said. “These workshops will try to fill the gap and provide complete information to farmers on how to grow, process, label, market, etc. their products directly to restaurants and specialty retail stores. We believe this program will be a great complement to MarketMaker.”