Food is not a finite resource, as is the land it is cultivated on. Future generations will have to find creative ways to integrate production, marketing, distribution and technology in such a way that optimal usage of scarce food resources is achieved. Efficient fresh produce markets and specifically efficient electronic food spot markets could play a central role in stimulating, coordinating and optimizing the flow of food across multiple geographical regions. This cannot be achieved through traditional approaches to technology, as it requires systems to play a much more prominent role than just facilitating sales transactions. In order to establish electronic fresh produce spot markets of the future, we will require a deeper understanding of how broader institutional trust signals are to be facilitated through technology interfaces. This thesis explores the relationship between the use of self-service technology and the institutional environment emphasising the importance of understanding the relationship between technology s use and the specific institutional forces governing trust forming behaviour.
This thesis offers a rare insight into the functioning of a network of municipal fresh produce markets in South Africa which is characterized by a unique institutionalized trading environment that functions on high levels of trust between the grower, the sales agent and market authority. These markets share the same business model, governance framework, management and operational structure that has been designed specifically to provide a low risk, low cost marketing channel for fresh produce. Product is sold on a consignment only basis with an ad valorem commission being paid by the grower on the gross selling price. No written contractual agreements are in place governing this arrangement between the grower and the institution and if one takes into consideration that around R14 Billion (an estimated $1.1 Billion in 2014) are transacted annually in this manner, it is a remarkable example of how various institutional technological structures combine to facilitate such a trust driven environment. The use of self-service technologies have potential to revolutionise the role South Africa s network of fresh produce markets play, not only in the economy of South Africa, but also within the broader Southern African Development Community. But our understanding of how to structure solutions using self-service technology within fresh produce spot markets are still lacking. Given the importance of food security, the establishment of centralized food markets utilizing technology in creative ways would be vital to ensure the various economic, commercial and socio-political benefits flow back to the various stakeholders. The challenge fresh produce markets face is how to port the broader institutional trust dynamics it currently enjoys to an environment facilitated purely though technology interfaces. Although trust and technology are central to the functioning of these markets little research has been conducted into its role within these markets.
The study utilises a qualitative case study to document the dynamics of the social and technology environments on markets. The study reveals the importance of the alignment of technology, not only with the various business processes, but also with the formal and informal governance structures that regulate the activities internally and externally to the market environment. A conceptual framework is presented that illustrates the formation of trust within self-service environments.