Farming is not a bad business to be in – people will always need to eat. But farmers are at an inevitable disadvantage: they need to find a market for their produce and one that will pay a good margin, so they can maintain and grow their business.
Traditionally the best way for small and independent farms to sell their produce is to get a good price for it direct from customers at the farmers’ market; and that is probably the best way for customers to buy their food too. The food will be at its freshest, the customer can talk to the farmer about the produce and they can also take advantage of one-off deals offered on the day.
But while farmers’ markets might be the best way to buy and sell food, for both the farmer and the customer, the reality is that they are not convenient for and accessible to a broad enough range of people. Customers are restricted to the days that they can shop – typically the weekend – and they generally aren’t able to buy everything needed to get by for the week, such as dry goods, cleaning supplies and pet food.
As the founder of a food logistics company, I learnt the hard way that convenience conquers all. If you ask people, they will probably tell you that they want to support those farmers who are doing the right thing for the soil, the animals and their local community. But as Bob Dylan once said, “People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.” So it’s no wonder that farmers’ markets are seen as a nice morning out, rather than a viable alternative to the supermarket.
This trade-off between convenience and quality is what spurred me to found Farmdrop. Using state of the art mobile technology and a fleet of electric delivery vans, Farmdrop gives customers the opportunity to buy farmers’ market produce every day of the week, delivered at a time of their choosing and alongside the other household staples that make up their weekly shop.
By replacing wholesalers and conventional retailers, the supply chain we have created can move food from farm to front door at the lowest possible cost, which allows us to give farmers the highest margin for their produce. Importantly, our model complements the farmers existing routes to market, and minimises food waste by keeping food where it can be managed best – at source.
Farmdrop allows farmers to sell their produce in the best way possible and customers get food when it is at its best. They might not be able to shake the hand that feeds them but they can go on our website and see for themselves how the food arrived on their table.
For some of our farms, like Purton House Organics, the positive impact that our supply chain has had on their business has been truly extraordinary.
The great thing is that there are many more farms like Purton House that could open themselves up to nearby customers in the big cities. New business models like Farmdrop are here to help them do it. It might not be the romanticised vision of the farmers market but to get people to buy food from local and sustainable farmers, you need to make it easy and convenient.
Farmdrop is an ethical, online grocery company that uses mobile technology and electronic delivery vans to open up urban markets to small and independent farmers. The company was founded by Ben Pugh in 2012 and after trading successfully in London, is opening in two new cities – Bath and Bristol – in September 2017.
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