FarmDrop is the latest exciting innovation in food retailing about to launch its offer to consumers and producers in March – and they need YOU!

“FarmDrop’s mission is to enable everyone to buy the freshest seasonal food, at the right price, direct from local producers. They use technology and transparency to rekindle the forgotten relationship between the makers and eaters of real food”.

Co-founder of FarmdropCo-founders Ben Patten and Ben Pugh have been working with a team of tech wizards for nearly a year, to create an online platform that supports their vision of a revolution in the way we buy and sell food. A vision where a much higher proportion of the value created from sustainably producing good food remains in the communities where it is grown and harvested.

In the summer of 2013, ten experimental FarmDrops took place in London to test the initial concept and help inform the development of FarmDrop’s consumer offer. Now it’s time to put months of behind the scenes hard work to the test and launch the first phase of commercial FarmDrop groups across the country!

How does it work?

FarmDrop ‘Keepers’ create and manage an online food marketplace for their local FarmDrop community. Keepers encourage ‘Members’ to join their FarmDrop and together place orders with a range of local producers (butchers, bakers, greengrocers, etc.) all via the FarmDrop website. Orders are sent through to the ‘Producers’, with all food delivered to and collected from one venue, at one time, organised by the keeper. The total revenue is split according to a ratio of 80/10/10 between the producers, keepers and FarmDrop HQ.

Why do we need innovations like FarmDrop?

FarmdropIt’s common for producers to receive on average, only 10-15% of the final consumer sale price of their produce when sold via major food retailers. FarmDrop ensures a producer keeps 80% of this price – a clear incentive for producers to come on board. In addition, FarmDrop are serious about building greater long term, sustainability into the food system through their platform. By requiring all food to be paid for in advance of delivery, the risk to a producer of arriving at a market with a van full of produce, only to discover inclement weather has kept shoppers at home is eliminated. This low risk, high gain arrangement may well encourage a new wave of producers to experiment with more direct, online direct selling.

Meanwhile, Ben Pugh cites figures which show that in 2012 less than 1% of the UK’s total grocery spend went on locally sourced food, yet DEFRA estimate that 70% of UK consumers want to shop more locally and regionally. Consumers want to shop according to their expressed preferences, but something is stopping them. With online grocery sales set to double in value to £11.1 billion by 2017, FarmDrop see an opportunity to increase the amount of food that is locally sourced by harnessing the online shopping pound.

Farmdrop salesAll accredited producers are given a dedicated page on the FarmDrop site, an excellent way of gaining an online presence without the investment needed to build a website from scratch.

Keepers are incentivised to take on the additional responsibility and work of organising a FarmDrop with a 10% share of all revenue. It will pay to galvanise your community around buying good, locally produced food. Keepers are the primary marketers, responsible for recruiting members to join a FarmDrop and scouting out suitable local suppliers. FarmDrop provide the technical know-how, you motivate your community around good food.

Hannah Wheelan of FarmDrop, explained to me that she has already been approached by communities across the UK, keen to create new, hyper local food systems. However, FarmDrop are still eager to hear from interested individuals or communities countrywide, rural and urban, north or south, who are interested in learning more about how to set up a FarmDrop in their area. You will be supported in your efforts with guidebooks and help sheets galore.

Farmdrop pickup

If the question of how to engage consumers around the provenance and quality of the food they buy has anything to do with making it easier to shop well, FarmDrop gives us many reasons to be hopeful. On paper, the concept seems almost too good to be true? Except perhaps for physical shops attempting to connect with consumers face to face. On this point, FarmDrop offer up another suggestion: they are already being approached by high street and farm shops interested in acting as Keepers and thereby incorporating an additional revenue stream into their businesses. Hannah believes FarmDrop need not be a threat to physical shops but rather they could benefit from bringing additional products and services to their customers via the FarmDrop model.

While FarmDrop promises attractive financial returns to producers and an easy to use food buying platform to consumers, there is an important additional dimension. It is not simply about economics but the potential to cultivate social value through community cohesion. As is so often said, food has a unique power to bring people together, acting as a force for positive social, environmental and economic change. I hope FarmDrop succeeds in unlocking a little of this power.

You can register your interest in starting or joining a pioneering new community food initiative at www.farmdrop.co.uk

Alternatively drop a line to hannah@farmdrop.co.uk 

FarmDrop would like to reach out to anyone who is already working towards creating a more sustainable food system in their area and to those who need one more excuse to get started on the journey.

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