Retail

Bringing The Farmers Market Online With Apps

farm products

In the farm-to-table space, chefs (and consumers) might find it challenging to source local produce as producers may typically only supply one type of product. There might be one producer that grows a certain type of vegetable, while another company might bake bread. One producer may sell fish, while other producers might supply different types of meats. FoodTech firms, however, are looking to tackle that challenge by making it easier and more convenient to buy farm-to-table produce through many different producers — and to find them in the first place.

To tackle this challenge, WhatsGood aims to connect customers with these producers through an Instacart-like farm-to-table service. It facilitates “more convenient accessibility of fresh, healthy local food,” Co-Founder and CEO Matt Tortora told PYMNTS in an interview. The platform functions like a grocery store where customers can shop all the different product categories. It also deploys warehouse-less logistics to allow for convenient delivery to homes as well as workplaces.

Customers download the app through the Apple App Store or Google Play and sign up for the service and choose the market that suits them. It offers delivery or convenient pickup locations in the community as it has partnerships with breweries, libraries and workplaces. They can buy from all sorts of companies, and Tortora says they shop seamlessly from various producers when they see, say, free-range eggs or pastured meats.

Shoppers can add those items to their carts and place their orders with a single checkout. And, Tortora said, “It really gives the local food producer a lot of value” when it comes to being able to get paid directly. At the same time, Tortora noted the technology has been adopted by farmers markets nationally (the company white labels its product as well).

The Products and Vendors

When it comes to product selection on WhatsGood for pickup or delivery, products range from microgreens to bread products and seafood. The company doesn’t offer only organic selections because many producers are making food at a small scale (with a lot of responsibility of how they do that). The platform, too, has its parameters regardless of whether a producer has an organic certification. Pork, for instance, has to be pastured and can’t be in confinement or indoors. Vegetables and produce have to be pesticide-free and follow organic practices.

The company recently launched its service in Boston, where producers have to be able to drive to the city within two hours. (That opens the door for producers from Southern Maine, New Hampshire, Western Massachusetts and Rhode Island.) The neat thing about each geographic area, Tortora notes, is “It gives us the opportunity to work with different producers.” Hackmatack Farm, which is one of the last remaining bison farms in the Northeast, is on the platform, for instance.  Customers, however, won’t see generalized local sources.

Vendors can sign up through the company’s website or mobile app, and they receive payment through their checking accounts. For deliveries, the company does milk-run logistics. Drivers meet at an aggregation hub and execute a delivery over four hours with consistent hours and days, according to Tortora. When it comes to geography, Rhode Island, where the company is based, has advantages for a startup. Tortora said it’s easy to receive feedback in a small and sound market, where one can hear things quickly.

There is not a lot of noise like in Boston and New York. As a result, he says it’s an ideal petri dish for experimenting with new technology, a product or a service. His overall vision, however, is to deploy the service to about every major market that exists in the United States that has an ecosystem or local food producers and communities of people who want to support them. He also thinks that his company offers a product that aligns with how consumers behave today — they can go on an app or website and get pretty much anything they want at any given time delivered to them.

With the help of technology, along with local producers, entrepreneurs are looking to change the way that farm-to-table produce and proteins are sold in the digital age.

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