Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
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Online Market for Agriculture Undergoes Testing

Farmers could sell directly to restaurants

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Bay Area start-up FarmsReach is currently working on developing and implementing a new communication system between farmers and restaurants that will make it easier for the latter to contact and purchase foods directly from small, local farms, thus eliminating all the middlemen. The move, which addresses a state of affairs that has remained unchanged for centuries – namely the way the US does its agriculture – could have important consequences on the interactions between producers and retailers, and may ultimately benefit everyone other than those uselessly now in the loop.

Passing food through distributors and countless middlemen is economically unsound, economists say, except for when you are transporting thousands of tonnes of food around the globe. But doing so in small communities, where restaurants are often located just miles away from the fields, translates into useless costs, which, in turn, drive up the price of the end product. “The food supply industry is ripe for ‘disintermediation’ because of the Internet,” Alistair Croll, a consultant for the start-up, said.

“The big problem in small agriculture is supply chain resiliency. Chefs order from Sysco because they know, no matter what, they’ll get their orders or there is an account rep they can strangle,” the expert added, quoted by Wired. Sysco is currently the largest food distributor in the Unites States, and moves around $13 billion worth of products at very low costs, regardless of the weather, floods and so on. As a result, most restaurants order online using this service, rather than supporting their local markets.

According to the plan FarmsReach envisions, all farmers would have to do to “get on the map” will be to buy a smartphone. They could then snap pictures of their products, and upload them into “virtual stalls,” which would look similar to real ones, on the producer market. Restaurants would then have access to all these stalls, and could select the things they want directly from there. The system would also address a growing trend among restaurant chefs, of wanting to know more data about the products they are buying. By buying online, they could get a full picture of how the farm and producers look like.

“It would be awesome if people who don’t have an hour and a half to go to the farmer’s market could just log on, place their order from a combined list of what everybody’s got for the week and go pick it up. That would take the availability of that food to a whole group of different people, which would be good. But I don’t see us owning a fleet of trucks,” the Director of Local Harvest, Eric Barnett. shared. He leads the largest website connecting producers with end-users at this point.


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