Online shopping for local food
From box schemes to ethical supermarkets, online shopping platforms bring growing opportunities for local producers.
Farmdrop is an ethical online ‘supermarket’. Their website advertises produce from hundreds of independent producers, directly connecting them with citizens.
Their business model proves that working with multiple producers to meet the needs of lots of people can work – and be profitable!
Challenges for small producers
As much as many farmers would like it to be, running a farming business isn’t just about producing food.
Getting citizens to buy your produce takes a lot of work. First, they have to hear about it, trust that it’s fresh and tasty, and then understand how to purchase it. Making sure that all runs smoothly, alongside being out on the farm harvesting, is very difficult – especially for newcomers to the market.
Having smaller areas of land and fewer staff, means they’re likely to produce less food than bigger businesses. Maintaining access to market is challenging if producers have any obstacles to consistently making the minimum orders for their suppliers.
This has a knock-on effect too. If contracts can’t be kept and customer orders are irregular or inconsistent, this, in turn, makes it harder to plan ahead and invest in growth.
Creating food hubs for more opportunities
Farmdrop is an online grocer innovating to make sure their business has independent farmers and producers at its heart - and supports them to succeed.
The Farmdrop website lists products from hundreds of local businesses allowing small producers to have direct contact with London food shoppers.
When harvesting their crops, producers can match them to customer orders, rather than pushing themselves to meet big supplier production targets. This gives them flexibility to offer only what they have available, and adapt over time to shoppers’ demands.
"The Farmdrop app sends real-time customer orders to 300 or so producers, who let us know what they have available and in what quantities. Daily harvest lists are then sent through by midday, so the producers can get the food to our hubs later that day. The produce is then delivered to customers' homes the following day." – Ben Pugh, Farmdrop founder
Promotion and payments are taken care of on the Farmdrop website, and the Farmdrop team’s strong-held values mean they offer the producers fairer prices.
“Working with Farmdrop has been great for business, as a small-scale mixed farmer you are often pulled in lots of different directions. Farmdrop handle all the marketing, admin and invoicing which has enabled Purton House to concentrate on what they do best, growing and producing fabulous food”. – Rowie Meers, Purton House Organics
Purton House receive regular and consistent orders from Farmdrop, giving Rowie the confidence to employ permanent, local staff and invest in developing their facilities to meet demand.
Farmdrop offers the technical means for small, independent producers to work together. And selling all their produce through a single platform helps increase the visibility and availability of local and organic food.
Outlook for the future
With a growing number of box schemes and home delivery options there are more opportunities for small producers to join together and use home delivery platforms to shorten their supply chains.
We hope more opportunities will arise for small producers to join together and use technology to shorten their supply chains. Platforms like Farmdrop are great for shoppers too, giving them the means to enjoy fresh, local food, that’s delivered right to their doorstep.
Our thanks to Friends Provident Foundation, who kindly funded a project carried out by the Soil Association to explore possibilities in supply chains.