Forager Digitizes the Buying and Selling Process for Sourcing Local Food

David Stone, founder of Forager, a startup that launched in 2017, is driven to make locally sourced food more widely available by removing the cost and complexity in the procurement process.

Forager’s cloud-based platform currently connects more than 250 farmers across the U.S. with local grocers and co-ops, allowing producers the means to reach beyond competitive, saturated farmers markets and the limited scope of roadside stands, to more reliable distribution channels.

Local food is the No. 1 product consumers look for when shopping at the grocery store. According to Stone, “The trend is so strong that 67% of consumers will actually switch grocers to find local food. The market is growing fast; more and more consumers are wanting and demanding the freshest, the healthiest, highest quality food that is available.”

How it Works

Forager’s solution kicks off the sourcing process by streamlining the messy exchange between growers and retailers, which typically is a mixed bag of paperwork, faxes, emails, and phone calls.

“The classic example we had early on when we started this company was one grocer with six locations and a warehouse. On Sunday night, during the height of the season, he would receive 30 to 40 individual emails from farmers with their product lists in them, sometimes as many as 20 or 30 products with prices, and he would print them, put them out on the table, then input them into a Google Sheet and individually email each one of them back. And that’s just one process. Not even the rest of the order delivery, receiving, and payments process work,” says Stone.

Forager’s online dashboard serves as an Availability Manager (AVM), a database into which producers input all of their products for sale. The listings can be turned on and off based on inventory and edited as prices change. All of this can be done remotely and is reflected in real time. Forager recently debuted a new feature that makes the AVM more flexible. Growers can now make their list available to multiple buyers, tailored with different pricing and products, and editable with just a few taps from a smartphone.

Buyers have access to each grower’s AVM and utilize the platform for communication, ordering, delivery, and even payment.

Opportunity to Innovate

Forager not only provides a streamlined beginning-to-end process, it clearly displays supply and helps standardize data for buyers and producers, both essential to an efficient marketplace.

When a consumer enters a grocery store, they expect quality products available on demand. “If you’re a grocer and you’re concerned about consumer demand and margins, product assortment, and all the rest of the things that make your business – if you have no data, it makes it very difficult to plan and price and partner with your farmers,” says Stone. “The stakes are higher, ergo; the growers need to have a higher degree of sophistication of planning. The farmers, on a sort of base level, from the strategic level, they didn’t have the tools.”

Further, if you are a buyer looking for more local suppliers or a farmer with excess product to sell, Forager can bridge the gap.

Kate Del Vecchio, co-owner of Tender Soles Farm in Richmond, Maine, owns 45 acres of land and grows myriad products including mixed organic vegetables, herbs, cut flowers, blackberries, blueberries, and apples.

“We crop between 1 and 1.5 acres each year, with another 1.5 in cover crops. We will hire one or two part-time people this year to help on the farm. We have a farm stand, winter and summer CSA (community supported agriculture), and we wholesale our crops within a 30-mile radius.”

Del Vecchio uses Forager to communicate with local retailers and manage the cumbersome process of inventorying such a large variety of products. “I would have to cut and paste my availability list into emails to send out each week and then edit the list based on the availability each week. With Forager I can easily tag the item as being available or not and have a full library of all my crops available for me to choose from, so I don’t have to retype the item, description, and price each time they become available over the course of the year.”

For Stone and for the producer, ease of use is key. “It (Forager) is a very light piece of software; we did this intentionally so there would be very few barriers for the farmer. Everything we do can be managed from their inbox, just like they do now. They don’t need anything special; they don’t need to download an application. It’s all in the cloud in a web online form.”

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