Growers sell direct to local customers via online facility

A web-based community is enabling independent growers and farmers to sell direct to customers in their area while keeping a larger share of the price, the Rijk Zwaan UK organic open day heard.

FarmDrop: money goes straight from customer accounts to growers
FarmDrop: money goes straight from customer accounts to growers

FarmDrop co-founder Ben Patten said: "It's a bit like eBay - money goes straight from your customer's account to yours - and there's no sign-up fee." A local organiser, termed a "keeper", co-ordinates the process for a 10 per cent commission. The supplier gets 80 per cent, with eight per cent going to FarmDrop and two per cent transaction costs.

A grocery shop in London that he used to supply "cost too much so the produce was too expensive", said Patten, while farmers' markets are highly weather-dependent. This way "the supplier gets a bigger slice while also giving the customer a lower price".

Patten said customers' growing familiarity with online shopping gave the idea "a tailwind", adding: "The volume of online grocery sales will double in the next four years. Already 80 per cent of shoppers have used click-and-collect."

The growers receive a picking list on Sunday nights detailing what orders to bring to a single collection point three days later. So far, the collection points have been "mostly pubs" but also libraries, he added.

In operation since May, there are now 18 FarmDrop sites. The business has raised more than £400,000 in start- up capital through a crowdfunding campaign. Soil Association head of horticulture Ben Raskin said: "It's potentially game-changing for smaller growers looking to access consumers directly."


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