Farm Fare is a software platform that allows small-scale producers and food hubs to work collaboratively through a shared marketplace and management platform while sharing high-cost infrastructure that already exists in a region.
A food hub is a small food warehouse that works with small- and medium-sized farmers in their vicinity. Food hubs have sprung into prominence in the last decade — often co-locating in rural locations with proximity to a major metro area — as a solution to bring family farms diversified revenue streams and/or alternatives to farmers market sales. A food hub serves as a one-stop shop for buyers, wholesale and household alike, offering a single point of contact from which to access a number of different producers.
Notably, local food has gained the least amount of market share in wholesale channels such as processors, grocery chains, hospitals, and/or schools, as these customers require large volumes at a low cost. Food hubs’ difficulty serving these accounts are due to gaps in product availability, price efficiency and efficient distribution logistics.
Farm Fare custom-built a platform that enables farmers and food hubs to more widely and easily access wholesale channels across an entire region. The key to our model is in the power of collaboration. Food hubs in a self-identified region share inventory on a common platform; this aggregated listing allows wholesale buyers to have more diverse and consistent access to products from the region than a single farm or hub can offer independently.
It allows food hubs, meanwhile, to identify and share expensive infrastructure (ie: warehouses, coolers, trucks, human resources). Beyond SaaS, Farm Fare also provides logistics and distribution services to manage the outbound freight of all cooperating food hubs. Rather than owning a delivery fleet or employing drivers directly, Farm Fare contracts with existing, underutilized food delivery trucks to complete local food routes. The networked food hubs are used as distribution nodes, and the entire region benefits from what we call “economies of collaboration” — a type of horizontal integration of independently operated entities — to lower costs.
While this model is a proven catalyst for larger market sales, the impact is further multiplied over time when we incentivise soil health by granting market priority to farmers who implement soil regenerative practices. The intersection of supply (inventory), demand (sales) and soil metrics must be comprehensively tracked as part of a robust local food economy. Farm Fare is in the process of redesigning the software to better measure these analytics. Combining these three data sets on a single platform allows farmers to better plan around tillage, inputs, crop rotation, cover cropping and other soil health-building practices as it aligns with their annual, rotating, regional market. Soil is dynamic, as are markets, and we must sync these two complex ecosystems for improved outcomes for both.
Farm fare intervenes in our current food system through the use of a systems solution. They identified an issue in the current market where local food suppliers are not used for wholesale accounts. Therefore, their product offers a unique opportunity to connect local parts of the system through a digital interface that does the legwork of building relationships with local distributors, for them.
This approach offers key insight to how my thesis can evolve moving forward. In past research, the notion of moving towards a decentralized food system to both create resiliency and offer more sustainable food production comes up frequently. Farm fare offers an example of how this step towards decentralization may look. They have intervened in a unique way to allow for more localized food systems to occur and this will provide valuable insight moving forward.