An Austin, Texas startup is trying to help people establish better relationships with local farmers.
The startup, called CitySprout, serves as a virtual farmers’ market, connecting customers directly with Austin-area food growers through an online network.
The concept isn’t new. A number of startups are currently trying to capitalise on the locavore food trend.
“We want our customers to be able to build relationships with their local food merchants,” CitySprout CEO Will Trienens said in an interview with Business Insider. “We’re not packaging any of the food in warehouses, like some of our competitors… When our customers buy honey, they actually pick it up from the beekeeper.”
The company wants to simply be a “conduit” for farmers to sell their meat, produce and other products, he said. In return, the company charges a 20% fee to the farmers.
“This is the eBay for local food,” Trienens said. “We want to be as removed from the actual process as possible.”
Here’s how it works: The website allows consumers to “join” a pickup location where the farmers will deliver their groceries. Each location has a separate web page, where users can connect with each other to discuss recipes, comment on specific produce, or vote on pickup dates and times.
When farmers select a pickup location as part of their delivery route, their produce becomes available to the customers who are members of that location. Customers can then make orders online.
Here’s an example of available produce from various farms:
CitySprout members can also “sponsor” a new pickup location and solicit friends, coworkers or neighbours to join the location via email or social media.
The online tools enable customers to establish and grow their own communities of local food enthusiasts.
Since launching with one pickup location last February, CitySprout is now adding roughly 1,000 members weekly. The company has 11,000 members total and is seeking $US2 million in their second round of financing.
The next step for the company will be expanding into a new market, Trienens said.
First on the list for possible expansion is Boston, followed by Dallas and Portland.
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