New Jersey Ag News
Site seeks to connect growers, distributors
By JONATHAN CRIBBS
PRINCETON (Aug. 15, 2015) — A local tech entrepreneur hopes to make it easier for nearby farmers and agricultural distributors to reach retail customers over the Internet.
Think of it like GrubHub for farmers with an Uber-like delivery service.
The site, 47FARMS, is set to debut next month in the Princeton area and eventually St. Louis, where its owner, Alex Cardona, said he has contacts.
He said he chose the New Jersey region because, for one, he lives there.
But it’s also ripe for this type of service.
It’s the Garden State after all.
“In the suburbs, there’s a real opportunity or a lack of access to healthy food systems,” he said. He wants to “improve the access of healthy foods and healthy food systems to local customers and local businesses.”
Not unlike similar sites such as Farmigo or Good Eggs in the San Francisco area, 47FARMS links up with local producers or wholesalers to create an online food market for residents who want all types of locally produced food whether it’s produce, meat, dairy or artisanal goodies such as jam or salsa.
Site users select the food they want from the producers they want — say, for instance, herbs from Princely Greens, an insecticide- and pesticide-free producer in nearby Trenton. Or Comarco Products Inc. in Camden. The company’s 47FARMS profile currently offers eggplant and green and yellow squash.
Customers order what they want, and it’s delivered to their doors based on the production schedules of the producers. That process is still being ironed out, Cardona said, but they plan to use an Uber-like system where independent deliverymen are paid by the order. To start, he said he’d be among those making deliveries.
For growers who agree to become vendors on the site, 47FARMS promotes their certifications and will even shoot video of their operation as they did for Princely Greens.
Users can also search for products or producers based on which are closest to their home.
The site currently has two producers in talks to sell directly through the site though many other farmers and operations have created profiles on 47FARMS.
Farmers have generally been receptive to the idea, though it occasionally takes encouragement from their younger counterparts, said Jonathan Itzler, an intern with the site from Princeton High School.
“It’s definitely new for some of them,” he said. “Maybe the [farmer’s] son, he’ll be like … ‘This could actually increase the sales a lot.’”
Cardona said he and a team of partners, including a designer and developer, first began work on the site in April. He has a background working for various companies, including Monsanto and DuPont, as a supply chain consultant.
He’s also founder and CEO of the SKC Group, a startup that develops supply chain management software for the agricultural industry. The company produced two apps last year, one designed to ease management and operations for American farmers, the other developed for African farmers tracking maize sales.
That work helped 47FARMS come together quickly, Cardona said.
“We had already processed through some of these ideas and some of the technology,” he said.
Eventually, he said he’d like to spread the site to other regions in New Jersey and beyond. As a business, the site has low overheard and plenty of opportunity to expand — the key to many recent online business service success stories such as Uber.
“We want to generate a good list of suppliers and products,” Itzler said.
The site can be accessed at www.47farms.com.