“The food supply system doesn’t let the farmer know where their food ends up and how much it gets sold for,” explains entrepreneur Chris Damico. “The buyers, on the other end, don’t know where it’s coming from or the reason for the pricing.”
To solve this lack of transparency, Damico tapped into his experience in both the restaurant and software industries to find a solution for an often-complex business transaction that can leave farmers economically crippled.
“The commercial food system is very middle man-heavy,” says Damico. “Locally-sourced food is the fastest growing segment in the last decade, both in the restaurant industry and agriculture. It’s leading the way.”
According to Damico, farmers can often receive 16 cents on the dollar after dealing with middle men.
“The supply chain, from distributors to wholesalers, lacks transparency and pricing,” says Damico. “One of my partners is a fourth generation farmer and I asked him what he thought about my idea. He joined me and we started to meet farmers all over the state of Georgia and figuring out the barriers they’re facing. Farmers are the ultimate entrepreneur.”
That’s how the idea for Farm’d was sprouted.
Farm’d is a digital marketplace for chefs and farmers to help chefs streamline their produce suppliers and farmers take charge of their pricing. Better yet, the farmers get direct feedback from the chefs on quality and usage so they can improve their product.
“Most chefs spend their time dealing with multiple suppliers so our platform allows a buyer or chef to have all of their suppliers in one place — vegetables, poultry, beef, pork, dairy products, and more,” says Damico. Each farm can add photos of their current haul and chefs can buy directly online.
Aside from the transparency, Damico and his team found that the second biggest hurdle for farmers to sell directly to customers was logistics. The set out to solve this challenge by doing something he calls a “collaborative logistics approach”.
“Instead of six farms driving the food in from all over the state of Georgia to make deliveries, we have one driver pick orders from six farms and we deliver it to the back door of the customer,” says Damico. “We’ve partnered with the Georgia Tech Supply Chain and Logistics Institute to prove that these routes work, after you figure out the logistics costs across the community, and use existing assets that were already on the road.”
Their revenue model is similar to the sharing economy model — there’s a commission for every sale and a small fee for logistics. “Ultimately the farm is getting 5x more of the dollar, so it’s very favorable for both sides,” says Damico.
“Our customers are already selling to commercial customers, but we integrate the software into their business for them to do that much more efficiently. Our community manager team manages and supports the farmers if they have any issues and we have direct messaging for the chefs and the farms.”
Since the platform launched in January, Farm’d has recruited 35 Georgia farms with service industry clients in the restaurant industry, hotels, senior home living, and more. They raised a $1.1 million pre-seed round last September and they’re ramping up to start fundraising for their seed round this spring.
“More and more, people want to get food from their communities and near the places they live. At the end of the day, putting farmers and chefs first is really our mission and ultimately we will reach a more sustainable food supply,” says Damico.