While IFC’s Portlandia brilliantly mocked the lengths some people go to discover the source of their food, farm to table is no laughing matter. It’s a movement that’s sweeping across the nation. Today, Americans want to eat healthier and support their local communities, but don’t have the time or patience to do so. Atlanta-based Local Roots wants to put farm fresh food on your table with a beautifully constructed new app that launched yesterday.
Founded by Doug Calahan, “Local Roots is the first delivery platform that directly connects local farmers with consumers in metropolitan areas across the country,” he says. “Available on the iPhone, Local Roots displays farmers’ delivery schedules and inventories, enables consumers to place orders, and facilitates home delivery. Local Roots aims to nationally foster sustainable communities that include local farmers and their primary customers.”
Calahan noticed the changing eating trends and saw an opportunity. “Consumers want local, organic food and are willing to pay for it (the US organic market is estimated to be $42B in 2014),” he explains. “However, buying local can be challenging for most people,” he says. “Farmers’ markets and CSAs are great for farmers, but don’t usually fit within consumers’ schedules. There are a host of new services in most major cities that try to fill the consumer demand by re-creating the existing food warehouse/distribution systems, but doing so with organics as the base. This is a great additional step for consumers, but the margins are pretty awful for organic farmers (we just had a farmer in our offices yesterday who said that Whole Foods is paying him $.20 to $.25 on the dollar). We had to find a way to get local, organic food directly to the consumer, but to do so in a way that helped to increase farmers’ margins. We think we’ve accomplished that with Local Roots.”
Local Roots’ founder, Doug Calahan, and CTO, Doug Wait, both have a strong entrepreneurial pedigree. In 1995, Calahan founded, bootstrapped, and grew Argo Systems, a financial software for the media industry. In his first go around, he says he, “learned what not to do. When I started Argo, I was 25-26 years old and didn’t know how to run a company. There’s lots of little things you can do a whole lot better. Managing people is the biggest thing,” he recalls. Wait, on the other hand, has worked in software engineering for many companies over the past 20 years. “My diverse background plays well in a startup environment,” he says.
Their experience with technology has allowed them to build an app they’re proud of.“We leveraged technology to divide the United States and the world into neighborhoods,” says Calahan. “We’re extremely neighborhood focused. We use neighborhood data sets to link up farmers with customers.” “We’re using as much open source and third party parts as we can,” explains Wait. “It’s built on Node JS and is pretty state of the art. The power of the tooling that’s available today is incredible. We were able to put this together pretty quickly, given how advanced it is. The app is really simple and simple is hard to build.”
As Atlanta residents, Calahan and Wait are also proud to build Local Roots in Georgia’s capital. “Atlanta is a great first market for us,” says Calahan. “We have a huge, young professional population that is living a healthy life and demanding healthy food. The demand here is massive. We also have a fairly large number of organic farms within an easy drive to Atlanta. For us, Atlanta is home. Although the VCs would prefer that we move to California, there is no chance that we’ll do so. We love it here.” They also agree that the city helped make Local Roots possible. “For one, it helped Doug and I find each other,” jokes Wait.
To date, they’ve received seed funding from West Coast firm New Enterprise Associates. “We understand how fortunate we are to have received that,” says Calahan. “We want to get the product off the ground and a few months after launch, we’d like to get more funding.” Download Local Roots for iOS in the App Store today to get farm fresh food on your table.