Company to 'make it really easy for people to connect with farmers'
By LACEY JARRELL
EUGENE, Ore. -- Consumers just got a little more connected to their food.
Thanks to a $46,000 grant, Local Food Marketplace, a mobile application software company based in Eugene, Ore., is almost ready to release its smartphone technology aimed at creating customized directories for locally grown food.
"People interact differently on phones than online. We're trying to create technology that will revolutionize the local food market and make it really easy for people to connect with farmers," said Doug Frazier, Local Food Marketplace co-founder and chief technology officer.
In 2009 Frazier and his partner, Amy McCann, began organizing Local Food Marketplace with an idea to combine the power of e-commerce with local agriculture to make fresh food more readily available to consumers. The first mobile iOS and Android Marketplace pilot was released in June, and McCann, co-founder and CEO, said participating farms have already begun receiving orders.
"We'll start our second pilot in one or two weeks -- the plan is to do three pilots and then a full commercial release," McCann said.
The app is not designed to serve as a marketplace itself, but to complement existing websites where farm products are already being connected with buyers. Local Food Marketplace is free to users, and is being marketed as "white-label," meaning its template is generic, but can be tailored to fit product sellers' brand or seasonal needs. Sellers can update, change or add and remove products on their website, which then updates the mobile app.
"The cool thing about this app is that any small entity we serve would not be able to make this because it would be prohibitively expensive," McCann said. "We license to companies and they decide how they want to use it."
Jason Stubbs, owner of Clearwater Farm in Creswell, Ore., sells fresh eggs, beef, and garden produce like radishes, cabbage and cauliflower through Eugene Local Foods, a longstanding aggregate website that connects Willamette Valley growers and buyers. Stubbs said his experience with online commerce has been positive because it offers more freedom than the structure of a typical farmers' market. Based on his history with ELF, which part of the Local Food Marketplace pilot, Stubbs is anticipating the added flexibility the mobile app will allow.
"I can do it from the field or the truck," Stubbs said. "It's just a better way to manage products."
Oregon is already known for FoodHub, an online community of nearly 5,000 buyers, sellers, associates and distributors aimed at facilitating business-to-business interactions in six western states.
Unlike FoodHub, Local Food Marketplace allows businesses and farms to decide what type of customer interaction they are seeking. As of now, it has its sights set on nationwide commerce as far east as Philadelphia. Based on feedback from growers and consumers during the pilot testing, Frazier hopes release the app to the public by late August.