Fraser Valley startup makes farm-to-table food more accessible to locals

Mar 30 2021, 8:25 am

The arrival of spring brings abundant opportunities to revive our regular lineup of dishes with produce now in season. But unless you’re buying fruits and vegetables directly from the source, is there any way to know you’re getting the best quality items?

Abbotsford-based startup DirectFood.store removes the guesswork from the equation, giving consumers a convenient avenue to purchasing fresh, local, and organic ingredients — straight from local farmers and vendors. As such, it makes farm-to-table dining possible at home.

The company offers a first-of-its-kind sustainable solution for grocery shopping with a zero-waste system. It doesn’t have any warehouses; all food ordered is picked up directly from the farms or vendors in the morning and delivered to customers later that day.

Not only does DirectFood.store give exposure and business to over 50 local farmers and vendors, but it also helps eliminate food waste and reduces environmental impact as farmers know exactly how much they need to harvest or package on any given day.

DirectFood.store is part of i-Open Group and started as a division of Wisebox Solutions — a tech firm that has been building business process software and e-commerce solutions for over two decades. Last year, the company was awarded a $1 million co-investment by the Digital Technology Supercluster program.

But the platform’s launch was fast-tracked due to the pandemic and a growing consumer need for quick groceries. “There was a need for fresh food without the risk or hassle of going to the grocery store,” Colin Schmidt, Senior VP of Product Management at DirectFood.store, told Daily Hive.

When the DirectFood.store team saw that some of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the Fraser Valley were at food processing plants, coupled with the uncertainty of supply chains during the early days of the first wave, they realized there had to be a more resilient way to get food to market.

“The popularity and success of all the roadside stands in the Fraser Valley showed a clear desire from farmers to sell direct and consumers to drive all over the place to pick up food direct from farmers,” said Schmidt.

He continued, “The best solution was pretty obvious then: allow farmers to sell direct to consumers but within a marketplace so that they can be discovered, while also providing free delivery that would otherwise be very expensive for them individually.”

Free delivery of local food straight from farms and vendors is something that sets DirectFood.store apart from other online grocery service platforms in BC.

“If you order from five farms, you get five different receipts and five different charges on your card direct from each farm,” said Schmidt. Separate invoices and card charges reinforce that you’re buying direct, even though you have the convenience of shopping in a shared regional marketplace with all food ordered arriving in one delivery.

“Our unique many-to-many delivery model and logistics software shorten the supply chain to enable just-in-time harvesting. As a result, the food is fresher and healthier while limiting food waste and environmental impact,” said Schmidt.

The process of placing an order via DirectFood.store is straightforward, allowing customers to add the items they desire to their cart as they go, whether fruit, dairy products, vegetables, meat, seafood, condiments, or liquor, to name a few products.

After going through the easy-to-follow steps on the website, orders are sent to farms and vendors across the Greater Vancouver area for preparation. “Our delivery drivers then go across the Lower Mainland, picking up all of the fresh food from the farms and delivering to the farms’ customers,” said Schmidt.

The company maintains a small carbon footprint as all food delivered by its team of drivers falls within a 79-kilometre range.

Japonica Environment Farm Ltd./DirectFood.store

While BC is the first operating region for DirectFood.store, the company is also launching in the US market this quarter, starting in Charleston, South Carolina.

Giving back remains important to DirectFood.store during this time of growth. The startup is rooted in the local community through its Food Access Initiative and works with the Pacific Autism Family Network and the Cyrus Centre. “Through this program, we connect with community organizations that help people in need,” noted Schmidt.

Delivery is always free for orders placed via DirectFood.store, and there’s typically a minimum order amount of $45. But from now through the end of May, the platform has waived the order size fee, giving locals even more of a reason to try out this new service.

To learn more about the strives DirectFood.store is making in the grocery delivery industry and to place your first order, visit DirectFood.store now.

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