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Local food trend fuels online farmers market models

Retailers aren't the only ones competing for customers' fresh produce dollars these days. These tech-fueled companies deliver fresh groceries to their front doors.

In a sort of inevitable trend, companies are popping up around the country selling local, fresh produce—à la farmers markets—through online platforms, bringing pre-ordered, farm-fresh fruits and vegetables and other groceries directly to customers’ front doors. Some are hyper-local, while others aim to serve a bigger region. Here's a glimpse at a few.

WildKale is set up to allow customers to order food directly from local farmers who harvest and prepare it to order, and customers receive it the next business day. Customers can communicate with the farmers directly about their specific order—or not. WildKale currently partners with 30 farmers in the Northeast, with plans to expand nationwide.

Farmstead is the newest on the block, launched earlier this month in the Bay Area with a stated mission to deliver farm-fresh produce while minimizing the rampant problem of food waste in the grocery industry. It uses AI technology to calculate and then predict consumer habits in order to determine “how much food to order from local sources daily, weekly, seasonally and annually.” Farmstead offers free delivery for regular weekly customers, $3.99 for regular delivery and $4.99 for one-hour delivery.

“Thanks to our machine learning technology, we can mindfully stock our micro-warehouse shelves based only on demand, only delivering what customers need and ending each week with as few perishables as possible,” said CEO Pradeep Elankumaran. “By stocking a constellation of micro-warehouses along the Bay Area’s Peninsula with just the right amount of fresh, local, minimally packaged foods, Farmstead delivery drivers are algorithmically routed to use the most efficient, traffic-free, eco-friendly routes that result in less pollution.”

Good Eggs is another Bay Area online grocer with a somewhat roller-coaster existence so far. Things are looking up, though; the company sells local produce, meat and baked goods and an increasing number of everyday staples, with same-day delivery. It recently added dinner kits—perhaps the only online grocer with such an offering.

The hyper-local models seem to adopt more of a hybrid approach, blending an online grocer with CSA-style pickups, or just less-frequent delivery options.

Market Wagon started connecting food producers with customers in three regions of Indiana in 2016. Formerly FarmersMarket.com, Market Wagon appeals to vendors by allowing them to decide what to sell, how much of it and how to display and price it; the company takes a percentage from the vendors, and delivers products either to a market host location for customer pickup, or offers home delivery for an extra charge. 

Bella Bean Organics sells mostly local, organic items, but does also offer non-local produce and dairy as well. It updates its online market with new specials every Wednesday and takes orders until Friday night for delivery the next week, allowing farmers, artisans and bakers time to harvest or make or bake accordingly. Bella Bean offers $5 delivery for its driving area within North Carolina and will ship elsewhere for a higher fee.

WyoFresh sells locally grown or locally produced groceries, including some body care products, in southeast Wyoming. WyoFresh operates on a monthly ordering cycle: customers order during the first two weeks of the month, pay online and select a pickup site, and then pick up the order on the specified day.

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