CrowdFarming network provides a one-stop shop for getting fresh produce to your customer's door - Liberty

Sunday, October 1, 2023

CrowdFarming network provides a one-stop shop for getting fresh produce to your customer's door


Sergio Quijada Domínguez: "Regular distributors have raised prices significantly." Photo: Courtesy of CrowdFarming.

Quitting a police job to grow passionfruit is an unconventional career move.

Quijada, who grows about 1,500 plants on his farm near Velez Malaga in southern Spain, has found passion fruit to be his specialty.

"It was a tool I was missing," he says. “We had our own products and wanted to sell directly to consumers, but we had no choice, and authorized distributors increased our prices significantly.”

The man who delivered the cardboard packing case proposed cloud farming, which is responsible for management and logistics and directly connects customers and farmers.

CrowdFarming was founded in 2017 by orange farmer Gonzalo Úrculo and his brother Gabriel. The site currently hosts 182 farms in 12 countries with half a million consumers.

“In the traditional system, supermarkets set the final selling price based on the consumer's willingness to pay,” says Gonzalo Úrculo. “This will determine how much the supermarket will pay the supplier, and the supplier will have to deal with other intermediaries.

Gonzalo and Gabriel Úrculo: “Our oranges are still cheaper than the average price of organic oranges in the countries where we sell them.” Photo credit: CrowdFarming.

He adds that oranges are in transit or stored for at least three weeks before being purchased in Nordic supermarkets. But at CrowdFarming, customers get better, fresher, and cheaper products in exchange for direct relationships with growers.

"We pick oranges only when we need them," he says. “Once you place an order, you get it the next day, within three days. The oranges are still cheaper than the average price of organic oranges in the countries where we sell.”

Less than three years after launching the CrowdFarming website, Úrculo was able to quit his day job and focus on running his brother's organic orange farm in Valencia.

When my brother was sick and had to plant 10,000 trees, someone asked for help and I went to get it. All three payments were completed within one year. Across the platform, 188,842 trees, plants or fields were recruited.

Kelly Goh has worked with CrowdFarming since they started their Oro chocolate business in the Philippines. She buys cocoa beans from a series of cooperatives and goes through a process of fermentation and drying before making chocolate.

“We pay farmers 30 to 50 percent more than the market price,” says Go. “Compared to West African farmers, our farmers earn almost twice as much. We also cover the cost of organic farm certification, which helps raise awareness.”

Auro produces about one tonne of chocolate daily and sells about 70% of it in the Philippines. Like other users of the CrowdFarming platform, her biggest international client is Germany, where there is a high demand for organically produced goods.

Nicola de Gregorio uses old grain varieties to make handmade pasta for Fastquera in Cammarata, central Sicily. Unlike traditional pasta, which dries quickly at high temperatures, the grain harvested from the conventional Sicilian Tumminia and Ruslida varieties is ground and the pasta is traditionally dried over several days.

De Gregorio joined the CrowdFarming platform in 2019 and says, "Having direct relationships with our clients has helped us weather Covid."

According to De Gregorio, most of Fastuchera's customers are in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, where wheat field adopters often visit the farms.

“People are willing to pay more because they know they are supporting quality-oriented agriculture with minimal environmental impact,” he says.

Sustainable farming is also a focus for Quijada, which sells passion fruit primarily to customers in Belgium, France, and Germany, and the platform shares that philosophy, he says.

In addition to facilitating producer-consumer contact, CrowdFarming minimizes environmental impact by minimizing transportation.

“Obviously, we can't compete with Colombia or Vietnam, where passion fruit grows wild, but Europe is huge. It's big enough to buy all the passion fruit, avocados, and mangoes we grow in Spain,” says Quijada.

In a traditional supply chain, farmers sell to middlemen, who transport their produce to warehouses and then sell it to supermarket chains, who then distribute it to local stores. After that, the consumer has to go to the supermarket. CrowdFarming ships directly from farmers to consumers, and the platform ensures that different orders to the same destination are grouped together, so the trucks are always full.

The system benefits producers and consumers as well as the environment, says Urculo. “Buying food directly from farmers is the most powerful daily act anyone can do to create a positive social and environmental impact,” he says.