RALEIGH — Technology is changing the face of local food access by bringing together both the producers and the sellers more efficiently.
Freshspire is an app that can quickly help farmers find a buyer for their product or can help a restaurant or grocery store easily identify a local farm to supply them with the fresh foods they need. The rapid communication combined with the ability to grow a sustainable food network also helps to reduce food waste.
“Freshspire is technology that helps grocery stores, restaurants and wholesalers get local foods more efficiently,” said the company’s CEO and Co-Founder, Shraddha Rathod.
“We saw a communication gap between local farmers and vendors and said, hey how can we make that communication more robust using technology?” Rathod said.
The app creates a virtual marketplace for both parties to find each other through a far less time-consuming method such as cold calling or having to physically go to a location to sell or buy food.
“What we see are that buyers’ current methods to order are through a call or an email,” said Rathod. “And Freshspire speeds up that contact and [we] have been able to cut order times by 50 percent.”
By using the app, orders can be placed within minutes, managed in one place, and users can customize their own marketplace by inviting favorite sellers/buyers or by searching for new farms and partner sources.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture there are around 46,400 farms across the Tarheel state with roughly 87% of them being family run. Broilers (poultry) and hogs are the top two livestock commodities while soybeans, corn and sweet potatoes top the list for produce. Agriculture and Agribusiness has an estimated $76 billion annual economic impact on the state’s economy.
Rathod says that the idea started back when she was in high school in Durham at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and continued as she attended college at North Carolina State University.
While in college, Freshspire began to take shape as Rathod’s team became semi-finalists for an NC IDEA grant and was named the winner of the undergraduate division of the 2015 NC State Poole College Leadership and Innovation Showcase.
“Throughout the process of researching, we realized there wasn’t a good way to communicate available at a state level,” Rathod said.
The potential was there, and after bootstrapping the business, Freshspire launched its software in October 2018. Joining Rathod in leading the company are Matt Simpson, chief technology officer, co-founder Mona Amin, as head of business development and Ziwa Mukungu in the role of lead technology developer.
“Our team is very tech-heavy but we became interested in this space early on throughout college. We wanted to figure out why 40% of our food is ending up in a landfill,” said Rathod.
“We really designed our software to work seamlessly for both operations on the buying end for selling on the farmer end,” Rathod said. “The data we collect through the app helps us provide a clear picture of our food systems on both the seller or producer end and the needs of the buyers.”
Rathod says that their focus right now is on local food chain sustainability and food sourcing but that the Freshspire model was built with expansion beyond North Carolina in mind.
Farmers, restaurants and grocery stores can get more information at GetFreshspired.com or can download the app from Google Play or the Apple store.