Thursday, June 20, 2024

Digital produce marketplace to help reduce waste

Refresh:Food is a new digital marketplace designed to connect growers with excess fruit and vegetables to new networks of potential buyers.

The B2B marketplace, backed by Woolworths and Boston Consulting Group, is accessible via the Refresh:Food smartphone app.

The new start-up has been launched with an ambition to help reduce food waste in the supply chain by creating an additional channel for farmers to achieve a commercial return for more of their produce.

Refresh:Food is a profit-for-purpose company, meaning any profit generated is invested into initiatives which help reduce food waste or hunger, such as supporting the work of charities like Foodbank, OzHarvest and Fareshare.

The app allows farmers to list excess produce – which may be a result of bumper crops, weather damage or imperfections – on the digital marketplace.

Produce buyers such as fruit and vegetable processors, packaged food manufacturers, small grocers, meal kit and produce box companies, hospitality and foodservice providers can utilise the app to find savings on produce that may have minor imperfections, take advantage of seasonal abundance and access new supply streams when their regular supply is disrupted.

Growers set the price, upload a photo of the produce and document key details including harvest date, best before date, whether it is washed or any stickers have been applied, quality notes like damage and defects, and their relevant certifications.

When a buyer is ready to make a purchase, the payment is securely managed through the app, with statements and invoices automatically generated. Buyers have the option to organise their own transport to collect and deliver their produce, request a quote for Refresh:Food to handle logistics or have the produce delivered to a central ‘hub’ location for their collection.

“Our number one motivation for starting Refresh:Food is to reduce on-farm food waste by giving growers another avenue to sell excess produce – it’s sustainability with commercial purpose,” says Refresh:Food Managing Director Chris Cramond.

“We want to help broaden growers’ network of potential buyers to tap into demand that they wouldn’t otherwise have visibility of.

“Farmers obviously never want to see the food they grow ploughed back into the ground, and Refresh:Food is about creating another channel that they can turn to at a moment’s notice to find the right buyers for different grades of produce.

“We’ve had great feedback from our test users. It’s only early days, and we’re expecting to see more buyers and sellers come onboard in the next few months which will help fuel our marketplace supply and demand.”

Donating produce

An additional feature of the app is the ability to donate produce to a hunger relief charity, should there be no relevant buyers for it at the time. To save produce going to waste, growers can list it on the app as a donation so that charities only need to cover the cost of transportation.

OzHarvest is one of the charities testing the app to help boost food rescue volume in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

“We’ve been able to test the Refresh:Food  platform by purchasing pallets of good quality vegetables to help meet the current increase in demand for food,” says OzHarvest Head of Operations Tracy Bialek.

“Innovation is a crucial part of addressing two national issues of food waste and food insecurity in Australia and OzHarvest is always looking for new ways to get good food to those who need it most.”

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