New shopping service delivers farm goods to London doorsteps

13/05/2015

A new online delivery service, dubbed ‘FarmDrop’ has gone live, delivering fresh food from local and hyper-local farms and suppliers to London doorsteps.

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Three quarters of produce comes from within the M25 and is delivered by electric vans.

London consumers now have access to a virtual market that sources 75 percent of its produce inside the M25, delivers some food from field to doorstep on the same day and pays farmers and producers 70-80 percent on the retail price of their produce.

Fresh vegetables, fruit, cheeses, meat, fish, bread and eggs are sourced from suppliers, the lion’s share of which are within the distance that London’s produce suppliers would have been centuries ago.

Farmdrop.co.uk is rapidly bringing field-fresh produce to the doorsteps of London homes, restoring the days of the City’s streets filled with the sounds of street traders. Asparagus, wild garlic, globe artichokes and rhubarb fresh from local fields are amongst the hundreds of local foods available for delivery.

Ben Patten, who runs Farmdrop.co.uk, said: “In London the City’s streets have names like Poultry, Cornhill, Old Fish Street, Bread Street, Honey Lane and Milk Street because that’s what they were originally for. Cheapside in its market heyday was home to four hundred produce stalls. What we’re essentially doing is recreating ancient produce market trading for London by using 21st century planning tools and e-commerce technology.”
He added: “Historically Londoners benefitted for easy access to fresh produce – and ironically we’ve lost that due to ‘progress’. Markets have been priced out of the City’s central areas, with the exception of one or two places, and that means that most of us are reliant on the supermarket food chain. This also means that we’re very short of genuinely fresh produce in London.”

“The supermarket marketing line seduces into an idea of freshness that really doesn’t bear scrutiny. So-called ‘fresh juice’ often travels in tankers from South America and the ‘juicy bits’ in orange juice often come from a different country altogether. Similarly, ‘fresh fish’ is mostly frozen on the trawler and defrosted before it appears on supermarket displays.”

Farmdrop.co.uk operates hubs in London to which suppliers deliver four days a week. Most of that produce is shipped out to homes and other collection points throughout London on the same day via electric vans that create lower emissions than horses and carts. The business plans to expand to other cities and towns, with two additional cities earmarked for launch in the next 18 months. All suppliers will be local to those cities in line with the Farmdrop ethos.

Ben Patten added: “What we’re doing is redefining freshness – and taking the idea back to its local roots. Central London’s historic markets were any amazing source of local fresh produce and we’re using new technology and logistics to bring our nutritional history back to life.”

Suppliers to Farmdrop.co.uk include Calabaza, a farm inside the M25 and 7 miles as the crow flies from Trafalgar Square. A new and even closer farm based underground at Clapham North, Growing Underground, will also supply to Farmdrop.co.uk when it starts trading this summer. Already 37 suppliers are operating using the Farmdrop network and new businesses are joining all the time.

One supplier to Farmdrop.co.uk said: “What I love about this venture is that it supports farmers in a way that supermarkets don’t. We tried the supermarket route and found that they were brutal negotiators, paying us often way below 50% of the retail price. As a business that really cares about the quality of the food that we produce and invests in making it the best we found that the supermarket ethos worked against us.”

Farmdrop.co.uk is seeking to support independent farms and food producers that are financially (and environmentally) sustainable. Many suppliers are winners of Soil Association awards.

Other suppliers include Purton House Organics, Old Spike Roastery, Farmdrop’s coffee supplier, a social enterprise providing jobs for homeless people in London; a local honey supplier, Bread Ahead, a local business renowned for its sour dough; Pig & Hay, makers of the best sausage rolls and Scotch eggs in London, and a Hackney-based jam and chutney producer.

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