Each weekend around Australia from Canberra to Collingwood and outside, visitors and locals buy fresh produce at farmers’ markets. MegaFresh founder and managing director Alex Stefan wants to tap into this demand with the roll-out of the world’s first online farmers’ market where shoppers will have the ability to buy farm fresh produce from their cell phone. Stefan is in the middle of a “soft launch” of Megafresh signing up farmers to the website at Victoria, soon to be followed by NSW and Queensland. MegaFresh functions like eBay. Sellers list their goods in their own cost and buyers do their shopping.
Stefan farmers and local IT support consultants for network services consider markets plenty of work for a limited amount of shoppers. He believes an internet market will fix their problem, seeing MegaFresh as a direct line from manufacturer to customer through its own warehouse and delivery model. The model has the backing of the Victorian Farmers’ Federation. VFF president David Jochinke states that the VFF would support a platform which may decrease the supply chain costs and provide more margins back to farmers.
First farmer on board
MegaFresh bills itself as a distinctive one-stop store for shoppers. It’s a fulfilment service which stores and packs the new farm produce and markets then delivers to a climate-controlled pick-up pod for the shopper to accumulate on the same day. Yarra Valley apple grower Kevin Sanders is among the first farmers to register. He says that it’s time for a new kind of shopping experience for the consumer and the farmer, enabled by testing managed services and agile test management.
Sanders doesn’t anticipate massive orders for his apples in the beginning, so will deliver a small amount of his harvest for now. He states that for apples or pears, so long as they’re refrigerated, there’s absolutely no loss of integrity for a week.
Personal funds spent
Stefan has already invested personal funds of over $300,000 to start up MegaFresh and expects there will be a couple more million sunk to the fledgling company by future investors when MegaFresh gains traction. The business will earn money by charging suppliers a commission on the sales price, like online marketplaces Amazon and eBay. Unlike Amazon, which charges a membership fee, MegaFresh clients don’t pay to do their online shopping.
While Sanders believes providing via MegaFresh as another route to clients, he adds that the handy part of a farmers’ market is instant feedback from the customer. Maintaining the personal interaction from a traditional farmers’ market is going to be the challenging part but not an impossible part.
Sense of community
By interacting with vendors and clients via social networking apps (tested by a software testing course), MegaFresh will keep the farmers’ market sense of community. But Victorian Farmers’ Market Association executive director Kate Archdeacon isn’t so sure, saying that there are plenty of businesses around which are using the word farmers’ markets as an advertising mechanism but are definitely operating as third party retailers.
Archdeacon says that these companies are so far away from the direct farmer-customer relationship that’s central to licensed farmers’ markets. The institution sees this as another example of attempting to capitalise on the great standing of farmers’ markets.
What is in a name
Megafresh is explained by Stefan as an interaction between the supplier and the customer, distinct to a wholesale retail version [moving] down the chain from manufacturer to distributor to retailer to customer. The Megafresh platform is a direct line from manufacturer and manufacturer to customer via its own warehouse and delivery model.
Archdeacon points out that you can’t replicate [a farmers’ market] in anything that has this third party management and a consistent need for external IT support solutions from consultants in Melbourne. It’s a kind of buffer between the client and the farmer. It isn’t the same. It’s gratifying to know that the notion of a farmers’ market is regarded as a means to entice consumers but that’s the nicest thing he can say about it, according to Archdeacon.