Agriculture & foodtech Retail and Direct To Consumer

Exclusive: Forager Chews On $4M To Digitize Local Food Access

Forager, a startup connecting local farmers with grocery stores to source local food, raised $4 million in a funding round led by a group of backers, including Duncan Saville via ICM  and Coastal Enterprises.

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The Portland, Maine-based company was founded in 2015 by David Douglas Stone to develop a platform that digitizes and streamlines the discovery of new vendors, onboarding and management of those relationships.

Joe Blunda took over as CEO in 2019, while Stone is still involved as executive chairman. Local food accounts for 3 to 5 percent of what people buy from stores, and while that number shifted during the global pandemic, it is still in the single digits, Blunda told Crunchbase News

“The original problem is building a supply chain and getting it organized, which is what we are doing,” he added. “Grocers bring the cultural perception of what will resonate with the consumer, and we bring the ability to execute that.”

Blunda intends to use the new funding to expand the company’s sales outreach and product development. Grocers want to invest time in building local supply chains, but have difficulty operating them afterward, he said.

One of the problems they face is that there are so many small vendors, and grocers are trying to layer them on top of their platforms that were made for a small number of large vendors, Blunda added.

“Local food access is such a critical problem and patience is waning,” he said. “Grocers are passionate about fixing the problem, and we have some product development to do.”

The company has 10 employees and Blunda expects to add another two to five people by the end of the year. Forager operates in more than 12 states and works with more than 40 grocers and institutions, as well as 500 local suppliers.

In addition, the company has seen 4x growth since 2018, with nearly 200,000 local products sourced through its platform to date. It has also doubled both its supplier and buyer bases. Blunda expects even faster growth in the second half of 2021.

Saville, ICM’s founder and chairman, said in a written statement that local food is a “market trend that cannot be ignored and is critical to the future health of our planet.”

“I invested in Forager for two reasons, first this is a $40 billion fast growing market that is largely analogue and in desperate need for technology so it can scale and be data driven,” Saville added. “Second, the majority of people I know are interested in buying more sustainably sourced products, especially at the local level. This is an important market trend that cannot be ignored and is critical to the future health of our planet.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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