If you’re a vegetarian who likes to get locally sourced produce, chances are you’ve got it made: In most areas there are any number of farmers markets or community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs that will allow you to get fresh, organic produce from local farms without too much hassle. But if you’re a carnivore (or really, an omnivore), it’s not as easy to get your hands on locally sourced meat in the same way.
A new startup called AgLocal is launching soon, which will hopefully give consumers a choice beyond just going to the local grocery store for meat. And it hopes to reduce inefficiency on the farmer’s side, by enabling independent farmers to sell their cuts directly to consumers.
Until now, those farmers had few choices: They could either sell their meat at farmers’ markets directly to consumers, or they could sell to larger processors which distribute out to major supermarket chains. On the one hand, they have more control over the price and production, but at the same time they have to deal with the hassle, uncertainty and inefficiency of traveling to those markets. On the other hand, they could sell to large feed lots, which sell to major grocery chains, but doing so cuts deeply into their profit margins.
AgLocal founder Naithan Jones told me in an interview last week that he got the inspiration for the startup mainly because he was trying to solve a problem for himself. “The reason why I started the company is that I’m as uptight about what I put in my body as some vegetarians are,” he said. But he found few resources for having the same type of “locavore” experience as hardcore CSA folks. In talking to others, he found he wasn’t alone, and determined that there was a problem in the marketplace.
Over the past several months, he and the AgLocal team have been going to independently owned farms and pitching them on the idea of participating in a direct-to-consumer marketplace online. So far, he’s gotten more than 60 farms on board to participate, and plans to launch a beta test of the service to consumers over the summer. Jones says he expects to launch in major metropolitan markets like New York City, San Francisco and Austin, TX.
AgLocal is part of the NewMe Accelerator program in San Francisco, and has raised just $75,000 to date. Friday night it won the pitch contest at the South by Southwest Startup America kickoff party, and it was chosen as one of the startups to participate in the SXSW Interactive Accelerator.