Food produced by local farms is not easily accessible. For lots of people it is effectively inaccessible. Local Line’s mission is making local farms as accessible as industrially-produced food. When we set to work on how to solve this problem, we identified three principal steps for farmers to take.
Get online and connected
Step one is helping local farmers take their sales online. This is important because it keeps things organized, improves record keeping, and sets farmers up for future exposure to more online customers. A well-kept system allows the farmer to be prepared for incoming demand.
Develop exposure to new markets and new customers
Step two is about increasing exposure to new markets and customers. When you’re online, the cost to reach new customers is dramatically lower than if you’re trying to reach them offline and in person. Because everyone shops online, you can reach new customers in new places easier than ever. This is important because generally, local food does not have a demand problem, it has an access problem. If locally farmed food was equally accessible, direct farm revenue would go up. Getting online and seeking exposure to new customers helps increase accessibility, and therefore sales.
Be able to profitably serve those new markets and new customers
Step three is the ability to profitably service new customers in new markets. To reach new customers, farmers must be able to affordably ship to them. Demand is only relevant if it can easily access supply. Logistics continues to be the most significant problem facing local food systems. This needs a solution.
Find co-loading opportunities
Our vision is to build a platform that builds distribution relationships that reduce costs and increase efficiencies. As a part of this initiative, we are building a new a co-loading network that connects suppliers servicing similar geographies. Co-loading will reduce costs and increase delivery distances. The new system will connect similar suppliers with free load space to those looking to service new regions and use route optimization to offer suppliers and consumers the lowest possible cost for shipping. The project is funded by Scale Al, one of the supercluster initiatives by the Government of Canada. The program aims to explore ways artificial intelligence and machine learning can be used to reduce costs and improve efficiency in supply chains.
From our early beginnings in 2016, we knew we had to solve the problem in phases. Step one before tackling step two and then three. Many farmers like the idea of broadening their direct customer base, but struggle to reduce distribution costs. They approach it in isolation. Instead, you start with modernizing your marketing and sales and in doing so you create the foundation for new distribution economies.
For the past 12 months we have been adding features to our Local Line platform that each help our farmers to advance their logistics and reduce distribution cost. These features have been adopted to a measure beyond our expectations and are very happy with the feed-back from our customers that we on the right track.
Starting today, Local Line has begun phase three. We are building a system that supports connections and hosts a network of trusted warehouses, distribution vehicles, and industry experts for co-loading. This is a modern network of logistics options for all.
Next week we’ll be releasing more details about our co-loading project, the timeline, and how it will work.
It is important to note that we will continue to develop and assess all phases at the same time. We will not be solely focusing on just one aspect. Our system is not yet complete and probably will never be complete. Phase three, along with the others, is a multi-year approach and will build upon our knowledge. Combined, Local Line will be your online management tool, your connection to new markets, and your delivery network in one.
All we can say is stay tuned!
The founder and CEO of Local Line, Cole's mission is to help every local food supplier profitably grow their business.