Startup helps local growers thrive

Raw Food Hub fills COVID-19 gap

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A Raw Food Hub employee loading one of the fruit and vegetable boxes for delivery.

A Raw Food Hub employee loading one of the fruit and vegetable boxes for delivery.

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The Raw Food Hub is filling in for farmer's markets during the pandemic

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Good business is often about seeing the opportunities in the midst of a crisis.

With many local farmer's markets forced to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Raw Food Hub founder Josh Allen saw a chance to pioneer a new method of connecting with consumers, resulting in the the Raw Food Hub.

An alumni of the Farmers2Founders program, Mr Allen said he met the increasing demand for fresh food, combined with lock-down restrictions, by recruiting an extra 34 staff to boost the capability of his fledgling start up.

Mr Allen said the Raw Food Hub creates new avenues for farmers to sell their produce and keep their existing business through the use of direct-to-consumer food box subscriptions.

Following the increased demand for fresh food, subscriptions for the Raw Food Hub Seasonal Organic Produce Boxes have boomed over the last month.

Raw Food Hub foudner Josh Allen

Raw Food Hub foudner Josh Allen

"We have been literally working 24 hours around the clock in shifts, watching the world come together in the most awe-inspiring way," he said.

"The cohesive response across the community has been something we had previously only dreamed of seeing happen in our lifetime."

Mr Allen said each week the team at at Raw Food Hub activate a series of new Seasonal Organic Produce Box subscriptions, managing the increase in demand strategically as to ensure the quality and consistency of the product is retained as the business scales up.

"At Raw Food Hub every genuine human relationship we develop with both our customers and our suppliers is personalised to deliver experiences along with the highest quality product in a way that big industry players will never be able to achieve," he said.

"Having spoken to hundreds of households directly, I was always committed to upholding the business as usual aspects of delivering these boxes.

"However to actually speak to families, isolated in their homes, wanting to know that their food supply is assured was a deeply emotive experience that galvanised our decision to do whatever it takes to maintain this vital service."

Mr Allen said his team has been blown away by the positive response in the community during what has been a difficult time for many.

"Amongst all the chaos and panic and fear and confusion of the coronavirus, there has never been a more exciting time to be connected. In business and in life we always talk about innovation and evolution and becoming the change, but we often leave it too late because we operate as business as usual.

"This is the time for farmers, food hubs, producers, transport and logistics companies, packaging companies and local councils to redefine the food system as we know it and deliver a vital service to the community we love."

Mr Evans said he developed the model of supporting businesses and providing value at every step of the supply chain during his time at the Farmers2Founders Business Growth Bootcamp.

A recent graduate of the three-month innovation program, he said the program was designed to help grow producer-led agtech, foodtech or food innovation businesses.

Farmers2Founders co-founder Dr Christine Pitt said despite the grim situation many agrifood startups are well positioned to pivot and to adapt to new demands.

"In a rapidly shifting agricultural landscape, I believe we will see a number of Australian producers' businesses thrive and lead the charge in solving industry issues across the nation and potentially the world," she said.

"It's incredibly pleasing to watch a startup business that we have mentored not only rapidly scale their own business and reach new customers, but also help others during such difficult circumstances, as well as helping to further shape the future of the industry."

Farmers2Founders is supported by AgriFutures Australia, Australian Wool Innovation, Grains Research and Development Corporation, Meat and Livestock Australia, and Wine Australia.

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