A conversation with Cristina Domecq, Impact & Sustainability Officer at CrowdFarming, about direct-to-consumer platforms, consumers readiness to buy long term, farmers readiness to supply long term, transparency and more.
LISTEN TO THE CONVERSATION ON:
Did you think that direct to consumer platforms always have to be small and cute? Think again! Cristina works at a company reaching over 350.000 customers and selling over products from more than 250 farmers. All organic, in the transition towards and now they are starting to figure out what regenerative means to them. This is a fascinating approach: first build the scale with organic, something that is usually already much better than conventional (and they have the LCA data to prove that from an emissions point of view, let alone the taste), and after having build this platform of both consumers ready to buy long term and be part of this transition and farmers ready to supply long term, be very transparent and go on a journey towards better soil health. Crowdfarming is getting ready to really push further into impact.
WE NEED ECONOMIES OF SCALE
According to Cristina, there’re people that have been talking about regenerative for a long time and who have the experience, and they are at the table with the big guys deciding on the future of regenerative in Europe.
”I think that’s the partners that we should be sitting at the table with. Because we can start the system from scratch, believing in what’s important to us. But we want to create a system monitoring that it’s scalable. That’s very important for us because we have 250 farmers now, but we’re planning on growing in the future. So now the measurement systems are super specific and quite expensive. So, we need something that it’s both precise and scalable. So, we’re looking into obviously the typical things, the soil, the biodiversity and the water. But we’re letting the experts tell us which parameters exactly we should measure. The good thing is that we have a network of very reliable farmers and very reliable agronomists that work with us. So we have kind of the network. We need the knowledge of people that have been doing this for a long time. And that’s what we’re looking for.” – Cristina Domecq
DISTRIBUTION IS KEY
It has been a journey, says Cristina, at the beginning, they had to share shipments.
”We don’t have our own trucks so we hire companies to do the long haul so these are the big trucks refrigerated, they travel like the average last year was over 90% capacity so we try that every journey counts […] Imagine that we are from a very remote place in Italy shipping from a farm to a consumer in Spain, we put it in a truck with other things and with other companies, and now that we have become bigger and bigger now in Spain for example, that we have a lot of farmers in the area of Valencia in Malaga, in general in the south of Spain, we have installed last year a logistics centre so that we can kind of take out the burden from our farmers of doing all of this direct sales, packaging, etc. Assuming the cost now with a lot of inflation and we pick up the fruit directly from the filled boxes, and then we manage all the rest in the logistics centre. We also, provide them with the possibility to have more formats because when you are a farmer you can tell me, ‘Okay, I can do this number of boxes with the space I have and the people I have, and this is it, no matter if I have more products, I don’t have the operations to sell it to you.’ But now they can just give the product that they have, and we will manage the rest’’- Cristina Domecq
FARMERS LOVE TO TAKE BETTER CARE OF THEIR SOILS BUT NEED FINANCIAL STABILITY FIRST
The onboarding process of farmers takes around three months. This is a process in which they have to open their fields and their way of working to the whole Crowdfarming community.
”They have to tell us, ‘What are you doing? Do you have animals on your farm? What practices are you implementing? What packaging are you using? Everything, what are the workers’ conditions on your farm? Things like this, right? And the questions keep coming in, we send an update to the crop farmers that have adoptions on what has been new in the farm, and they get the feedback from the crop farmers.” – Cristina Domecq
‘’Someone actually is listening to your story and the things that you’re doing for your field, normally they love their field, they love their trees, and they want to see them come to life. So, having someone paying a real price, not being in survival mode, but actually being kind of stable and calm to ‘Okay, the thing that I care about most, that it’s my field and my farm and my trees, now I have the brain space to kind of, and someone who’s listening on the other side to tell the story so it comes kind of naturally. We have a really good team of agronomists that really cares about this and believes in the model.’’ – Cristina Domecq
MANY CONSUMERS ARE READY TO COMMIT TO A MORE SUSTAINABLE VALUE CHAIN
Problems around climate change are something we’re now seeing in the news, not only in business. The debate about providing water that it’s non-existent at the moment, for instance, and we’re seeing that everywhere.
”It’s touching consumers’ houses… the other day I was seeing in the news, for example, they were now going to fill in the pools, and the dirty water that has been accumulated in the pool, they are going to reuse it. People go into other people’s houses and get that water and use it for something else. […] Now it’s affecting us in the day-to-day. I think that makes us super aware, people that even don’t believe in climate change are starting to say ‘I’m worried that it’s not raining’. And changing your mind is something we really need” – Cristina Domecq
”So, for now, it has been a lot of awareness on both sides, in the consumer side we’re trying to start to get them to know this concept of what is regenerative and why we care about this. On the farmers’ side the same. […] it’s kind of in four key pillars, raising awareness, because we know a lot in this world and there’s a lot of misconceptions, so we’re trying to raise them up. And in the farmers, letting them know that this exists.” – Cristina Domecq
OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED
Koen and Cristina also talked about:
- How do you deal with a lower-than-expected harvest?
- The journey of an orange in terms of carbon footprint
- How to help farmers save water?
- Osvaldo de Falco, connecting Italian organic fruit farmers directly to consumers
- Tobias Joos on how to sell the full rotation of diversified regenerative farms to 10000 customers
- Stijn Markusse – Raising €4M in 72 hours to scale boring distribution and storytelling
Feedback, comments, suggestions? Reach me via Twitter @KoenvanSeijen, in the comments below or through Get in Touch on this website.
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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.