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Farmhopper, a digital middle layer between environmentally-conscious customers and local farmers

Local farmers markets are nice, but only a small fraction of consumers regularly visit and shop in them, partly because they are not easy to find, have limited availability or customers are unsure about the origin and naturalness of the products.

But this is set to change: Farmhopper, an EIT Digital supported innovation activity, will allow environmentally-conscious consumers to get easy access to fresh groceries, while at the same time enabling farmers to build their reputation, showcase and sell their products to a wider audience and receive adequate payment.

«In Hungary there are many local markets where you can buy fresh food; however, they dont scale, because customers need to know their exact location, and they dont have a catalogue of whats on sale. Many of them are also open only one day or a few days a week, which is also part of the problem,» the project manager of the activity leader E-Group, Ágnes Bányai, says.

Farmhopper, which will be accessible both as a website and a mobile application, will overcome all these hurdles by building a software platform which takes care of all the processes related to the agricultural value chain (onboarding, creating and maintaining marketplaces, order management, payments and billing).

Acting as a digital middle layer, the platform will provide customers with all the necessary logistical information and also contain a catalogue of the products on sale. Consumers will be able to select their favourite groceries and place an order, using a secure credit card payment solution provided by OTP Bank, one of the largest independent financial services providers in Central and Eastern Europe.

The initiative started in September 2018, as an «early bird» activity, with an initial focus on the Hungarian market involving E-Group as activity leader and OTP Bank and KTH as partners.

One of the main features of the platform, which distinguishes it from other websites and apps that simply aggregate fresh-food offers, is the introduction of the «community host», a person who will build the network of farmers and consumers, organise events where they can meet and also handle any potential problems.

«Customers will pay in advance and just pick their order at the event. If there is a problem, for instance, the quality and quantity is not right, the community host will jump in, resolve the issue or refund the purchase,» Bányai says.

In line with the so-called «reputation economy» methodology, to make sure everything runs smoothly, farmers belonging to the Farmhopper platform will be rated by customers based on their behaviour.

The community host will take a cut on the financial transactions generated by the community, and the platform providers will also take a commission.

«Its similar to a franchise method — we provide the tools and community hosts then use their expertise and knowledge about what consumers need in their network,» Bányai explains.

The first step of the Farmhopper product implementation has been extensive market research on the appeal of agricultural online marketplaces. It revealed that in Hungary, around 800,000 of a total of 5.7 million 18–69 year old Internet users could be potentially interested in trying the platform. Of these, 10% would be willing to take up the role of community host.

The first demo launch to test the functionalities on small community will happen this autumn. By the end of 2019, a startup will be created to support the commercial launch of the platform. Farmhopper will be launched in Hungary first, but the consortium plans international expansion in the future.

About EIT Digital

EIT Digital is a leading European digital innovation and entrepreneurial education organisation driving Europes digital transformation.

EIT Digital delivers breakthrough digital innovations to the market and breeds entrepreneurial talent for economic growth and improved quality of life in Europe. It does this by mobilising a pan-European ecosystem of over 200 top European corporations, SMEs, start-ups, universities and research institutes.

As a Knowledge and Innovation Community of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, EIT Digital is focused on entrepreneurship and is at the forefront of integrating education, research and business by bringing together students, researchers, engineers, business developers and entrepreneurs. This is done in our pan-European network of Co-Location Centres in Berlin, Eindhoven, Helsinki, London, Paris, Stockholm, Trento, as well as in Budapest and Madrid.

EIT Digital invests in strategic areas to accelerate the market uptake of research-based digital technologies focusing on Europes strategic, societal challenges: Digital Industry, Digital Cities, Digital Wellbeing and Digital Infrastructure.

EIT Digital breeds T-shaped entrepreneurial digital talent focused on innovation through a blended Education Strategy that includes a Master School, Doctoral School and Professional School.

Value creation combined with an investor mind-set will allow EIT Digital to develop into a sustainable organisation via diversification of its sources of income.

08.07.2019


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