An online marketplace for farmers and producers to list their produce and sell direct to customers, Harvest Bundle was set up with an aim to bridge the gap between producer and consumer. Established early last year, Harvest Bundle allows consumers to find the people that grow their food, giving them the chance to buy direct, providing a convenient marketplace.
“We are building a brand around, quality, taste, provenance and sustainability,” Harvest Bundle founder, Ben White-Hamilton told The London Economic. “We are reinventing the supply chain and shipping direct. We are banging the drum about farmers and their brands that are really cool and special.”
Having grown up on a farm in Dorset, born to a chef Mother and farmer Father, Ben White-Hamilton studied agriculture at University, eventually working in finance, in London trading derivatives. Here he gained further insight into global agriculture, but also where the UK was weak. In December 2018 he left his role in order to set up Harvest Bundle.
“In short – I was ultimately frustrated by which the farmer, the passionate person who pours their energy into growing wonderful food for British people is being mis-treated,” explains White-Hamilton. “They get a tiny slice of the retail margin for their wonderful produce – they have been pushed hard for lower and lower prices, regularity of supply and uniformity.”
With the launch of Harvest Bundle, Ben White-Hamilton understood the fact that farming is a hugely variable business, affected by factors such as the weather, pests, and the fact farmers rear living things, amongst other potential challenges. Farmers also bear the brunt of the price wars, with severe supply penalties from the big corporates. Then there’s the fact that fewer people live near farms, with so many Brits choosing to live in the big cities. The meeting between farmers and consumers is thus becoming even rarer with the passage of time. In response, Harvest Bundle hopes to re-establish the link which existed for hundreds of years, but has been lost during the past fifty.
“Farming is the biggest job in the world,” says White-Hamilton. “Lenience and support should be a pre-requisite but unfortunately it is not. As a result of all this, we live in a more commoditised production system that unfortunately neglects welfare and the environment. Resembling factories more than farms.”
“I genuinely believe this is my calling – to reconnect the farmer with the consumer. In its rawest form, we sell the farmer first, and when people make the emotional connection with the farmer, their appreciation of the product follows. I understand the farmers’ plight, I can see the issue with the current broken system and I have a vision of how to fix it. This is my passion and purpose.”
Harvest Bundle uses an online marketplace concept to connect consumers and farmers or producers, like those widely adopted and popularised by the likes of Amazon, Etsy, Uber, OpenTable, Air B&B, and TaskRabbit. Ben White-Hamilton explains that “Harvest Bundle is different though, focused on food produce, quality, taste, sustainability and provenance.”
Available products include meats, fish, dairy, fruit and veg, and various larder ingredients. Once orders are placed, farmers receive notifications and are able to login to their portal to view orders. They’re then given the opportunity to contact the customer to discuss expected delivery dates before harvesting and packaging before sending via national courier services. Suppliers are based on recommendations from White-Hamilton’s network and various chefs and (at the time of writing) include the likes of Capreolus Fine Foods, Ingram Family Farm, Cotswold Beef, Westons Rose Veal, ChalkStream Foods, Chegworth Valley, Yare Valley Oils, and Black Cow Vodka. Applications can also be placed on the Harvest Bundle website “We very much curate. It is vital that our farmers fall into – quality, taste, transparency and sustainability.”
In the near future, Ben White-Hamilton hopes to introduce some more fruit and vegetable farmers to increase that particular offering alongside the wealth of meat and fish currently available. Harvest Bundle will hopefully assist farmers and producers struggling through the coronavirus pandemic, with online food shopping and delivery’s popularity having grown exponentially over the past two months.
“The effects of coronavirus are frightening and it must be an incredibly tough time for those families affected by it. It’s a really tough time,” Ben White-Hamilton muses. “We haven’t been in the business long, while a loyal customer base provided inspiration, the rise in traffic, interest and orders has been dramatic. My theory is that Generation Y-ers and Boomers, neither of whom have fully adopted the technology of e-commerce and don’t shop online as much as younger demographics, are now coming online. I think they’re going to stay. Particularly so when buying food. There is a saying “after a fire, there will be growth”. I believe there is going to be a paradigm shift for society, things will change for sure. I believe there will be huge advancements in software development and I think businesses and people will benefit from this.”
Further information on Harvest Bundle can be found here.