Could Hyperlocal be
the Future for Farmers?
What is hyperlocal?
Hyperlocal is basically local, but even more so. It often refers to products that are bought or consumed right where they are grown. Think of greenhouses set up on rooftops of buildings, such as Lufa Farms based in Montreal, or restaurants growing their own ingredients in their backyard, like Chicago’s Frontera Grill, where the staff grow tomatoes and chili peppers for their signature salsa.
But a big part of it is also about the emotion around hyperlocal. When you see the food yourself and you can see how it is grown, you get the feeling that you know intimately about the food you’re about to consume. This sense of closeness drives people to buy hyperlocal goods, rather than just the proximity of the foods themselves.
What are the advantages of hyperlocal?
The first advantage of hyperlocal is that the supply chain becomes a lot shorter, meaning the delivery process is more simplified. You don’t have to think about preservation methods for your produce to take a long journey, and then beyond.
The other advantage of hyperlocal is that farmers can charge a premium on their produce. Oftentimes when farmers sell to supermarkets or other mass-market vendors, the vendors then markup the price for a margin. But in hyperlocal farming, there is no middleman, and that means farmers can get more money for their products.
For the consumer, it is the best way to get the freshest produce possible due to the short distance, and also the food will stay fresh longer. In addition, it is a major plus for those who want to be conscious of their environmental impact, and minimize their footprint.
What can it do for farmers?
Now, does this mean that farmers have to suddenly uproot their entire farms and set up greenhouses in the middle of the city? Should you be asking every building in an urban area to see if they’d like a farm on the roof?
This is where you can possibly get creative, because hyperlocal is not necessarily just about the location, it’s about the feeling you get when you purchase the food. These feelings include things like, knowing where the food comes from, or having more transparency around the food production process. These don’t have to be huge things, and you can start putting small efforts into creating this feeling among your customers. For instance, farmers can try photographing their daily routine, showing in depth how produce is cared for and grown. Or maybe show the packaging process, so people can see that they’re going to get fresh produce straight from the field. A simple social media presence can really pay off.
Or even better, you can consider setting up your own direct distribution channels. Perhaps try to partner with existing networks that have embedded themselves within an area. Or, if you are really the bold independent type, you can try to make your own solutions. Maybe take an attempt at setting up a simple delivery service, and a website where you market yourself as a grower and allow people to buy produce from you. After all, that is what hyperlocal thrives on: being directly connected to consumers.
You may be thinking, isn’t this just one of those fads that come and go? Not exactly. Hyperlocal is a legitimate market force that is gaining speed. One place to look at is how services that would support hyperlocal farming, such as food ordering, grocery ordering, and logistics systems, are growing at a blistering pace. One estimate has that hyperlocal service market size is projected to grow from $1.3 trillion in 2019, to $3.6 trillion by 2027. Hyperlocal farming can take advantage of this massive infrastructure expansion.
Reflecting this upward movement, hyperlocal farming companies like Bright Farms or Bowery Farming are growing faster than before. Farmers should definitely think about trying to capitalize on hyperlocal, because hyperlocal is all about being close to the food people eat. And who is closer to it than farmers?