Taking aim at Big Ag

Logistics startups are using data science and mobile technologies to connect grocery shoppers with local farmers.


Linda Baker, Freight Waves

Sep 5, 2019


As Walmart (NSYE: WMT), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and other e-giants battle for dominance in the online grocery wars, a growing number of tech-enabled startups are taking a different tactic, aiming to disrupt the conventional food supply chain by using logistics platforms to connect shoppers directly with local farmers and producers.


Portland-based MilkRun, for example, seeks to make buying from small eco-friendly farmers as easy as shopping from Amazon. Its online marketplace features around 100 Oregon producers who sell everything from eggs from pasture-raised chickens and grass-fed beef to locally roasted coffee and handmade noodles.


The startup’s main goal, said CEO Julia Niiro, is to crack the distribution nut — that is, to figure out how to orchestrate a logistics network that supports the MilkRun marketplace, which delivers weekly to Portland-area customers who order online.


“The companies coming to market with online grocery are the companies perpetuating a supply chain that is broken, that make it impossible for small and midsize farms to make a living,” said Niiro, a former digital marketing professional who founded MilkRun in 2017 after purchasing a small farm and seeing firsthand how difficult it was to get products to market.


Seeking to level the playing field, MilkRun uses technology to drive efficiencies in regional food delivery. “We are offering logistics-system solutions to small farms,” Niiro said.


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