What it does: Platform for buying and selling locally produced food
Pictured: Founders Tyson Pardue, Kami Semick and Kristin Yurdin
Where: 357 NE DeKalb Ave., Bend
Kami Semick has a deep appreciation for locally produced food.
Moving to Bend in 2003, she and her husband, Tyson Pardue, bought a small property with irrigation rights on the east side. Not wanting to lose those rights, they decided to grow their own produce.
Pardue’s work for the human resources software company Workday took them to China in 2011. They returned to Bend in 2014, this time with no space for growing food. Semick, who at the same time retired from competitive ultra-marathon running, wanted to buy from local farmers, but she had to hunt down opportunities to buy into community-supported agriculture through word-of-mouth.
Semick said she now has enough dairy, meat and vegetables delivered year-round that if it weren’t for the fact that she likes to drink orange juice, her family would rarely shop at a grocery store. She thinks more consumers would cut out the middle man if it were convenient. So she and Pardue built an app, Food4All, which connects farmers and consumers in the same area and allows them to make transactions.
“We know the market wants this because look at Amazon Fresh and Blue Apron,” Semick said. “These are companies that are absolutely taking off. They’re not doing it sustainably.”
Consumers can use Food4All to subscribe to community-supported agriculture, or CSAs, in which farmers make regular deliveries of whatever produce is available throughout the growing season, or consumers can buy specific items with prices, available dates and terms of delivery or pick-up set by the farmer or rancher.
The app allows farmers to upload inventory information on a smartphone from the field. It instantly updates inventory levels as orders are placed, so everyone, including large institutional buyers and local distributors, can see how much food is available in real time. The software is free for farmers but charges consumers a transaction fee, which is 2.5 percent of their purchase, plus 95 cents, but is capped at $9.95.
Food4All launched Feb. 1 after more than a year of testing by Rainshadow Organics in Terrebonne and Seven Peaks School. Semick, the CEO, is working full-time with a third co-founder, Kristin Yurdin, a rock climber and former owner of the Terrebonne Depot restaurant, to sign up farmers across the country. Semick spoke with The Bulletin about the company. Responses have been edited for content and length.
Q: How did you build Food4All?
A: We hired some developers in Romania just to get it started. Last year we brought the technology back to Bend, and we’re working with Five Talent to build out the application. Thirteen months of development went into this because we wanted it to be scalable. The entire platform is architected to handle thousands of transactions and have thousands of sellers selling through the platform.
Q: Where will you be marketing Food4All?
A: The West Coast is a huge buying region. We’ve identified 28 markets across the country where there is a strong locavore movement. We see this opportunity as a way to also help. There’s a lot of food deserts, large mono-crop agriculture businesses. Right now they’re only making 6 to 9 cents on the dollar. You start selling direct-to-consumer, your margins go up substantially. This to me is the big opportunity in that if we can help farmers realize higher margins, in these food deserts, there’s that opportunity to change the type of product they’re growing, and feed their local community.
Q: You’ll be pitching at Economic Development of Central Oregon’s monthly PubTalk on March 23. What do you hope to gain?
A: There’s a lot of knowledge in this community and expertise. We want to be the Uber or Airbnb of local food. We want to tap into that knowledge base. We’ve gotten a long way with our current team. What I would like to do is build our technology team and bring it all in-house.
Q: How have you financed the company so far?
A: It’s boot-strapped to this stage and privately funded. We are hoping to speak at the Willamette Angel Conference and Bend Venture Conference. We will be seeking investors.
Q: Where do you see the company in five years?
A: I see Food4All being at a minimum the national player in local food, where it is the brand people go to to buy local food, and it’s the brand sellers go to to sell local food. Then the only question in my mind is have we launched internationally yet.
— Reporter: 541-617-7860, email@example.com