Credit: Brys Stephens

Serving the dual purpose of reducing food waste, and providing the Bay Area’s agricultural bounty to more local consumers, Farmstead has accelerated its mission by adding express pickup to its roster of services. Using many micro-hubs in San Francisco and San Mateo, the company is launching its AI-powered service that employs technology to create an efficiency that brings fresh produce closer to more area residents.

“At a time when the tech sector is trying to figure out what the future of grocery shopping will be, we are rolling out a new digital grocer that solves for convenience, food waste, and geographic density,” Farmstead CEO and co-founder Pradeep Elankumaran said in a company press release. “Our suburban customers requested a free rapid pickup option from their nearby Farmstead hub to help them replace time-consuming last-minute trips to the supermarket – we’re thrilled to bring them this carefully designed, compelling new experience.”

Offering farm-fresh goods is a challenge for incumbent grocery delivery services. Selecting the freshest tomatoes or apples is a skill that stretches the limits and skill set of fulfillment services, such as Instacart.  By offering a convenient pick-up service, consumers are able to see what they are getting before adding them to their fridge or pantry.  Using AI, not only is Farmstead able to streamline the farm-to-consumer process, but also can eliminate food waste by normalizing supply and demand.

In his or her initial order, a Farmstead user selects from a list of fresh local produce and groceries. That initial order sets in motion a calculation in which the company can predict what and how much it needs to have on hand, based on availability and individual consumer behavior. Showing its commitment to the community, any leftover food is donated to Feeding America which works with Bay Area shelters.

The company clearly have its sites set far beyond the Bay Area. “The addition of Express Pickup to Farmstead’s fulfillment model makes it possible to launch lightweight, software-defined hubs anywhere in the US to quickly and easily meet consumer demand, fitting in seamlessly with their existing grocery habits,” said Farmstead product manager Jennelle Nystrom.

The new express service has orders ready within 30 minutes. Customers can click on an app when they arrive at their closest micro hub which will indicate they are on site. At that point, an employee will place the custom supply of food in the user’s car. The hub or curbside pickup has become a popular model being deployed or tested by several companies include Amazon and Texas grocery chain, H-E-B.

The first Farmstead order is free with subsequent orders costing $3.99. The company started one year ago, and already has completed more than 17,000 deliveries to Bay Area customers. Farmstead has raised $2.8 million in seed funding from Resolute Ventures, Social Capital, Y Combinator, and Joe Montana’s Liquid 2 Ventures.

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Allen Weiner is an Austin-based freelance writer focusing on applications of new technology in the areas of food, media and education. In his 17-year career as a vice president and analyst with Gartner, Inc., the world’s largest IT research and advisory firm, Allen was a frequent speaker at company and industry events as well as one of the most-quoted analysts in the area of new media. With an extensive background in publishing and publishing technology, Allen is noted as the founder of The Gate (sfgate.com), the nation’s first daily newspaper on the web. Born in Philadelphia, Allen is a graduate of Muhlenberg College and Temple University.

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