Just last month, Canada’s Food Price Report predicted that food prices would climb between 5 and 7% in 2022, adding nearly $1,000 to annual grocery bills for the average family.
Traditional grocery stores and their producers remain at the mercy of rising inflation, climate change, supply chain issues, workforce shortages, and other challenging factors that have left Alberta families to pay the tab.
Families have been feeling it now more than ever even right here in Calgary.
That’s why Calgary start-up CultivatR has found a way to avoid the trend of increasing food costs, while simultaneously contributing to the local food economy and providing Albertans with higher quality products.
More than just an online farmer’s marketplace — it’s “predictive agriculture”
Since its launch in 2019, CultivatR has become so much more than Alberta’s first online farmers market.
Working closely with local producers to reduce food waste while implementing sustainable food production practices, CultivatR ensures that local producers can earn a living wage, says CultivatR’s founder, Daniel Berezan.
“CultivatR is more than just a grocery delivery service. Grocery delivery is a service we provide, but our overall goal is to affect large-scale change in the agriculture industry that makes production and consumption fair for vendors, consumers and the environment,” Berezan explains.
It’s also about helping the local food economy to make data-driven decisions about what to produce, when to produce it and how much of it to produce.
“We want our producers to earn a fair living wage, our consumers to have access to fresh, high quality, nutrient-dense products at reasonable and stable prices, and to contribute to sustainable practices that improve the longevity and wellbeing of the environment.”
Reducing waste while meeting the needs of customers
It’s not just inflation that is driving up food prices at grocery stores, Berezan says.
Nearly 30% of the price of food bought at these stores is to account for potential food waste, and this additional cost gets passed along to the consumer. For the average Canadian household, this adds up to about $6,000 to 7,000 of their annual grocery bill.
That’s why CultivatR uses technology to “redefine groceries” by projecting consumer demand, which allows producers to avoid growing food in excess, prevent waste, and keep costs consistent.
“The questions were always, ‘How much should I grow? How much is needed?’ And the biggest problem with our food system is nobody answers those questions. And that’s what our technology does,” Berezan explains, adding the system allows them to predict what consumers want.
Not carrying an inventory allows CultivatR to eliminate waste, which also eliminates costs. While traditional grocers aim to carry multiple brands and versions of a single product, CultivatR works closely with local vendors to produce and distribute only what is needed to meet the needs of their customers.
That means just one brand of each product, which reduces food waste and ensures that producers aren’t carrying extra costs associated with trying to compete with fellow suppliers – costs that ultimately get passed along to the consumer in the form of rising food prices.
Not at the mercy of inflation
While Berezan admits that traditionally while their prices have been a bit higher than the average, the gap is narrowing.
“Our producers set their price and they base it on their needs… and how to support their families. From a price perspective, when we compare similar products, we are starting to see trends cheaper than the grocery stores,” he says.
Because producers are local, CultivatR is not at the mercy of the rising inflation, transportation costs, and supply chain variables that are forcing traditional grocers to bump prices up. The result is that the gap between CultivatR and grocery store prices is now narrowing considerably.
Farmers, ranchers, and food artisans who get to make a fair living are then able to reinvest into local marketing agencies, law firms, partner suppliers, maintenance providers, etc. at an exponential rate.
“It’s a platform that creates an environment where it’s a win for the farmer, it’s a win for the consumer, and it’s a win for the producer. Everybody can win in this system. And that’s how we wanted to rethink grocery,” Berezan says, adding for every dollar spent with CultivatR, $22 is recirculated back into Alberta’s economy.
“When consumers support local businesses, those businesses can support other local businesses.”
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