• WisBusiness

Grazin aims to fill needs of ‘locavores’ to connect with farmers

Tim Flores didn’t always have a passion for local food.

The once overweight co-founder of Madison-based Grazin changed his ways in 2011, inspired by the best-selling book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Flores, 31, shifted to healthy eating and soon became a so-called “locavore,” eating food grown and sourced locally.

Flores is trying to make it a little easier for others to find local food, following his work with a local farmer whose website was self-produced and hard to navigate.

“Farmers have websites, but many lack friendly interfaces,” Flores said. “They are poorly designed, and virtually non-functional. I realized I could make things better for this guy and other farmers. That’s the idea that became Grazin.”

The app, which was a semi-finalist in the Governor’s Business Plan Contest, hopes to connect Madison-area customers directly with local farmers, which Flores said reconnects them with “clean, fresh and local food.”

Through Grazin, customers will be able to search different foods at different farms and pay for it all within the app.

“I realized that if I could build an online marketplace for the agricultural sector -- say like Ebay or Amazon -- that would be really valuable for farmers and consumers who want an easier way to get local food,” Flores said.

The app, which has three full-time developers, will start with a small database of farmers in the Madison area, expanding to more than 60 farms by the end of the year. Eventually, Flores said, the app could grow to Chicago and the west coast, but he said he wants to start small.

“Ultimately it has to work well for the farmers,” he said. “We want to roll it out slowly to make sure it can be successful.”

Flores said farmers are excited to join the app, recounting a recent organic farm conference where several asked him about the app. That, Flores said, is when he realized there are wide misperceptions that farmers are old-fashioned and unwilling to use technology.

“Farmers are business people,” Flores says, “and they recognize this as a new outlet for their product. I told them, ‘I’ll handle the software and you handle the rest.’”

-- By Margot Cumming,
For WisBusiness.com

Cumming is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.


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