The farming industry and the tech world are rarely mentioned in the same sentence, but one Kelowna-based company is injecting some serious tech into the Ag business.
Soil Mate matches consumers and businesses who want to know where their food comes from with farmers and their goods. The company works with local farmers, raisers and producers to develop tools and products to help grow their market. By allowing communities easy access to know what their local farmers grow, how they grow it, and when we can get it, Soil Mate is essentially closing the loop of food cycle confusion.
Like a Match.com for fruits, vegetables, meat, and wine instead of love and romance, SoilMate provides a clear, user-friendly platform for people to find fresh goods direct from the source. Matt Gomez, the company’s CEO, didn’t start the company for the typical reasons.
“It all fell into place three and a half years ago when my daughter was born, my first child,” says Gomez. “I had eaten crappy food my whole life, and I come from an ultra-generic town in England. My food supply system was the supermarket where you would buy whatever was cheap. But when you go to the supermarket we really don’t know were our food is coming from. There are so many factors in play now that make what we eat a source of serious concern.”
With GMOs, pesticides, and other scary “bonuses” like pink slime and listeria, finding real food is more prudent today than ever before for consumers and restaurants.
“I’ve become way more aware of all the different pieces of the food security puzzle: whether it’s the environmental impact of large operations, especially in mass meat production, food miles, oil and water use and availability, price, land access, tastes, use of chemicals, aging farmer population—all the unsexy things around food that many people give no thought to, but fundamentally impacts their lives now and in the very near future,” says Gomez.
Using Soil Mate’s patented advanced search engine and extensive database of farmers, finding ingredients for future meals is, to quote chef Jamie Oliver, “easy peasy.”
Most of us who want to feed their family locally sourced food don’t have time to be calling and emailing to figure out what’s available, so this is where SoilMate comes in.
“I did research in the U.S. as well—and the scenario is the same there,” Gomez says. “So I decided that I could do better and I want to do better. I basically built a Trip Advisor or Expedia for local food. It’s a site that works across North America no matter where you are, you can use Soil Mate to find out who grows what, how they do it, when it’s available, where you can buy it, and in some cases, buy it through the site. It’s a central basic site for finding the information that makes it convenient for me as a consumer, or you as a consumer to get this stuff.”
Gomez’s background is in web design and marketing, so creating the platform in this virtually-untapped industry was almost second nature. Not to say building SoilMate’s online infrastructure was easy: several unrelated industries have already expressed interest in licensing the framework.
The company’s website has also been boasting some impressive stats. In a little over five months, with a quiet release and rapid organic growth, Soil Mate now has users in every state and province in the US and Canada, and has significant engagement, with the average amount of time visitors spend on the site at over 10 minutes for consumers and 30 for farmers.
Soil Mate generates revenue through specialized advertising, and in taking a very small percentage of each transaction if a farmer chooses to sell through the site (which they don’t have to). Listings for farms, farmers’ markets and wineries are free for the farmers and give them a whole suite of options to market their farms through the site.
The company was fortunate to secure angel investment in its very first meeting. I guess they digged it.
So maybe its time to break up with your grocery store produce manager, because you’ve found your soil mate.