Forager, which connects local farmers with grocers to bring consumers locally sourced food, has raised $4 million in funding led by various private investors, among them Duncan Saville, of ICM Ltd., an international fund managing more than $2 billion in funds, and Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI), a social impact fund focused on environmentally sustainable enterprises.
“I invested in Forager for two reasons: First, this is a $40-billion fast growing market that is largely analog and in desperate need for technology so it can scale and be data-driven,” explained Saville, founder and chairman of the ICM Group, which has offices in the United Kingdom, Ireland and The Netherlands. “Second, the majority of people I know are interested in buying more sustainably sourced products, especially at the local level. This is an important market trend that cannot be ignored and is critical to the future health of our planet.”
Forager’s online and mobile platform digitizes and streamlines the local food procurement-to-payment process, saving time and costs for grocers, co-ops, farmers, producers, and other buyers and sellers of local food. The company also offers a proprietary system that finds and vets new suppliers, which can be an expensive and unreliable process. With more grocers prioritizing their digital investments and consumers increasingly demanding high-quality, nutritious food, Forager aims to reduce the complexities and expenses of sourcing local food.
“In all my years as a serial tech entrepreneur, I have never seen a market sector with so much passion and commitment as local food among consumers and especially Gen Z,” said David Douglas Stone, founder and executive chairman of Portland, Maine-based Forager. “Without technology, the industry cannot scale and expand, end of story. Forager offers a vital solution to building a scalable, local food supply chain that can deliver the freshest-quality items to consumers. Local has also has proven itself as a key strategy for grocers and institutions differentiating with consumers who demand fresh, local food, especially in a post-pandemic world as Americans continue to focus on food as medicine and healthy eating habits.”
The investors believe that local food provides a viable opportunity for grocers to boost foot traffic in their stores while earning the loyalty of consumers. The Forager funding will be used to further grow sales channels, build out major product features, and perform upgrades that address the needs of both grocers and farmers. According to the company, local food plays a key role in maintaining the quality and quantity of products sold at retail, particularly in the case of independent grocers.
Having recently teamed with Mansfield, Massachusetts-based Roche Bros. in New England and Bashas’ in Arizona, Forager now operates in more than 12 states with 40-plus grocers and institutions, and 500 local suppliers. Further, the company has experienced fourfold growth since 2018, with almost 200,000 local products sourced through its platform to date.
Bashas’ Market Inc. is a family-owned company based in Chandler, Arizona. Its banners include Food City, AJ’s Fine Foods, Eddie’s Country Store, and both Bashas’ and Bashas’ Diné supermarkets. The company is No. 73 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s list of the top food retailers in North America.