One of Americans’ favorite weekend pastimes, shopping at the local farmers market, was among the multitude of activities destroyed by Covid-19. Farmers, of course, were most affected, as many saw considerable revenue losses. But consumers lost something, too.
“We lost knowing where our food comes from,” says Gunnar Dinkla, a precision agronomist at agronomic services company Advanced Agrilytics. “Grocery stores are still an option but the personal connection with farmers got eliminated.”
Dinkla, along with teammates Kennedy Papian, a visual designer at Corteva Agriscience, and Gabriel Popoola, a postdoctoral appointee at Sandia National Laboratories, set out to solve this problem at the Forbes Under 30 Agtech+ Hackathon this past weekend. The group was tasked with discovering how farmers could achieve both sustainability and profitability through regenerative agriculture, which, in turn, could help restore the health of America’s soil.
Thus, Marketplace was born. The team proposed building an online platform to connect sustainable farmers with equally like-minded sustainable consumers. Their website would function first and foremost as an online farmers market, where consumers could search for local produce or meat in their areas and be connected to farmers who are selling their products. Much like in-person markets, farmers would pay a vendor fee for access to Marketplace.
“If I’m a consumer and I want strawberries that are organically grown and the farmer uses this certain sustainable practice, I could search that and find that that farmer is 27 miles away,” Dinkla says.
It would also operate as a social networking site, much like LinkedIn, Papian says. Farmers could connect with fellow farmers to share sustainable farming tips and tricks, as well as interact with consumers to answer questions about their products and farming practices.
“If a farmer has a surplus of tomatoes one week, he could put it