Austin’s Peach Digitally Connects Local Farmers to Restaurant Chefs

Austin’s Peach Digitally Connects Local Farmers to Restaurant Chefs

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says. But he adds its service would be of interest to him should they add producers within a 100-mile radius.

Despite the favorable response by both chefs and farmers, a key obstacle in Peach’s growth is distribution: Getting the products from the farms to the restaurant kitchens efficiently, says Robyn Metcalfe, director of the Food Lab at the University of Texas at Austin, an incubator program she created at the Center for Sustainable Development in UT’s architecture school.

“A virtual farmers app is great but you still have the real tricky bit which is the physical, on-the-ground issue: How do you deliver it?” she says. “These are perishable goods that need to be picked up and delivered to the end user.”

Ehevich says he and Barrett are speaking with existing food distributors about getting capacity on existing delivery runs. Right now, the farmers and chefs will have to work that out amongst themselves, he added.

Yates says that, at his previous kitchen at a hotel in Orlando, FL, they ended up buying their own truck in order to pick up products purchased at local farms.

“And we ended up building our own two-acre working farm. We had bees, gardens,” he says. “We helped a young lady start a company to broker between the farms, pick up, and make deliveries.”

The distribution issue also became a sticking point for AgLocal, a Kansas-based food startup that earlier this month closed on a $1.3 million Series A round from investors such as Andreessen Horowitz. A partnership with their main distributor abruptly dissolved, causing missing products and missed deliveries, TechCrunch reported last month. (AgLocal itself began as a marketplace for meat, connecting farmers to chefs, but the company has now changed gears, offering an e-retail site to consumers who can purchase the meat on a monthly subscription basis.)

In the meantime, Ehevich says Peach’s strength is that it was created to be on mobile from the ground up, making it useful both to people in the field and those behind the stove. “Farmers are not on computers behind the desk, but they do carry phones,” he says.

All of the company’s outreach to farmers has also inadvertently given Peach a side business: Redesigning or creating websites for the 21st century. “We’ve found that farmers are not the best at marketing,” Ehevich adds. “If they don’t have a good website, how will people find them?”

In addition to Yates, Peach has signed up other chefs, including Janelle Reynolds, who runs the kitchen at Austin’s @t large, a private chef services company, and is a winner of the “Chopped” television show.

Ehevich and Barrett met as classmates at the University of Texas where they are both completing their MBAs this month, just as they are putting the final touches on Peach’s launch. The two began collaborating on the app last year and have bootstrapped the company with their own money.

“It takes a lot of effort from a chef’s perspective to find these local products,” says Yates at the Marriott hotel. “We gotta work together on it.”

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The Author

Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763.

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