Will personalization work for produce?

Discussion
Source: Willo
Jun 16, 2020
Tom Ryan

A new California-based subscription service plans to provide consumers with access to produce from their exclusive plot on an indoor farm with the ability to customize their crops.

Described as “Farming as a Service” and aimed at urban communities, Willo will launch in August in South Bay, CA for residents within 20 miles of Santa Clara. Expansion to Los Angeles, San Diego, New York and Washington D.C. are planned in the next 24 months.

The membership process is described by Willo as follows:

  • Signup – Reserve your own “farm plot” and choose the plan that’s right for you.
  • Design –  Configure your portion of Willo’s Farm to grow your favorite produce.
  • Deliver – Enjoy touchless delivery to your home or business.

“Personalization exists everywhere except for the food industry; and we’re here to give the market what they are asking for,” said Samuel Bertram, co-founder and CEO, in a statement. “By letting people configure their own plot in Willo’s farm, we can grow the specific fruits and vegetables they desire, while making recommendations tailored to their health needs.”

The service is launching with packaged salads and will add fruits and vegetables as Willo’s farming capabilities scale.

For $99, members receive 10 kits (5 oz. of produce) a month delivered on a bi-weekly basis, calculating to $9.90 per kit.

The premium pricing reflects Willo’s stated commitment to sustainable farming:

  • Automated farming techniques remove pesticides and contamination and result in essentially zero water consumption.
  • Willo delivers within 20 miles of the farm, and the consumers’ hands are the first to touch it.
  • Automation and AI technology enables Willo to capture not only fundamental data like CO2 levels, temperature and humidity, but critical imagery data on the whole plant in a variety of spectra at high frequency to leverage computer-based learning and remote operation.

Willo becomes the direct-to-consumer brand of OnePointOne, a startup seeking to automate indoor plant production with a goal of producing the “highest quality plant material on Earth for the purpose of improving human health.” Cofounded by Mr. Bertram in 2017, OnePointOne has raised $12 million from investors, including YouTube cofounder Steve Chen, Saudi prince Khaled bin Alwaleed and Blackhorn Ventures.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Willo’s personalization scheme and convenience appeal to urban communities? How would you judge the potential to automate the vertical farming process vs. its challenges?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Anything to modernize the consumers’ view of the produce category is a welcome addition. "
"What happened to nature? I just lost my appetite reading the technological benefits “my” little indoor greenhouse farm will experience under AI and ML."
"The difference here is the ability to customize your crops, and the right to say, “I’m a farmer!” because it was grown on a portion of Willo’s exclusive plot."

Join the Discussion!

14 Comments on "Will personalization work for produce?"


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Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

“For $99, members receive 10 kits (5 oz. of produce) a month delivered on a bi-weekly basis, calculating to $9.90 per kit.” Wait — a third of a pound of produce costs almost $10? Subscribers must be dainty eaters!

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

This. My exact thoughts as well!

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

I’m not sure whether to describe it as tone-deaf or just bad timing, but with mass unemployment and social unrest, it’s probably not the best time to introduce 24 carat … carrots.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Anything to modernize the consumers’ view of the produce category is a welcome addition. Behind the scenes, the agriculture business has certainly leveraged the newest technologies, however consumer-facing products have remained largely unchanged with few exceptions for years.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

Produce to me has always been a personal thing- I know what to look for and I know what I want. I like the personalization concept of this and see the potential for its growth but I question the price (did I read this as $9.90 for 5 ounces of produce every other week)? I understand the farming and sustainable aspects of it, but is that still cost prohibitive for most weekly produce shoppers?

David Leibowitz
BrainTrust

Let’s do the math.. That equates to $1.99 per ounce.

Walmart today has Kale for 21 cents per ounce, and private label Organic Kale at 24.8 cents per ounce.

This appears to be a luxury that isn’t timed to current market conditions where consumers desire essentials at reasonable prices. Sustainability is still important, but economical family meals are more paramount right now.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

This is a new spin on something that has been around forever. Where I live organic produce is readily available via local farmers and co-ops. The difference here is the ability to customize your crops, and the right to say, “I’m a farmer!” because it was grown on a portion of Willo’s exclusive plot.

Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust

The price is so out of whack at $30 per pound that it puts Whole Foods to shame and gives 1 percent of the 1 Percenters a pause. Even then I’d think there is market and these folks have done their due diligence.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

There are two strategies at work here; personalization and convenience. Both are very appealing to consumers. The key is to make the right offer to the right people. Willo should know their customers and act accordingly.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

I am a life-long super consumer of produce! What happened to nature? I just lost my appetite reading the technological benefits “my” little indoor greenhouse farm will experience under AI and ML. This is not personalization, just a man-made solution seeking to capitalize on the real thing — nature. If my little greenhouse farm was on Mars, I would get it.

FYI: Elon Musk plans to send one million people to Mars by 2050. Possibly this is the use case?

Chuck Palmer
BrainTrust

Farming as a service sounds amazing. I can see the consumer appeal to deeply personalizing produce. I can see it becoming reliable over time, but if you get sick of the yam you chose to grow months ago, do you have to take it? Secondary trading markets?

This raises a lot of questions that the current market has already answered, but the sense of control and knowing where food comes from holds great appeal.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

This reminds me of those “name a star for someone” services … only edible! While I suspect that there will initially be interest in this, in the long run the hefty price tag — >$30/lb! — and the lack of any clearly visible benefits, will plow it under.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

It’s rather pricey, but I like the idea of personalization. Maybe grocers can figure out a variation for their customers.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

It’s definitely a higher-end niche with their offer and pricing; if they can reach the right customers they have a play. As an LA local, I definitely see a market for the convenience and personalization they’re planning to offer. Regardless, more automation in vertical farming is a “when” not an “if” question. It just might take some higher priced product to get us there.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Anything to modernize the consumers’ view of the produce category is a welcome addition. "
"What happened to nature? I just lost my appetite reading the technological benefits “my” little indoor greenhouse farm will experience under AI and ML."
"The difference here is the ability to customize your crops, and the right to say, “I’m a farmer!” because it was grown on a portion of Willo’s exclusive plot."

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