Will personalization work for produce?
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.
- Willo to Provide New Direct-to-Consumer Vertical Farming Produce Delivery – Willo/Business Wire
- Produce Startup Willo Launches DTC Program – Progressive Grocer
- High-tech vertical farming startup takes root in San Jose warehouse – San Jose Business Journal
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?