Last month, more than 70 people assembled for the very first Food Hackers event. Located in a repurposed warehouse/garage space in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, the event spotlighted four NYC-based food entrepreneurs to share their experiences in the food industry. Using a format similar to The Moth, each told engaging stories on that night’s theme, “Through the Fire,” responding to the question: how have you been burned in the past, and what did it teach you? The first in an ongoing series of Meetups organized by Farmigo, the event was aimed at bringing together members of the food community, with the hopes of encouraging future discussion and collaboration to help turn New York City into a hub for food technology startups.
“We’ve created an entire food system, from farm to table,” said Farmigo CEO and cofounder Benzi Ronen. “And we’re doing it in a way that’s affordable for the consumer, providing better margins for the farms, and leveraging software in a way that allows our company to scale and become profitable.”
Initially founded in 2009 as a software company to help farms modernize and become more profitable through software solutions, Farmigo has evolved into a type of online farmer’s market. Users simply go online to order their produce, meats, seafood, grains, and what have you from Farmigo’s site. From there, orders are sent to local farms, where your precise order is harvested. Within 48 hours, those goods are sent out to virtual co-ops in your community, where you can simply pick up your order (free of any delivery charges). They currently operate in parts of New York City and San Francisco.
“We want to be a place for the food community in New York to come together, and we also wanted to have a space that can be the home of that,” said Ronen.
Previously headquartered in DUMBO, Brooklyn, the company’s recent move to Gowanus is an effort to create not only a space that better represents what Farmigo is about – a connector in the food and tech community – but also to discover and to watch the growth of the local food movement in New York. “Gowanus – we feel – is on the cutting edge of a new neighborhood on the rise, and it’s the perfect place for food artisans to be building out their businesses. And that’s happening – we see it taking place.”
The move to a new location coupled with monthly Food Hackers Meetups is all ultimately aimed at turning New York City into a hub for technology food startups. At the Meetups, the goal is not about building the Farmigo brand; rather, the goal is to allow other entrepreneurs in the food tech space to share their stories with others, and to engage them in a way that allows for future interaction and collaboration within the greater food community. For Ronen, food is all about stories: telling those stories and visualizing those stories, so that they have greater impact.
At the first event, Ronen said that people came out and were more engaged with each other than at typical startup events. He attributed this to the story format: that sharing one’s startup experiences through storytelling is much more engaging than simply networking with other startups. And it’s through this greater engagement that Ronen hopes NYC can build a supportive and preeminent food tech community.
“We want to make New York the hub for these kinds of businesses; if you want to start a technology food company, this is the place.”
According to Ronen, there are three reasons why NYC can become the next hub for food startups. Firstly, he argues that the community here has become more and more tech savvy, with a large talent pool of developers and many already-existing startups that have been here for awhile. Secondly, he says that while San Francisco and Brooklyn are considered the hubs for local food artisans, he believes that Brooklyn has a slight lead. And, lastly, he touches back on the storytelling aspect: NYC has any and all types of access to high-quality media that food entrepreneurs can utilize to contextualize their stories in ways that make them meaningful to others.
Tonight, Farmigo will hold its second Food Hackers Meetup. The theme for tonight’s event is “In the Weeds,” and five local entrepreneurs will share their stories about what they’ve learned from developing their businesses in NYC. If you haven’t RSVP’d yet, there are a few open spots remaining, so grab them when you can.