February 10, 2015; Allison Joy, Comstock's magazine
Alvaro Ramirez, a lifelong entrepreneur who cut his teeth during the dotcom boom, recounts a story told to him by a small-scale strawberry farmer on the cusp of losing his farm. Unable to find an ideal buyer, the grower was selling his produce for half of what a distributor turned it around for.
“He didn’t have the network to sell it, to move or to market it,” Ramirez says.
So Ramirez set to work creating eHarvestHub, an online tool that connects growers to transportation and distributors at low cost. Farmers list their produce in a database, which retailers can then access. Once an order is made, eHarvestHub uses what Ramirez calls an “Uber model” to efficiently get product from the farms to the distributors.
“Fresh produce changes hands six to seven times before making it to the store,” Ramirez says. “I think tech can change that, bring things back to where they used to be when the grower picks it and brings it to the store. We can do that with technology.”
Through Ramirez’s eyes, agricultural technology looks a lot more relevant than the latest iPhone app or social networking tool. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, by 2050 the world will need 70 percent more food to feed an additional 2.3 billion people — so we’ll need to get innovative. And the Central Valley, with its rich farmland, ideal climate, access to ag research hub UC Davis and proximity to Silicon Valley capital, is poised to cash in — if we play our cards right.