Agruppa, the platform that provides healthy food for everyone
Carolina Medina has created Agruppa, a platform that classifies and organises orders from stores, making it easier for everyone to access healthy food.
In countries such as Colombia, an apple picked in the fields goes through five different intermediaries before reaching the store shelve. Such long supply chains result in produce such as fruit being twice as expensive as a bag of chips. There are more than 340,000 mom-and-pop stores in Colombia, which commercialise 70% of the national produce of fruits and vegetables.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), there are five million of these mom-and-pop stores in Latin America. However, they face serious challenges when it comes to accessing efficient distribution, so they must end up raising their prices. In order to fix this problem, Carolina Medina founded Agruppa. Through her company, she has developed a mobile platform that groups orders made by small-scale vendors, allowing them to compete against wholesalers in produce purchases.
Carolina Medina graduated from a Master’s programme in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She became aware that this problem existed when she was doing research on bad eating habits within the people from her home town Bogotá. She realised that families knew exactly which kind of food was healthy and which was not, but they lacked the money to access the healthiest products. Additionally, vendors must face high transportation costs for bringing the produce to their stores, which could take up to 20% of their income. This inefficient way of operating between producers and vendors ended up impacting end prices.
Agruppa’s digital logistics solves the problem by coordinating all different actors involved in the supply chain. Vendors can place orders to Agruppa by SMS, through an app or by making a phone call. Based on the needs of each store, virtual purchasing groups are created made up of vendors from different stores. Then, all necessary inventories are organised and direct purchases from farmers are conducted. Agruppa analyses purchase histories, classifies the orders placed to suppliers and calculates the fairest price for each vendor. The system involves transportation to the city as well as delivery to the store at cost price.
This way, farmers, who struggle to transport their produce to the city, benefit from the system, as do micro-businesses, who no longer have to put up with an unsustainable supply chain. According to calculations conducted by Medina, who was selected by MIT Technology Review in Spanish as one of the 35 winners of Entrepreneurs under 35 in Latin America in 2017, this collaborative system involves savings in terms of time and money that can raise by 15% the profit made by each store.
Medina, who takes part as well in the World Economic Forum’s entrepreneurial programme Global Shapers from Bogotá, is successfully supplying 250 Bogotá stores only four years after setting up her company. Now, she wishes to consolidate the company and to collaborate with more stores, so that prices can be further improved by increasing the number of orders, which reduces costs. She is confident that there is much room for growth, since by optimising the distribution of fresh produce, she not only makes it easier for vendors and farmers to run their businesses on a daily basis, but also achieves a greater impact by improving the health of the entire population.