Azoti helps food producers increase demand, productivityBusiness Profiles — By Melanie McIntyre on December 2, 2011 at 8:00 am
Dave Ranallo remembers tasting the difference between tomatoes from a chain grocery store and tomatoes grown in his grandparent’s garden when he was just 10 years old, calling that the beginning of his “food awakening.”
Ranallo’s longtime interest in fresh produce, his desire to build solutions that help “the little guy,” and the 2008 financial crisis, which convinced him to explore opportunities to work with people and industries that will “thrive in a world of scarcity and inflation,” all served as catalysts for Azoti.
Launched in April, Azoti helps food producers solve their most pressing concerns, such as getting new customers and generating consistent cash flow.
To learn more about how Azoti assists food producers, why moving into markets outside the Midwest is important for the company, and what makes its team “pretty happy at the end of the day,” keep reading.
The Metropreneur: Azoti provides local food producers with a marketing platform featuring Internet technologies and offline marketing partnerships designed to increase demand and productivity, allowing them to focus on growing. Can you explain what that means?
Dave Ranallo: Our solutions consist of an online marketplace bringing buyers −individuals, corporations, institutions, retailers, wholesalers, etc.− together with local food producers− artisans, small growers, distributors, coops with annual revenues from $20,000 to $100 million. Most small businesses, especially labor intensive ones like those who “grow stuff,” don’t have time to use the latest business development and marketing techniques.
We can help attract buyers that most individual small growers cannot. By attracting buyers who place their purchase requests online, growers now have the chance to forecast demand, which decreases costs dramatically. Once that relationship is in place, we provide productivity tools to help the growers manage food subscriptions, customers, inventory, payment processing and billing. These tools increase customer retention and productivity.
We are not a food delivery service like Green Bean Delivery and have no intentions of becoming one. However, our platform can be used by food delivery services.
[M]: What does Azoti offer food producers besides marketing?
DR: Ability to penetrate into large corporations and institutions through our wellness partnerships, which are fast becoming part of all HR departments across the country. The chance to make relationships with others growers, buyers, ag suppliers, and other ag services outside their close knit circles. Access to capital for expanding their operations besides debt.
[M]: How many food producers has Azoti worked with to date?
DR: We’re pre-revenue right now, but will launch our private beta release with eight of the top growers and distributors in Ohio over the next few weeks. If and when we prove ourselves to this beta group, the goodwill and credibility generated could lead to 150+ customers just in Ohio alone.
[M]: In which cities are those food producers located?
DR: Columbus and Athens, Ohio. However, as we generate our first round of funding, we’ll expand to Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Detroit, Indianapolis, and one warm weather town, like LA. Expanding to a warm weather town provides us with consistent cash flow, as our revenue is seasonal if we just stay in the Midwest. Plus, expanding to warmer weather cities, or the southern hemisphere, mitigates the risk of regional force majeure, e.g. flooding, volcanoes, or alien invasions.
[M]: Eating locally sourced foods is popular right now. Do you see this trend continuing?
DR: We believe growers are the next millionaires! And we’re not talking about those industrialized farms subsidized by governments. The evidence for local food sourcing is seen by the 43 percent increase in U.S. farmers markets since 2005, as well as the recent announcements by major retailers like WalMart, Safeway, Giant Eagle, etc. to double their purchases from local food providers.
On a macroeconomic level, there are vast supply shortages across many product lines for a myriad of reasons. So if the economy picks up, then those supplies will be strained, causing prices to rise. If the economy tanks again, there’s an extremely high probability that central banks will print more currencies, resulting in inflation, causing intrinsically valued goods like food, oil, gold, etc. to increase in price.
With gas at $8 per gallon, there will be a shift in sourcing food from local providers. Either way, the growers win! Forget all the hype, numbers, and macro scenarios. We strongly believe there’s not only a food awakening occurring around the world, but also an awakening of people’s consciousness. If we can provide one avenue for people taking that journey, then we’ll all be pretty happy at the end of the day.
[M]: Is there anything else you think we should know?
DR: Is this where we make our plea for angel investors? We are raising funds right now from accredited investors who are interested in triple bottom line companies. If you’re interested, please send us an email at email@example.com.
Also, Azoti means “nitrogen” in Italian. Nitrogen is one of the key enablers for photosynthesis and makes plants green.
To learn more about Azoti, visit Azoti.com.
Melanie McIntyre served as editorial director of The Metropreneur from its launch in August 2010 to May 2013. She is also a featured writer for Columbus Underground and writes about fashion, style and pop culture on her blog, Thoroughly Modern Melly. Melanie is an Ohio State University graduate, lives in the Short North, and enjoys reading and running.
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