April 12, 2019

App to connect consumers with local food gains traction

PHOTO | Contributed
PHOTO | Contributed
Katherine Robucci and Brendan Tyma hope their app will connect communities with fresh local food products.

A pair of Connecticut college students recently won $30,000 to develop an app described as a "virtual farmer's market" designed to help users find farm-fresh local food.

Brendan Tyma of Woodbridge, a student at Gateway Community College, and Katherine Robucci, a student at Central Connecticut State University, co-founded the business Locavore. While an herbivore eats plants and a carnivore craves meat, a "locavore" is someone whose diet is primarily comprised of local food — produced or grown within 100 miles.

Engineer.ai of California, which helps companies build and operate custom-designed software, announced the winners of its competition in March, and Locavore earned second-place honors.

"Farmers' markets have become more and more popular as 'going local' has become an international phenomenon," the company said in an announcement. "That's why we think the idea of Locavore will really catch on."

Judges thought Locavore had a high probability of becoming a viable business.

"Bringing fresh produce from farmers markets into the hands of interested customers starting in Connecticut and moving beyond to the New England area not only seems like a worthy idea, but also something that's scalable for success," Engineer.ai's announcement said.

With this funding, Tyma said the goal is to launch the app by the spring of 2020.

"It was a wonderful experience competing," Tyma said. "Our goal is to start in Connecticut, and then branch out to New England and hopefully expand along the East Coast, as most farmers markets are on the East Coast."

The students participated in a college New Venture Challenge course, for which they had to come up with a business model in eight weeks and present it, according to Tyma, an entrepreneurial studies major at Gateway.

While there was a similar app using the Locavore name launched on the West Coast earlier in the decade, Tyma said it appears to no longer be available or active. The students consulted with an attorney to ensure there would be no conflict, according to Tyma.

This month, Tyma and Robucci filed Locavore LLC with the Connecticut Secretary of the State's office.

Tyma, a U.S. Army veteran, has business experience already. He owns BeeSpoke Farm and Apiary in Woodbridge, which specializes in honey bee starter colonies.

Tyma surveyed consumers and found a large number responded positively to the idea for the Locavore app, which will support local vendors while offering convenience to consumers.

Contact Michelle Tuccitto Sullo at msullo@newhavenbiz.com

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