by Stephanie Watson
Harvest Hub, the initiative of Sydney couple Jayne and Anton Travers-Drapes, is an online grocery store offering more than just fresh produce. The site provides neighbours with an opportunity to meet and interact with each other as well. “We wanted to start a business that brought communities together,” Jayne says, co-founder of Harvest Hub.
Compared to other online grocery stores, Harvest Hub shoppers pick up their weekly goods from a neighbour’s home, a co-worker’s office, a community centre or a local church. Jayne says the concept is a new way of buying that harks back to some of the more traditional aspects of community living. “When they go to pick up their bags, neighbours meet for the first time and people come together”, she says.
Harvest Hub allows any area across Sydney to have its own ‘hub’. An interactive map on the company website allows shoppers to register their details and either join an existing hub or request that a new hub be started in their local area.
Each individual hub is made up of of 7 to 15 members and over the last four years the company has grown to over 800 members. “We’re down south, all the way from Berrowra to Ermington, we’re all along the north shore, we’re out west, in the inner west and in the eastern suburbs as well,” Jayne says.
Jayne and Anton buy direct from Australian produce growers at the Sydney Flemington Markets every Saturday and the goods are then delivered to each hub across the city. A volunteer ‘hubster’ will divide the produce in to weekly value bags and the hub’s remaining members will come by to collect their weekly food shopping as well as say hello to their hubster, neighbours and friends.
Angela Cartwright, a member of the Turrumurra Hub, says “the weekly outing for fruit and vegetables has become something that I really look forward to. The personable and friendly service is a great benefit of the Harvest Hub system.”
Jayne and Anton are also proud to be a part of a business that supports local farmers. The pair buy only Australian produce which includes a wide range of fruit, vegetables, eggs, nuts, organic meats and dairy products. “The beauty of Harvest Hub is that it’s supporting a large number of farmers in the Sydney basin who are under extreme stress at the moment and who need as much support as they can get”, Jayne says.
Matt Brand, the Chief Executive Officer of the NSW Farmers Association, cited competition from overseas imports, unpredictable seasonal change and a lack of understanding by government about the agricultural industry as some of the biggest challenges facing Australian farmers today. “The effective promotion, marketing and operation of something like Harvest Hub is a real positive for us,” he says.
Matt says he has been seeing a number of farmers’ market initiatives pop up over the metropolitan area and that any opportunity to give people a greater understanding of where food comes from is a good thing. “Ensuring consumers understand where food comes from is important. Farmers are the ultimate custodians of our land and they play a significant role in the everyday lives of all Australians,” he says.
As much as people seem to be more conscious of where their food comes from today, research also suggests that they are becoming more inclined to buy online. According to recent data released by data analysts Experian Australia, traffic in the online grocery category has jumped 70 per cent over the last year while a Nielson report released in May found that 49 per cent of people worldwide had purchased a grocery product online.
Jayne says the flexibility and affordable prices offered by Harvest Hub are its driving force. “It’s an online system so you can pick and choose what you want each week. If you don’t want the seasonal bag you can custom order, that’s the joy of it. You are also looking at significant savings because there’s no supply chain and no storage or packaging cost.”
Jayne says that more new hubs are continuing to develop across Sydney and they are currently looking for hubsters in Drummoyne and Bronte.
To find your nearest hub or for more information about the Harvest Hub initiative visit www.harvesthub.com.au