We all have a deep connection to food, that we consume, one way or another.
Sometimes the neatly packaged produce on shelves in the supermarket blur the lines of where our food truly comes from, and muddle our connection with food as we forget that it is painstakingly farmed and provided by a complex supply chain.
For Jolene, she shared with us the importance of supporting the local farmers that were having a hard time surviving during the pandemic. Let's a deep look into her journey of helping make food and agriculture sustainable!
PS. this episode features our new co-host Lihong! Hi Lihong!
WHAT IS URBAN TILLER?
Urban Tiller is a farm-to-table AgTech startup delivering fresh vegetables to urban households within 6-8 hours from harvest. Piloted in Hyderabad, India, Urban Tiller is now promoting their value proposition of Fresh, Safe and Sustainable produce in Singapore. They source their produce from local farms (Just Produce, Pacific Agro) in Singapore. Produce are grown hydroponically, organically and in an environmentally sustainable way.
Check out how Impact is grown!
#1 The premise of Urban Tiller
- Jolene started Urban Tiller after Circuit Breaker in Singapore
- One of the farmer received a call from the supermarket saying that they found a cheaper alternative from Malaysia and thus was left hanging
- Since Urban Tiller delivers fresh produce, she was able to help provide an edge to the local farmer and give them a piece of mind.
#2 Jolene's vision for Food & Agriculture
- Helping urban farmers stay competitive
- Bridging a gap in education where consumers are not connected with the food
- Empowering the local farmers with data to make informed choices in order to meet demand and thus being more sustainable in the long run
#3 Leverage on Data!
- Collecting data to make informed choices on how to engage with consumers
- Using content, commerce, and community to encourage consumers to help spread the word on what they do
- Engaging the community with community recipes and crowdsourced salad dressings
- Customising salads to appeal to local taste buds and increase the consumer pool
BONUS. Jolene? Journey?
Reading the Odyssey was an important part of Jolene's embarkment in the impact-making journey as the Odyssey helped her focus on journey, and perseverance. It also made her realise that being a founder is more than just glory but more importantly about the relationships... which made it even more interesting when our auto-transcriber called her "journey" instead of "Jolene".
PS. we use Descript which is a huge timesaver. A BIG shoutout to Urban Tiller for blessing us with amazing produce and salads which we had a nice cosy home cooked meal with the produce.
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0:25 What does Urban Tiller do?
1:05 Jolene's introduction
1:40 Her experience in the corporate world
2:30 meeting her partner where they had a hackerton focusing on food and agriculture in response to panic buying during circuit breaker and emphasising on food security
3:50 Starting her startup in 2 months
4:20 Speaking to local farmers and understanding how to value add them and ensuring their survivability
6:05 Understanding the demand phases, going through the learning curve, and finding their early adopters and slowly working towards the mainstream audience
7:35 Model of Urban Tiller allowing them giving back to society and making her vegetables accessible and being fresh through vending machines.
8:45 Being lean and being competitive against supermarket prices.
9:47 Her vision for the future of food and agriculture by giving farmers a solid alternative from selling to supermarkets, empowering them to have the ability to improve their farming, and providing them with data and information to ensure farmers are meeting demand.
12:14 Helping smaller farmers compete with controlled farming in Singapore
13:33 Wanting a future that has space for farmers to grow what is not usually grown
14:20 Urban Tiller's sister company where they upcycle unsold produce such as fermented vegetables.
16:15 Being data driven to make sure that they are making the right business decisions, understanding the consumers' behaviours, and creating communities out of the data such as crowdsourced salad dressings.
18:45 Working with farmers in an operational intensive supply chain, getting the word out to get early adopters over time, and offering them value.
20:48 De-risking eventually and possibly starting her own farm.
21:35 Engaging young people in agriculture and provide them with a space and expertise to grow and farm.
22:35 Reaching out to consumers to get early adopters by making it an event to celebrate and create loyalty.
23:45 The idea of the app creating a community with input from consumers.
24:30 Educating the community and letting her product start conversation among consumers. Letting consumers in circuit breakers try new experiences and taste.
28:10 What energises her: the people she works with has to feel like family and building a better life together especially during a time of uncertainty.
31:00 The core of the community being her driving force.
31:57 Her unconventional education journey that encouraged her to be more collaborative and communal.
35:45 Resilience in the community
36:40 Important lessons learned so far, going back to basics and not rushing, taking risks, and opening up her mind to listen to others.
39:40 Thinking systematically and creating environments that solve problems through understanding
41:40 Reintroducing doubt to rethink current solutions
43:43 Formative books such as long-form poetry helped her understand feelings, and the ancient works assisted her in understanding how we are culturally and historically connected.
45:40 Reading reports of how people can solve problems that big companies have spent millions trying to solve, and understanding the players involved.
46:25 the Odyssey being an important part of her journey and perseverance, and being a founder is more than just glory but more of the relationships.