Ample marketplace

Source: Ample 

The digital platform was officially launched this week in collaboration with charitable trust the Foodify Foundation

Startup surplus food marketplace Ample – which allows farmers to sell excess fresh produce directly to buyers – is promising to slash food waste and empower growers to sell their whole harvest.

The digital platform was officially launched this week in collaboration with charitable trust the Foodify Foundation – which aims to share the social, economic and environmental benefits generated by Ample with global good causes, and is funded via a 5% endowment of Ample’s equity.

Ample enabled farmers “to seamlessly upload their produce” so that it could then be matched to buyers across the food sector, said co-founder and CEO Steve Thomas.

He described the service as a “new kind of town marketplace”, connecting farmers with buyers in their locality and sustainably-minded businesses in the food industry, including restaurants, wholesalers, manufacturers, caterers and charities.

Described as the “first” platform of its kind in the UK, the marketplace offered users a fully integrated service that provided help with marketing their excess produce, invoicing and even “hassle-free” logistics if required by the seller, he added.

Established alongside partners Matt Warnock-Parkes, and Mark Simpson, Thomas – who previously worked as interim chief executive of food waste charity The Felix Project from 2019 to 2021 – said the service would seek to find a home for what often amounted to as much as 20% of a typical farm’s harvest that wasn’t picked up by major buyers such as supermarkets.

“At least 1.6 million tonnes of edible food is wasted on UK farms every year,” he said. “This happens for a number of reasons, including fruit and vegetables that don’t conform to strict marketing standards due to shape, size, or blemishes; contractors changing their mind after planting; unpredictable weather and changeable consumer demand.”

Growing food required “a huge amount of resources including energy, water, chemicals, labour and money”, he added. “So wasting food wastes the resources that go into growing and harvesting it.”

This contributed to carbon emissions and directly impacted an industry that was “already feeling the brunt of climate change and economic hardship”, Thomas said, pointing to the clear need for the new service. “But also – crucially – we are bringing high quality British food for business buyers at keen prices.”

Ample, which was currently operated by just eight staff, had already attracted more than a dozen sellers in the south of England during its Beta testing phase, with “another 250 leads” as the business launched this week.

It had already attracted a six-figure investment from angel investors, Thomas said, and was looking to expand over the coming months as its reach extended across the whole of the UK and even into Europe. The business was also in discussions with new investors that shared its vision.

Platform users paid Ample between 5% and 15% per transaction on the marketplace, which also offered users the opportunity to buy produce in advance, rather than just spot deals, Thomas stressed.

“We are not a startup that is here to get rich, our prime purpose is to innovate in a malfunctioning food system,” he added.

“We also want to revitalise local food economies – lots of farms are very focused on their big programme contract with supermarkets and probably don’t know there are manufacturers, caterers and so on round the corner from their farm. The days of a local market locally is long gone, so we want to bring it back.”