The modern-day milkman
Pradeep Elankumaran wanted an easier way to buy a lot of fresh milk for his two-year-old daughter without having to set foot in a supermarket several times a week.
“I’m an engineer; I don’t like doing the same things over and over,” he said. “My daughter only drinks whole milk … and I kept trying to automate this process with any service that would let me do this, and nothing really worked.”
He and a friend tapped the minds of the Mountain View, Calif., community by posting on Nextdoor, a social networking service for neighborhoods, asking “if anyone was interested in a milk, eggs, yogurt and bread delivery service,” Mr. Elankumaran said.
“And in two days,” he said, “200 people said yes.”
Mr. Elankumaran is the co-founder and c.e.o. of Farmstead, an artificial intelligence-powered digital micro-grocer currently serving Mountain View, San Mateo, San Jose, Woodside and Redwood City, Calif.
“We curate just the stuff that’s best in every category — 1,000 s.k.u.s, not 40,000 s.k.u.s like your traditional supermarket,” Mr. Elankumaran said. “Your avocados will be flawless. You have to use an app to order. And we have our own delivery drivers, and we bring it to your doorstep in under 60 minutes.”
When Farmstead added fruits and vegetables to the mix, the company developed technology to reduce food waste from spoilage.
“We discovered very rapidly that in order to figure this out we had to write code that is very advanced compared to what came before,” he said. “We have an A.I.-powered system that helps us reduce waste very aggressively... Traditional supermarkets don’t have the data to solve this problem.
“Our A.I. system tells us every week what to buy and how much to buy … which immediately cuts off food waste at the source because if you don’t have too much of it in stock you don’t waste too much.”
Farmstead serves thousands of consumers in the Bay Area and is “growing very aggressively,” Mr. Elankumaran said.
“There’s a common misconception that … no one can innovate in grocery because everything that needs to be innovated has already been done,” he said. “Grocery is actually a blue ocean space — but only online grocery.”