Farmer’s Fridge

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Can healthy eaters find happiness in a vending machine that serves up a jar of mozzarella, tomatoes, spinach and house-made basil pesto hummus on multigrain 1979 bread from Publican Quality Bread?

The answer clearly is yes, and they wash it down with a La Colombe triple draft latte (120 calories of low-fat milk, cold-pressed coffee, cane sugar, chicory root fiber, acacia gum, sodium phosphates, lactase and vitamin D3).  

Through its network of 180 (and growing) refrigerated vending machines in Illinois and Wisconsin, Farmer’s Fridge is packing chef-curated meals and snacks in recyclable plastic serving jars for consumers who want more than Cheez-Its from their vending machine.

And plenty of hands are reaching out. Farmer’s Fridge is targeting growth in the Midwest from Cincinnati to St. Louis, backed by a $30 million venture-fund investment it received in September – its third round of financing from investors that includes A List venture funds.

What sets Farmer’s Fridge apart from other vendors is its data-driven inventory-control system. Proprietary software and cost-function algorithms forecast demand for each Fridge. Based on predictions and recommended allocation, Farmer’s Fridge personnel daily prepare fresh meals and snacks in its kitchen in the Fulton Market district. The system, officially christened as the Profitable Perishability Prevention Platform, optimizes revenue and minimizes food waste, yielding a retail price of about $8 per serving.

Unsold items are donated to area food pantries through partnerships with local food rescue organizations.

Newly deployed touch screens are tied to an app that enables customers to check inventory in nearby machines and earn customized rewards – and add more data points to the company’s algorithm that predicts demand with greater precision.

Farmer’s Fridge is blending technological innovation with restaurant-quality food.