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China’s food system is ridden with scandals. Its got rat meat being sold as lamb, toxins found in rice and milk, and its agricultural resources are rapidly shrinking.
Shanghai-based online grocer Fields has raised $5 million to play a small part in fighting this tide.
Fields is a delivery service for fresh food. It sells a variety of fruit, vegetables, seafood, meats, dairies, beverages, bakery items, as well as ready-to-service dishes. The company pledges that all its food is tested for pesticides, traces of metals, and other toxins, and consumers can trust it to be safe.
The industrialization of China’s food system helped to decrease hunger rates, but at a price. China’s land and water resources are severely damaged. The soil is laden with toxins from industrial effluent, sewage, farm chemicals and mining run off and the whole system is powered by coal.
Publicity about many of the shocking and stomach-turning revelations has caused many Chinese and ex-pats alike to search for safer, healthier alternatives to what can be found in mainstream stores.
Fields was founded in 2009. Since then the company has worked on building strong relationships with suppliers, and setting up a supply chain that includes the breadth and frequency required for the service to be convenient for customers. The food is sourced and then tested, packaged and prepared in Fields’ warehouse.
It now provides food and products to tens of thousands of customers in Shanghai, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu, with same-day delivery in Shanghai and next-day delivery in other regions.
Same-day grocery delivery is just beginning to take off in the U.S., through companies like Good Eggs and Instacart, and even Amazon. Online grocery involves some significant logistical challenges. Creating an efficient chain that takes sources a range of food from a range of farmers, and delivers it to a range of customers, all while keeping it fresh, is no mean feat (remember Webvan?).
These challenges are perhaps even more pronounced in China, where the local farmers are fewer and further between, and the cities are bigger.
ClearVu Partners led this round, a private equity fund that invests in consumer companies in the Greater China region. Fields now has nearly 300 employees.