Arizona Daily Star: Startup Tucson lands $250,000 grant to help farmers join the digital marketplace

Southern Arizona farmers are joining the 21st century thanks to a federal grant that will help them enter the digital world.

The effort is being led by Startup Tucson, which landed a $250,000 United States Department of Agriculture grant to create an e-commerce website for regional agriculture producers to connect them with consumers.

Startup Tucson has partnered with Merchant’s Garden, Visit Tucson, BRINK Creative Group and University of Arizona Department of Agricultural Education, Technology and Innovation on the two-year project that will help local food producers “level-up” their technology and business models.

“We really look at this as a community wide project,” said Startup Tucson Executive Vice President Dre Thompson.

The plan is to bring ag business into the 21st-century digital world and expose producers to new online customers through a one-stop-shop platform hosted by Visit Tucson.

“When COVID hit, we just saw the devastation with the markets closing down,” Thompson said. “We saw this opportunity pop up and in ... conversations we had with food entrepreneurs and agriculture businesses, we learned that technology was the biggest gap.” Area farmers have been hard-hit since March, when the coronavirus pandemic put an end to their in-person farmers markets and dramatically cut their sales to restaurants.

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