Equity crowdfunding business will help farming community in Queensland

A Brisbane-based ethical food business, which helps connect local farmers with local buyers, plans to be Australia’s first community-owned food hub.

Food Connect, based at Salisbury in Brisbane’s south, is one of the first companies in Queensland to sign up to crowdfunding platform PledgeMe.

It joins a growing number of companies around the world giving the community an opportunity to be investors.

Food Connect shed director Robert Pekin started the company in 2005 after he lost his fourth-generation dairy farm.

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Since then, he has been on a mission to create a fairer food system for farmers and buyers.

“We ethically and transparently engage local farmers to supply ecological food that is in season and super fresh and we pay them about four times the amount of the big food chains, so more of the customer’s dollar goes directly to the growers,” said Pekin.

“Over the last thirteen years Food Connect has worked with over 80 local farmers, 40 local producers, and generated over $25 million in revenue for the local food economy.

“The warehouse we’ve been leasing for more than ten years is now for sale and we’ve been offered the chance to buy it. We have the experience to run the space, we just need the funds to help make that happen,” he said.

Food Connect shed director Emma-Kate Rose said local food hubs were a growing movement internationally.

“We want to start the first one here in Queensland. We want the community to come on this journey with us, we want them to be part of a fairer food system, we want them to help make a difference for our local farming community, we want the public to own the infrastructure,” said Rose.

“We we could have gone down a more traditional capital raising route, but we wanted to offer the shares to a wider, more diverse group of potential investors like the community that has been supporting us for the past decade.

“We have always been driven by community, it’s only natural to be owned by it too.”

PledgeMe recently expanded to Australia and is Queensland’s first equity crowdfunding business to be based in the state thanks to the Queensland government’s advance Queensland HotDesq initiative.

It’s also one of only nine across Australia so far to secure one of the ground-breaking licenses from the Australian securities and investments commission early this year.

Co-founder Anna Guenther said PledgeMe has had more than $28 million pledged to date in New Zealand.

“We’ve seen everything from a group of local citizens raise $2m in 32 hours to buy a chocolate company in Dunedin to keep chocolate making skills and jobs in the town, through to the world’s youngest equity crowdfunder, Indy Griffiths, raising $50,000 at 19 years old,” said Guenther.

The PledgeMe campaign launched on the 21st of August.

The campaign will run until the 21st of September or when the campaign is fully subscribed.