This meal kit service delivers produce from your neighbor’s back yard

by Kelly O'Halloran
August 7, 2018
lettuce austin urban farming
photo via shutterstock

Austin-based startup Lettuce delivers weekly meal plans made up of fresh, local ingredients to your doorstep.

But categorizing it as a meal kit startup, like Blue Apron or HelloFresh, misses the point, according to its founder.

“We’re not just another meal kit company,” said Lettuce CEO and co-founder Yogesh Sharma. “We’re an urban farming company.”

“We’re not just another meal kit company. We’re an urban farming company.”

And unlike your standard tech startup, made up of hungry entrepreneurs and software engineers, Lettuce’s team consists of farmers, techies, scientists, chefs, designers and operational experts working together to grow and distribute hyperlocal produce across a community ecosystem.

Lettuce’s journey began with an app launch in 2016 that allowed users to enter their addresses to see if their land has enough greenery available to host an urban farm.

As hosts signed up for the platform, Lettuce began installing and maintaining local gardens, while tracking data on factors like hours required to produce a pound of food, and how much dirt was required for plots of varying sizes and types.

“For a year we did this, progressing with larger farm surfaces to understand the architectural supply chain in urban farming,” said Sharma. “We started with 40-square-feet plots of land, then moved to 100 square feet, then 2,000 square feet and then all the way to 50,000 square feet.”

“By the end of 2016, we had enough produce coming out of the farm that we thought, ‘Holy shit, we’ve got to sell this!’” said Sharma.

Enter: meal kits, which Lettuce launched in March of last year. But Sharma and his team wanted to avoid the missteps many of the meal kit businesses have made, like providing unsustainable packaging with non-local produce that isn’t cost effective for the consumer.

“We are going to be local, zero waste, and we are going to be affordable,” said Sharma.

Lettuce’s food couldn’t be more localized, as its produce comes directly from gardens throughout our Austin neighborhoods. Its zero waste strategy involves using reusable packaging, providing built-in composting and keeping its logistics efforts efficient through short delivery transports. As far as pricing goes, Lettuce charges $79 for three meals a week consisting of four servings per meal. Meanwhile, Blue Apron charges $107.88 and HelloFresh charges $104.88 for similar products.

“Lettuce is not a luxury or a once-in-a-while thing,” said Sharma. “Lettuce is a habit.”

Looking ahead, Sharma said the Lettuce team will continue to solidify its product portfolio, which includes a new line of meal kits for kids, a vegan line and a gluten-free line, while adding more urban farm hosts, homesteads and food gardens.

The team is also developing a software platform called GrowShare, which will help urban farmers and owners of urban land grow and maintain their own gardens that Lettuce will then directly buy produce from via a frictionless, web-based transaction.

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