9/22/09

Virtual farmers market will let UK shoppers buy real produce

After a short run on Second Life, Virtualfarmersmarketuk.com will reopen in January on a new platform where consumers can actually buy produce.

Katie Evans , Managing Editor, International Research

Building on an initial experiment in online virtual world Second Life, a British food importer says he will launch a virtual farmer’s market in the United Kingdom in January. The transaction-enabled Virtualfarmersmarketuk.com will serve as a portal to the web sites of specialty British agricultural producers, with online shoppers able to place orders on those web sites or centrally on the virtual market platform, for local delivery.

Importer Marcus Carter says the virtual farmers market will move from Second Life to a dedicated virtual platform his organization is currently building using online gaming technology. As was the case on Second Life, the new platform will allow visitors to tour market stalls online and view what each stall has to offer. But, unlike Second Life, visitors won’t have to create avatars to navigate the virtual market. Instead, they can travel through the market using their mouse and cursor.

Sellers will be limited initially to four to six items per market stall. Farmers will deliver goods to a London-based warehouse, which will fulfill the orders from the online shoppers. Shoppers also can choose to order directly from any producer’s web site linked to that producer’s market stall.

Carter says he will buy goods and sell them to consumers at a 10% markup. The virtual market, which closed on Second Life earlier this year, will reopen on the new platform with an initial 20 to 30 farm producers, but Carter plans to add many more.

The new virtual market will include 90-second videos of each participating producer discussing the story behind her product. Visitors can view the farmers’ videos when they visit their stalls.That ties directly into what Carter sees as the utility of the Internet in accomplishing his objective, which is to make British consumers aware of local produce grown right in their backyard.

Carter notes that access to real-world farmers’ markets in the U.K. is limited. “People want to buy better food but they are not willing to go to 20 producers individually, and there isn’t any place where they can go to meet the producer, listen to his story and then make a decision to buy, with the exception of a real-life famers’ market,” he says. “I’m trying to bring that online. “

Topics:

Computing, Online shopping, Reality, Technology Internet, World Wide Web

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