More growers are needed to supply Oddbox, London’s wonky fruit and vegetable box scheme which is trying to reduce waste on farms.

Oddbox already works with about 30 growers, collecting wonky and surplus fruit and vegetables direct from farms because the produce does not fit supermarket and wholesale market standards on size, shape, colour or skin lesions.

Most of the fruit is collected from Kent, the vegetables from Lea Valley and a mix of salad vegetables from Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Suffolk and Lincolnshire. Growers are paid a fair price to cover their production costs, and the veg boxes are sold at an average of 30% less than other veg box schemes.

Currently produce is collected in one run and brought to a hub in west London where it is boxed and dispatched. Oddbox has grown by 650% year on year from April 2017 to April 2018 since launching two years ago. It currently has 1,500 customers in south London but there is a long waiting list of more than 2,500 people from the rest of the country.

Deepak Ravindran co founded Oddbox with Emilie Vanpoperinghe. “We started in south London and now we are moving to west London postcodes,” said Mr Ravindran. “We will cover west London this year and the first half of 2019.” Nine to 12 months from now, a start will be made on covering north London. “We are looking to outsource some of our operations to external packhouses and third party logistics companies.”

In the second half of 2019 and beyond, the plan is to expand to Bristol, Brighton, Cambridge and Oxford before moving up north to Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and beyond. Mr Ravindran said that Oddbox wanted to start a franchise model based on Riverford, the organic veg box delivery company, to give nationwide coverage.
By the end of this year, Oddbox should be delivering to 4,000 homes. The figure rises to 12,500 homes by the end of next year and 60,000 homes by the end of 2022.

Andrew Brice is one of the growers supplying Oddbox from Church Farm in Kent. This year he grew 47 tonnes of asparagus, and about 10 tonnes was due to be wasted for a variety of reasons, including trimming at the central packhouse. Of that 10 tonnes, Oddbox collected about one tonne in four pallets. The rest was turned into green waste and returned to the land as manure.

“Oddbox has nothing to do with the packhouse,” Mr Brice said. “We sort out the asparagus for them which we think the packhouse will reject.” Oddbox could take more asparagus, he added. “I would welcome that because it is such a brilliant concept.”

At Mid Kent Growers, a fruit cooperative, marketing manager Gill Harper said Oddbox had taken two tonnes of apples and a few pears last year. “This year we hope to do significantly more because they have branched out,” said Ms Harper. “If the fruit was not going to Oddbox, it would be left on the tree to fall or be used for juice.”

Any grower who wants to contact Oddbox should

Pictured: Emilie Vanpoperinghe and Deepak Ravindran are co founders of Oddbox