A businessman with a "passion" for farming and supporting local producers has developed a new online platform to help build sales

A businessman with his roots firmly fixed in farming has developed a new online shopping platform designed to help people shop local.

Robert Durkin pictured with Rachael Robinson who has joined the Farm2Fridge online platform to support the surge in sales during lockdown.

Farm2Fridge has been founded by Scholes-born Robert Durkin, who said his passion for farming and supporting small, local producers has always been a major driving force behind what he does.

Mr Durkin, who grew up on his uncle’s sheep farm in North Yorkshire, said the aim of the new platform, which is free to join, is to champion locally sourced produce and support farm shops, farmers and independent suppliers to grow their businesses online.

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“I started this business out of pure passion for farming and to help small, local producers get their goods in front of customers more easily.”

One of the businesses which has already signed up to Farm2Fridge is Robinson’s Farm Shop in Halifax which, like many, experienced an unexpected surge in customers during lockdown.

And while the new business was welcome, owner Rachael Robinson said it had been stressful as they had been unprepared for the sudden demand.

“It was stressful and very difficult to keep up. It was like Christmas but without the preparation. Our staff had to work long hours and we didn’t really have the systems in place to deal with it.

“Customers didn’t want to go to supermarkets because of the queues and they were also struggling to get hold of stock so we found ourselves busier than ever, both in the shop and on the phones, and even via social media.

“People were calling up to order full weekly shops so staff were breaking off from serving in the shop to take down the orders manually over the phone then adding it up and calling back to take card payments and arrange delivery.”

She said using a platform like Farm2Fridge had made things much easier. “It is easier for customers and takes the stress out of it for us too.

“We know many local farm shops have seen a surge in customers shopping locally online for fresh, quality produce during the coronavirus pandemic. And not all suppliers found they were technically equipped to cope with that demand along with juggling the daily running of their farms or food production businesses,” Mr Durkin said.

Farm2Fridge gives each business its own e-shop, listing all their products in one place for shoppers to see and Mr Durkin said he hoped it would offer them the support they need while saving them the expense of setting up their own online shop.

“With Covid-19 still very much a reality, we want to support local food suppliers by offering them the chance to grow their online sales and giving them more time to focus on what they do best,” he said.