CHILLIWACK – A foray into farmgate egg sales using an automated, cashless vending machine is proving advantageous for Brightside Poultry in Chilliwack.
Richard and Jacqueline Boer have the first farm in North America to use the egg vending machine, made by Roesler Vending in Germany.
Launched last September, the option to buy local, organic free-range eggs by tap, debit or credit from a machine has increased in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in social distancing and no-touch transactions.
“The virus has been good to our on-farm vending business. I think we’re one of the few types of businesses that are able to say that,” notes Jacqueline Boer. “We were selling only about 1% from the farm gate but right now we’re up to about 15%.”
She says that on March 15, as panic buying set in after BC began restricting public gatherings, they sold 50% of the eggs in their barn.
Brightside is located on Evans Road, and the Boers always wanted to capitalize on the large volume of traffic that passes by their third-generation farm.
“We’ve always wanted to market what we’re producing from the farm gate,” Boer says. “We chose not to go the dairy route because we don’t want to process dairy. But because there’s so much less processing involved with eggs, this is our chance to get our feet wet in retailing.”
In addition to eggs, the farm sustains a dairy operation started in the 1950s and the Boers added broilers in 2013 after winning the new entrant broiler quota lottery.
The couple purchased a layer quota in 2016, added 4,000 laying hens to the farm in 2017 and currently have a flock of about 7,500 birds. A new barn constructed in 2019 has room for up to 16,000 birds.
In November 2018, they went to EuroTier, a trade show for livestock producers in Hanover, Germany, to purchase equipment for the new barn. They looked at several types of vending machines, widely used for hot and cold products in Europe, and ended up purchasing one.
The machine can be configured to accommodate different-sized items. The Boers sell dozens, double-dozens and flats from The Egg Shack, located in the new barn that is purposely cooled for the eggs.
Boer says they did not intend on selling products other than eggs from the vending machine but that may change if consumer demand for local food continues after the pandemic and grows.
“Our perspective has changed through this COVID thing; we may look at some other options down the road. It wasn’t really our intent when we set up,” she says. “There’s a renewed level of public trust with farmers right now. Two months ago, the public didn’t trust us and now, all of a sudden, we’re a pillar in the community, providing fresh local food.”
The machine was a significant investment and the Boers applied for and received partial funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership through the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.