Robert van Aert:

“Vending machines have increased my strawberry and asparagus turnover”

The number of farm shops and stalls in the Netherlands has been growing for years, and this trend now appears to spread throughout Europe. Part of these points of sales are unmanned, or only cash payments are possible. This adds the risk of theft. Sander Sciarone has been involved with vending solutions for years, and he developed a solution for this with his company Innovend, which distributes throughout the Netherlands by the Automaten Centrale.

Vending machines are often associated with soda and sweets machines in sports clubs or canteens. Sander: “We’d like to remove this association among consumers. Nowadays, a vending machine doesn’t have to have unhealthy associations, possibilities are endless. In 2014, we started developing the Lockblox. To that end, I visited many growers, and I talked to them about the functionalities the machine had to have. With my team I developed a design, and we continued improving this over the years.”

The Lockblox is a modular shop, a kind of Lego set growers can use to set up their own locker vending machine. There’s the refrigerated (Breeze) and the non-refrigerated (Smart) edition, which are also available in combination. Eleven kinds of doors are available, so that the right size can be found for each product. Vase holders can be chosen, which are bottoms on which a cardboard cup with water can be placed to sell flowers, and LED lighting can be installed in each compartment, and which are only on if there’s something in the compartment. Besides, the doors can also be supplied closed. “The advantage of the modular system is that growers can start small, because the system is easily expanded because vending machines can be connected to each other. Investments can be kept low due to this, and expanded when necessary. With the special application, ‘VendingWeb,’ income and stocks can be checked online, so that the grower doesn’t necessarily have to walk to the machine, but directly to the shed to bring the product used to replenish the machine.”

When selling fresh products, you can choose from a selection of FIFO screen layouts. This means First In First Out, so that products placed in the machine yesterday are sold first before stocks of today are used. Customers can choose the product they find the most appealing in the selection system. However, with the FIFO system, the customer chooses the product, but the machine chooses which compartment opens. Besides, there’s the option to have your customers pick up an order bought in the webshop, for example. Your customer would receive a special code, allowing them access to the compartment holding his products. Additionally, you can also offer the option to pay when picking up the product from the machine. This function is only possible when the larger screen of 15.6 inches is chosen.

To ensure the machines will always remain up to date, the company has chosen to install a mini-computer, which is in contact with VendingWeb via the internet. That way. new payment methods can be added in future, the interface can be changed, and you’ll always be protected against cyber crimes. The entire concept means the Lockblox is future-proof, and you will always be able to keep up with the latest developments.

The option to couple a spiral vending machine to Lockblox is new. You use the screen and payment solutions in the Lockblox, and via the coupled machine you can offer different, including cooled, products. This year, Innovend is working hard on developing a webshop for growers. After all, not all growers have a webshop and investing in this is often quite expensive, Sander: “If we can couple VendingWeb to a webshop, every grower could sell their products online, in principle. You just add a company page and contact page to this, and it becomes a proper webshop consumers can use to make purchases, which can then be delivered to their homes, or they can pick them up from the Lockblox with their unique collection code. For just a small amount of money per month, each grower could sell their products online.”

The Lockblox from van Aert Aardbeien in Nispen, the Netherlands.

Van Aert Aardbeien in Nispen was the first grower in the Netherlands to have a Lockblox. Robbert van Aert about the Lockblox: “Ever since we started with asparagus four years ago, we wanted to start selling from the farm. A shop wasn’t an option, so we wanted a modern vending machine. We’re now entering our third year with this machine, and I’m still very happy with it. The machine is modern, easy to use, and it’s easy to keep track of everything using VendingWeb. If I want to go somewhere else on Sunday afternoon, I’d fill it up before leaving, creating a bit of a buffer so that the machine doesn’t become empty. We fill up more than half the compartments with two punnets of strawberries, so that more product can be sold. Customers are more prone to pick up more that way. I would recommend this machine to every grower with home sales. It increased my turnover enormously!”

For more information:
Automaten Centrale NO BV
Nijverheidsweg 5
7161 AA Neede, the Netherlands
T: +31 545 292 247

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