Appeltje Eitje: Small Steps to Save the World

Executive Summary

Visit the Appeltje Eitje store in Arnhem and you’ll find a shop that operates without any staff, with walls of vending machines filled daily by the farmers who own the business. The machines include items that can be as simple as an apple or an egg, and customers serve themselves and pay by touchscreen. The company is an innovative Dutch micro-food store startup with a clear vision to simplify and shorten the food chain from farmer to market, making the world healthier and more wholesome. The startup turned to Architechts for a scalable and reliable hardware and software solution to implement Internet of Things (IoT) services, serverless computing, and digital transformation workloads with AWS. Architechts was well placed because of its serverless specialty, integrated digital innovation approach, and values that aligned with Appeltje Eitje’s. 

Appeltje Eitje: Small Steps to Save the World

Appeltje Eitje was started by two farmers with a mission to bring the farm to the city. Gertjan van Dam, one of the company’s founding farmers, explains: “We try to create a real farming experience in the stores in terms of decoration, but also with animal sounds through speakers, making it feel like you’re on the farm.” Its first shop opened in Beuningen in the Netherlands in 2018, followed by branches in Ede and Nijmegen. The company wanted to help more people, especially those in cities, to experience what it’s like to taste fresh products directly from the farm. It was also on a mission to educate people about alternative ways to buy and consume food and to show that it’s possible to eat fresh, local produce at a fair price.

Architechts, consultants based in Den Bosch, took Appeltje Eitje’s founders back to basics. It set out to explore the company’s customer journeys and to understand the customer experiences the company was trying to create. It then looked at how cloud-native software combined with high-performance hardware could help provide unique retail experiences and prepare the company for growth—something the company couldn’t support through its previous IT environment. From there, Architechts worked to create something different. Appeltje Eitje’s sixth store, in Arnhem, is the first branch with automated, cloud-connected hatches, running on technology that was co-created with Architechts in collaboration with the food system innovation platform Foodvalley. Approximately 400 hatches are filled daily with fresh products, including fruit and dairy items.

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Creating a Better World, One Egg at a Time

Over a four-month period, Architechts built the solution for this new type of store, developing it on an entirely data-driven and cloud-based architecture using AWS Lambda, Amazon DynamoDB, and AWS IoT Greengrass. Now, everything runs in the cloud. This makes it possible to see and act upon real-time sales and inventory data, so that farmers can make distribution and replenishment plans from home. It also means that Appeltje Eitje's farmers can respond to real-time events while working on the farm—they can even remotely open an individual locker in a store while walking through the chicken shed. van Dam used to sell his 25 million eggs to supermarkets four times a year. Now, in addition, he is part-owner of a startup with several stores of its own that stock his eggs, which means that the profits and the data from those shops belong to him. With help from AWS and Architechts, Appeltje Eitje’s owners have created a new sales channel that they own that has the potential for significant growth. There are other benefits too. An egg laid in the morning by one of van Dam’s chickens is in the store by the afternoon. This protects local jobs, reduces carbon emissions and food waste, and improves profitability for farmers. It’s a simple approach that helps to address some of the world’s most pressing environmental and social issues.

Farmers in Control

Consumers have started to fully embrace digital through the ecommerce revolution and the rise of unstaffed self-service stores. With its new architecture, Appeltje Eitje can capitalize on this trend and develop its smart, 360-degree retail experience, powered by digital innovation and an AWS cloud-first approach. The new system is built for change. And it’s ready for continuous development, growth, and rollout of new functionalities. Farmers are in total control, thanks to the monitoring data that is sent to their devices. They can use this data directly for sales forecasting, dynamic pricing, logistics optimization, stocking, and getting ahead of consumer trends. The new store running on AWS technology was immediately one of Appeltje Eitje’s top performers in terms of sales. It’s also a top performer in terms of stability, which is an important factor for busy farmers. On the cost side, opening the extra store will have only a small impact on Appeltje Eitje’s monthly AWS fees.

The Right Partner

Cloud technology in agriculture is ground-breaking, and working with Architechts has given Appeltje Eitje a competitive advantage over all kinds of other initiatives of comparable size. Architechts is a recognized boutique partner of AWS, and it’s able to combine serverless technology with the integration of hardware components to deliver a fault-tolerant and high-performing solution.

In Architechts, Appeltje Eitje also found a partner whose values reflected its own. The food startup’s aim is to succeed by collaborating with customers and by being smart, meaningful, and playful—and these are three corporate values that Architechts lives and works by. Architechts proved itself as a trusted advisor. It was interested in Appeltje Eitje’s goals and ideas, able to collaborate on an ambitious but feasible plan, and succeeded in those aims by working with the company as a team. “It’s not only about fresh products and technology,” says van Dam. “It’s about having the right mindset, approach, and technical capabilities to deliver real added value.” Farmers are entrepreneurs who are constantly looking for opportunities. “Appeltje Eitje dared to innovate and seize the new opportunities enabled by reliable cloud technology solutions,” says Robert Linders, Managing Director at Architechts.

Today, the founders of Appeltje Eitje feel confident in their cloud-based enterprise because—like many others—they believe that the current food system is no longer sustainable, and they recognize that consumers are becoming aware of smarter, smaller-scale, and more local alternatives.

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About Appeltje Eitje

Appeltje Eitje supplies daily fresh products directly from its own farm to the consumer. Consumers buy fruit, eggs, and other fresh products in the city via a smart vending machine.

About AWS Partner Architechts

Architechts helps supply chain impact makers in markets such as food, logistics, retail and industry improve critical business processes with the latest AWS technology.

Published October 2021