An Israeli startup, ClariFruit, is seeking to make sure that the agricultural produce that reaches our tables is the freshest and most cost efficient possible by speeding up quality controls along the delivery chain.
The firm, which has developed automatic quality control and data analytics software for the fresh produce industry, said last week it raised $6 million in seed funding led by Firstime Ventures and other private investors. The funds include a $2.5 million grant from the European Union Horizon 2020 EIC program, whose aim is to accelerate the growth of European companies with groundbreaking innovations.
ClariFruit is aiming to disrupt the $2 trillion fresh produce supply chain by creating what it says is “the world’s first automatic” quality control platform. The fresh produce industry is plagued by wastage that runs to some 45 percent, caused by multiple factors along the chain, mainly a lack of objective and consistent quality standards as well as hard data to base decisions on.
From field to table there are six to eight points where quality control tests are performed, said Elad Mardix, president of ClariFruit, in a phone interview.
Produce is assessed before and after harvest, sorted by the packing machines, and further tested for quality at ports, distribution centers, cooling facilities and retailers. Inspectors along the line need to decide whether to accept a delivery, reject it, or accept the product but negotiate the price if it is not up to standard.
All of these players perform their quality controls in the same way they have done for the last 100 years, he said. They collect date manually using size rings, visual assessments, or devices that test the produce’s internal attributes, and then save it in a spreadsheet.
“Today it takes an average of 40 minutes for inspectors to test three boxes of grapes from a delivery,” said Mardix. “And it is all done manually. This makes the testing method inconsistent as it is subjective to the inspector, slow, and expensive, as it is labor intensive.”
The firm has thus developed a mobile app with software that enables inspectors to take a picture of the produce and, with computer vision, assess the external attributes — size, color and quality. “There is no judgment involved in the process,” he said.
Many traditionally analog devices used to measure internal attributes of the produce now come with Bluetooth capability that makes them a little smarter. ClariFruit’s software connects with these devices and collects and analyzes the data they gather, providing inspectors with a “grade” for the produce. They can then figure out which customer will pay the best price for a particular delivery.
Meanwhile, quality control managers at a centralized location receive information in real time on the decisions made by their inspectors on the ground all over the world, and can brief them with up to date instructions.
“This will help reduce waste,” said Mardix, as it will lead to “significantly less rejections.” Out of the approximately 400 million transactions in the fresh produce industry annually, 5% of those are completely rejected and another 20% are re-negotiated for price due to quality mismatch.
“This statistic represents significant margin loss for the wholesaler,” he said. For the farmer, “it likely represents a whole season of crop and family livelihood that just went down the drain.”
ClariFruit’s solution increases inspector productivity by a factor of three and reduces customer waste, the firm said in a statement.
The Ness Ziona, Israel-based firm was founded in Israel in 2017 by Avi Schwartzer, the firm’s CEO, who was a former senior R&D manager at HP Enterprise, where he focused on software quality control testing.
The firm will use the funds to develop its next generation software and expand operations in Europe, the Americas and Asia, said Mardix, who formerly ran J.P. Morgan’s technology investment banking business in APAC.