ImpactVision, a software startup using hyperspectral imaging to help food supply chain companies determine the quality and ripeness of food products, has raised $1.4 million in seed funding in a round led by Acre Venture Partners.
Acre Ventures is the agrifood tech venture fund backed by Campbells Soup. The round also attracted investment from AgFunder, Xandex Ventures, a hardware-focused VC out of San Francisco, and Merian Ventures, a female founder focused investor. A range of smaller individual angel investors filled out the round.
ImpactVision is going to use the funding to develop its technology further, which has been used until this point in paid pilots with a few food companies. The startup uses third party hyperspectral sensors to essentially photograph food and pick up on certain characteristics that indicate what condition it is in. In meat, ImpactVision is able to determine tenderness, enabling meat producers to guarantee the quality of their meat for premium pricing. Another example is avocado ripeness — avocados are typically sold at least a few days from optimum ripeness — which ImpactVision can measure through the imagery and thereby help retailers to sell avocados at a more optimum time for consumers.
ImpactVision trains its software using computer vision and machine learning to recognize what these characteristics look like in a hyperspectral image through ground truthing by comparing images to manual tests on food. It undertakes this ground truthing on the behalf of a client or in partnership with them whereby they contribute by uploading images and measurements such as pH data to a server.
Some characteristics, such as freshness in fish, can be determined from the image alone: fresh filets reflect more light, according to Abi Ramanan, CEO of ImpactVision.
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Currently, ImpactVision is using one main hardware provider for its work, but the plan is to be compatible with a range of hyperspectral sensors, which Ramanan sees as becoming increasingly commoditized.
“We’re taking a bet that sensors will become increasingly ubiquitous,” she told AgFunderNews. “Four to five different companies have announced they’re building cheap consumer hyperspectral sensors in the last couple of years so we think the value we can provide lies in the software analytics.”
Having said that, when ImpactVision starts to onboard clients, the startup will provide them with a full package of equipment, including installation and calibration of the hardware at their facilities, for an ongoing analytics fee. Ultimately, the startup would prefer to just provide the software as a service but Ramanan understands that sensing in these facilities will be a relatively new phenomenon for many food companies that still largely use mechanical and analog means of processing, tracking and testing food.
Further down the line, the startup could move into some food safety work and has already completed a trial on foreign object detection in food with one client.
“The hyperspectral software that ImpactVision is developing has the potential to fundamentally transform the way food supply chains operate by improving distribution and reducing waste, while delivering greater transparency and security,” said Sam Kass of Acre Venture Partners and the former White House Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy. “Hyperspectral imaging is an emerging technology in the food sector with large-scale potential, and we are excited to support the team going forward.”
ImpactVision is expanding to grow the business and will be looking to bring on three new members of staff in the near future (keep an eye on AgFunderNews’ jobs board for these positions in the coming weeks!)