Intello Labs, an Indian agtech startup using computer vision and deep learning to measure the quality of crops, has raised $2 million in seed funding from US-Indian tech investor Nexus Venture Partners and Indian agrifood tech VC Omnivore.
The technology, which can be used on a mobile phone in most cases, enables the various participants in the value chain to measure food quality more easily and more accurately than the current manual inspections and laboratory tests the industry relies on today, according to Intello Labs cofounder and CEO Milan Sharma.
Intello Labs, which was founded in 2016, is currently working with wheat, potato, onion, tomato and some spices.
“We’re using vision to bring transparency into the agriculture supply chain by digitizing food quality,” he told AgFunderNews.
For Puneet Kumar, vice president at Nexus Venture Partners, Intello Labs’ technology is a vital step in the digitization of India’s agriculture system overall.
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“Without the standardization and digitization of quality assessment of agricultural produce, e-Mandi and digital agriculture markets will remain a distant dream. Intello Labs is revolutionizing quality
assessment and grading for agricultural produce, utilizing technology advancements in AI and ML. Digital quality assessment coupled with pricing algorithms can prove to be game changing for farmers, commodity traders and large corporates in the years to come.”
More Money for Farmers
For farmers, this can mean between 5% and 30% more money in their backpockets as traders will be better able to price their crops instead of lowballing them on the assumption there will be quality issues.
“Currently traders hedge their bets when it comes to paying farmers with a 5% to 10% discount on the estimated value of a crop as they don’t know how much bad stuff will come in, but this also means they’re not positively reinforcing farmers to ensure higher quality,” said Sharma.
In wheat, the technology can detect wheat damaged by insects whereas for cardamon, an Indian spice, it can measure the diameter of the pods.
Manual inspection cannot determine a difference of 0.5mm in the diameter of cardamon pods, which yields into $3 – $4 per kg higher price for cardamon, so this can equate to a big price difference, according to Sharma. Intello Labs can measure up to 0.08mm and can do a sample size of 1kg to 2kg per 500 kg lot, whereas previous checks were only for about 10 grams-worth.
“This is a huge sample size in comparison – 100 times bigger – meaning much higher accuracy,” said Sharma.
Intello Lab’s capabilities are much in need in India, according to Mark Kahn, partner at Omnivore.
“For years, Omnivore has been searching for an agritech startup disrupting the opaque and subjective system of commodity grading in India, which hurts the entire value chain, especially farmers. Intello Labs will bring transparency and objectivity across agribusiness supply chains, helping farmers to capture the value they create.”
Clients Across the Supply Chain
There are implications beyond the farmer’s wallet with multiple potential touchpoints for the technology from the transaction point with the farmer to the food processor when onboarding the crop to multiple checkpoints for the retailer, and finally the sale of unused inventory.
Intello Labs has partnerships with two retailers helping them to reduce food waste as they are often in the dark about the quality of food before it hits the shelves. These partners share data with Intello Labs to help them train their models to recognize certain issues.
Currently, Intello Labs is focused on issues that can be detected visually, although later it plans to move into other wavelengths such as near infrared where it could detect more detailed information about crop quality such as protein content, according to Sharma.
Intello’s team is a combination of data scientists, imagery experts, tech veterans with experience working at Amazon, Yahoo and Canon, consultancy and entrepreneurial experience.