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The Modern Acre podcast: leveraging tech to disrupt outdated processes with ImpactVision

September 17, 2019

Editor’s Note: Tyler and Tim Nuss are founders of The Modern Acre, an online community and weekly podcast focused on highlighting the business of food and agriculture. In partnership with AgFunder, the Nuss’s have produced a 4-part series including the story behind us, the online VC, as well as three of our portfolio companies. Enjoy!

The second AgFunder portfolio company we highlighted on the podcast was ImpactVision. We talked with Abi Ramanan the co-founder and CEO. ImpactVision uses machine learning and hyperspectral imaging to detect the quality and composition of food products to a degree that has not been possible before. This will enable food supply chains to reduce waste, maximize yield, and improve quality.

During our conversation, it was clear that Abi has a commitment to building impact businesses that address societal problems in addition to creating a profitable business. Before ImpactVision, she developed and scaled two social enterprises in the food space that address employment in refugee and migrant communities, food waste, and child hunger. Her passion for making a difference has continued with founding ImpactVision.

Food waste has become quite a noteworthy cause in the food and ag space that is getting a lot of attention. ImpactVision is approaching this problem by leveraging advanced technology, namely hyperspectral imaging. By working with a key part of the supply chain, ImpactVision has a clear value proposition and business model to scale. 

Below is a short excerpt from The Modern Acre podcast, which you can listen to below, download here or on your favorite podcasting app.

Tyler Nuss: Where are you in the stage of your product development and your business model?

The first product that we are commercializing is with Beta San Miguel and on our website, as soon as you land on there, there’s a video which clearly shows the product, the value proposition. You can see it’s quite a lightweight system, so it’s designed to be modular and integrate on to existing production lines or with existing rejection infrastructure. Our goal is not to be a supply chain machinery company it’s to provide this capacity to do either foreign object detection more accurately or internal quality, but to integrate with the equipment that already exists in the facility. The goal is that we’re commercializing foreign object detection this year and that’s where the majority of our resources in terms of sales will be focused.  

In terms of the business model, it’s relatively straightforward, we have an installation fee and then a recurring revenue software fee per camera. The current pricing does vary depending on the width of the conveyor belt, throughput, resolution, environmental conditions, etc. For foreign object detection, there’s a higher installation and a lower software fee in order to be comparative with X-ray machines, metal detectors, and optical filters. For the quality applications like dry matter or freshness, there will be a lower installation and higher software fee because there is more value to be gained from the software and machine learning. 

Tim Nuss: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far?

The food industry adoption is a challenge. The industry operates on such slim markets, so you have to be very rigorous commercially focused with the solutions that you’re developing. That sometimes can be a challenge because there can be something else that has huge potential environmental impact like doing fish into species classification. Because there isn’t as clear a commercial use-case, it can be hard to get adoption. Being a very early stage startup and taking this novel lab-based technology and commercializing at high speed in industrial environments with relatively limited resources is a big challenge. It’s definitely an interesting one. I think the technology has enormous potential.

Tim Nuss: Can you talk more about your relationship with AgFunder and what it entails?

AgFunder is one of our investors. They invested in both our previous rounds. They’re really fantastic. Rob has been such a great source of support and introductions. They’re so well connected and they have so many different food companies and strategic partners. More than anything, they’ve been very supportive, very willing to help, and very willing to make introductions. From their vantage point, they have such a good understanding of the landscape within the US but also more broadly because of the media component. In terms of breadth of understanding of the industry, they’re really well placed and have the best resources to do that.

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