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This supply chain startup is using AI and IoT to predict food spoilage

Geekwire 2/5/2023 Sonali Vaid
Transparent Path’s cellular sensors (Transparent Path Photo). © Provided by Geekwire Transparent Path’s cellular sensors (Transparent Path Photo).

Transparent Path is on a mission to help reduce food waste and fuel hunger relief efforts with supply chain technology that provides visibility for perishable products. 

The Seattle company uses Intel technology and IoT sensors to deliver real-time data on conditions such as temperature, humidity, and location. Its predictive software assigns a freshness score and estimates when food is in danger of going bad during transit.

The idea is to alert supply chain partners of failures and enable intervention. Transparent Path charges a fee for each shipment of food tracked.

“Think of it as travel insurance you might buy when you purchase a plane ticket online,” said CEO Eric Weaver. “For an extra amount, you can get so much more data than you ever had before. Is it being kept cold-chain compliant like the truck driver or warehouse swears it is?”

Transparent Path is one of several Seattle startups aiming to reduce food waste. Others include Strella Biotechnology, Shelf Engine, and iFoodDS.

Weaver previously worked at Xerox Corporation as vice president of customer experience practice. In 2018, he created Transparent Path as an LLC before incorporating it as a social purpose corporation two years later.

One of the company’s customers is Feeding the Northwest, a food distributor contributing to hunger relief efforts. According to Weaver, Transparent Path has saved several loads of food from spoilage which has allowed the nonprofit to provide over 100,000 meals.

CEO Eric Weaver (Transparent Path Photo). © Provided by Geekwire CEO Eric Weaver (Transparent Path Photo).

The company focuses on perishables with a food safety component, though Weaver said perishables include products in several sectors, such as blood or plasma shipments, vaccines, and corneas.

Transparent Path has raised about $700,000 via bootstrapping, crowdfunding, and angel investment. Venture funding for supply chain startups boomed during the pandemic, but the surge appears to be slowing as of late amid the broader tech downturn.

The company has five employees and four advisors. The team includes:

  • CTO Sunil Koduri, who spent nearly 20 years as a manager at Microsoft.
  • COO Mark Kammerer who previously held executive roles at Holland America Line.
  • Director of Experience Paulé Wood, previously a senior designer at Amazon.
Transparent Path sends email alerts when temperatures change. (Transparent Path Photo). © Provided by Geekwire Transparent Path sends email alerts when temperatures change. (Transparent Path Photo).

We caught up with Weaver for this Startup Spotlight. Answers were edited for brevity and clarity.

How we’re different from our competitors: We compete with companies like Sensitech, Deltatrak and Roambee. Most of these firms focus on the sensors: how to make them cheaper, better, etc. Our focus is on the value of the sensor data. We designed our software during the pandemic to address pandemic-related issues. We are also working with Duke University and the University of Washington on creating biodegradable sensors that can be disposed of without worries of environmental contamination.

The smartest move we’ve made: The team I’ve put together. Honestly, it’s an impressive group of kind people who want to give back. I couldn’t ask for anyone better.

The biggest mistake we’ve made: As an entrepreneur, you have to find and win investors, build a team, build a product, and then get it into the market. For many tech investors, it’s easiest and most comfortable to focus on the product. I spent a lot of time on that, and while I’m proud of it, I should have been much more aggressive on the sales front — even when the product wasn’t as full-featured as it is now. I’m now fully focused on sales, something that’s not in my comfort zone.

The greatest challenge we’ve faced: The pandemic. The entire world spent 2020 trying to figure out what to do. All of our supply chains were disrupted in 2021 and 2022. The summer of 2022, everyone in the world, it seemed, went on a long overdue holiday. Generally speaking, so many people have said they’ve been exhausted, overwhelmed, and worried — trying to juggle all of these systemic disruptions. The last person they want to hear from is a guy like me trying to convince them to try new tech — even if it’ll be a huge help. Now that we’re entering 2023, I’m hoping people will feel more agile, more resilient, and more decisive in addressing what we’re all feeling and going through, particularly in supply chains.

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