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Episode Descriptor

Welcome to the future! Here’s your food suggestion based on your likes and nutritional preferences.

Well, we’re not there yet, but this is just a taste of things to come. Phil Harris, the co-founder and president of ripe.io, a TCS COIN™ Accelerator start-up, feels the future of the food industry belongs to personalization. ripe.io uses predictive consumer analytics, which leverages blockchain technology to aggregate real-time data into one dashboard and help understand consumer preferences. To tackle the challenges of large food production systems, the company uses a blockchain-based network to aggregate data from various parties, share the data and manage permissions. 

The podcast uncovers the two major factors that tick the modern consumer—transparency and traceability—and how ripe.io is building brand integrity by providing access to reliable information on the origin, journey, and quality of food. Tune in to this episode of the Next Big Think! to know why the time is ‘ripe’ for digitization in the global food logistics and supply chain industry. 


 

Into the Mind of the Modern Food Consumer
Into the Mind of the Modern Food Consumer
Find out how organizations are leveraging predictive consumer analytics to understand their consumers.
0:00 10:25

 

 

 

Guest: Phil Harris, Co-founder and President at ripe.io
Phil Harris

Phil Harris is a co-founder and president at ripe.io, which is recognized by Forbes as one of the ‘25 Most Innovative Ag-Tech Startups’ and ‘Ag Funder’s Most Innovative Supply Chain Start-Up', and most recently honored with the Rabobank’s award for ‘Emerging Leadership in Innovation’. 

He brings over 30 years of experience from global capital markets and the financial services industry to the food and agriculture supply chains, empowering a tectonic, once-in-a-generation digitization transformation. ripe.io is acknowledged as an innovative thought leader and operator, forging ahead at the intersection of fin-tech, ag-tech, and food-tech bringing blockchain, IoT, machine learning, and AI capabilities, to provide visibility and business automation across the food supply chain.


 

namogoo
Online Shopping 2.0
Listen in to know how to stop customer journey hijacking and increase conversions
0:00 10:25


 

Guest: Chemi Katz, Co-Founder and CEO, Namogoo
ganesh sundaram

Serial entrepreneur with over 17 Years of Experience in the e-commerce and Advertising Spaces, Chemi is an unstoppable visionary transforming and expanding the Digital Industry. Prior to Co-founding Namogoo, Chemi Co-founded Seapai and Reissod, and was General Manager of DoubleVerify Israel. Earlier in his career, Chemi led production operations at LivePerson (NASDAQ: LPSN) and was a Global Business Technology Manager for Aladdin and Managed IT Outsourcing for Bynet. Aside from his background in building disruptive brands, Chemi is a recognized thought leader contributing to industry news regularly as Forbes Council Member. Chemi is into extreme sports and his love for risk and thrill is what makes him a great entrepreneur. 

 

TCS COIN™ PODCAST SERIES

THE NEXT BIG THINK!

A shout-out to the future. Presented by TCS COIN™. Powered by TCS Pace™.
 


 

Episode Transcript

Kevin Benedict, TCS:

Welcome to the podcast. I'm Kevin Benedict, futurist and partner here at TCS. And I want to welcome each of you to the show today. My guest today is Phil Harris. He's a co founder and president at Ripe.io, what a great name. So they are recognized by Forbes as one of the 25 most innovative ag tech startups, and one of ag funders most innovative supply chain startups. And most recently, they received a top five emerging leadership in innovation award from Rabobank. So Phil, thank you for joining us today.

Philip Harris, Ripe.io:

Yeah, good morning, Kevin. Good to be with you.

Kevin Benedict, TCS:

And where are you calling in from?

Philip Harris, Ripe.io:

I'm calling well I'm dialing in, or I'm zooming in or I'm teaming in whatever, whatever the flavor is of the day from New Jersey in the US.

Kevin Benedict, TCS:

All right. So I'm here in Boise, Idaho, as usual, since none of us travel a whole lot these days. Now, what's fascinating is I had the good fortune of being able to work on a dairy farm and pay my way through the university. In Battle Ground ,Washington, matter of fact, is where the dairy farm was, it was called sparkle, do Holstein. So anytime I get to talk agriculture, it's a lot of fun here. Because you know, I've been there, I've got my hands dirty, as you might imagine. So talk to me about what motivated you and your team to start right.io.

Philip Harris, Ripe.io:

Yeah, good question. I've certainly answered this question before and happy to do it again. So my co founder, Raja Ramachandran, and I, you know, have collectively, you know, 50 plus years in capital markets, financial services, financial technology. And in that time, you know, we've worked with a variety of actors in digitizing bonds, and stocks and currencies, and even more esoteric things like weather. And, look, we had a great run, right? Wonderful career, traveled the world, learned a lot. And in, you know, 2016 We had made this kind of decision that we wanted to do something more meaningful, applying technology to an industry that would, you know, make a bigger impact, right. And we were really fortunate that in 2013, I was at NASDAQ in corporate development and Raj here was a company called R3, we were really early at this, you know, Blockchain thing, you know, Bitcoin and blockchain, obviously, there's a lot more information out there. But we knew that that as a infrastructure or a technology was going to be very meaningful, as big if not bigger than the internet. And so the more that we learned about that technology, and what it could be used in and problems it could solve, as we kind of entered 16, we had made that decision, let's go pick an industry that we could really do something really revolutionary, you know, change something up, redefine, reimagine. And we we kind of settled out of a original selection of 10 industries, we landed on three - music, healthcare and food. And as we like to tell people, we stumbled into food, and really why we pick food is that when you look at the totality of the ecosystem, it's very fragmented, very complicated, and it's very analog, lots of paper. And those kinds of structural weaknesses, so to speak, manifest themselves with things like fraud, waste, spoilage, poor, traceability, limited insights into quality, and a black hole, really around traceability. And, you know, I'd say more, so the black hole around sustainability, but all of these things which are now in demand of consumers, brands themselves and regulators. This was a perfect moment in time, kind of once in a generation move that we wanted to do something about it. And in 2017, you know, we kind of quit the day jobs and jumped back into the startup arena, not our first rodeo in startups, but definitely in an in an area that we needed to educate ourself. And obviously, we've been learning a lot over the last five years.

Kevin Benedict, TCS:

What stage of maturity is ripe.io today?How do you know? If you look at the spectrum from startup to mature business, where do you see it?

Philip Harris, Ripe.io:

Yeah, um, I mean, I'd say that we are a startup still in our kind of behavior, and the way that we kind of work. You know, in the, in the origination of the company in 17, we were really fortunate to be found by Mersk. You know, the large shipping company, Maersk have a venture arm, a corporate venture arm, and, you know, they saw, you know, the world, very similar to the way that we saw the world unfolding. And like we were, I think were one of their kind of first investments. And so we were lucky to get seed funded, you know, kind of get on the institutional, kind of capital raised ladder. And, you know, like any startup, trying to do new things, in a category, which probably isn't aware of all of their own challenges and things that they need to fix, obviously, we're swimming against the tide. But that's obviously the fun part of the journey, we've gone through, you know, our own learning, the rationalization of, you know, the things that we can do and accomplish. So that, you know, pilots, proof of concepts and experimentation phase with early adopters and like minded clients, if we look, you know, five years now, nearly five years on April, you know, we now have, you know, enterprise clients that range from governments to large industry associations and actors across the entire food value chain. And, you know, we've broken down, you know, product offerings to fit different quadrants of the of the industry. So I always like to tell people, if you're an apple farmer, that selling apples, you know, basically the end of the farm road, we can trace those apples from the orchard to the box or to your car on the road. If you're making applesauce, there's a transformation event. So you're taking apples, you're cooking them and adding other ingredients, we can handle those kind of transformation events. And then if you're working with the entire apple industry, so all the players, all of the regulatory, all of the certification demands, we've got tools that can cater to the entire category. So look, we've got revenue, we've got clients, we've got a really interesting team. And it's, it's been a journey. We like to remind ourselves and we're very humbled, and thankful that we survived COVID. You know, startup statistics for failure in startups is high for a pandemic, and it's, you know, times five. So we do you know, we do, we are thankful that we made it through, and we're starting to see a change, where we're now swimming with the tide. So when we used to go see clients in, you know, 17, 18, 19, we're gonna use blockchain to help you digitize your entire food traceability and sustainability workflow. Question one, what is blockchain? And the question number two, what are you talking about? Now, right, that's kind of changed. And now, people will have addressed the things that they need to address to get us in the room. And so look, it's good. But look, it's very hard work. It's challenging, it's demanding. But that's the balance of being in a startup versus a larger corporate enterprise, right corporate enterprise. It's not all sorts of fun and games, but I wouldn't switch it out for a thing.

Kevin Benedict, TCS

So Phil, I just hadn't taken the time to ponder the impact of COVID on startups, but shoot, I've, I've led startups, I've been the CEO of startups, and it's all about relationships in the first couple of years, you know, reaching out to people you know, that are in the industry that may need this. They give you the opportunity to do the proof of concept, to get some logos on your website, all that kind of stuff. And boy, if you if you are removed from that opportunity to go sit down with people - wow, that that has to be just an extraordinary challenge for a startup.

Philip Harris, Ripe.io:

Yeah, I mean, it's kind of funny you say that. I mean, yeah, a pandemic for an early stage company in food, when the food system was going through a complete shock and awe. Yeah, it's not the best place to be in but we knew that the weaknesses in that supply chain would be revealed to all and it would eventually help us almost be a catapult, but we had to make it. And so yeah, in the in the summer of what 2020, there was some pretty dark days. Right. But you know, we were committed to the cause. The team was committed to the cause, and we've come out of this stronger. But yeah, the kind of the balance was, you know, how much can you get done working virtually versus in person. Our company was rather distributed itself. We had people in Australia, San Francisco, New York, Arizona. And so we were already working within a very distributed, a very virtual kind of environment. So our world didn't change to be frank. But our clients learn to adopt and learn how to work in this hybrid model. Maybe now once or twice, to the office, the biggest thing that I lost was the conferences, getting out, drinking the coffee with the industry, learning and meeting people, that kind of disappeared for two years. And still very recently, as of, you know, a few weeks ago, conferences are still being canceled. And that yeah, that's a real hit for early stage companies that want to meet and interact with the industry, for sure.

Kevin Benedict, TCS:

Oh, man, well, I'm just excited that you guys are, you know, keep your head above water in this, and still finding those opportunities. So the food industry, of course, has been around forever. And from the time of the hunter gatherers, when they first you know, trapped cows and pigs and everything else and started domesticating that and creating a farm, there's been these challenges. So why now in the whole line of history, why now? Is it the right time for you guys to go out there and start bringing some technology to the industry?

Philip Harris, Ripe.io:

Yeah, it's a really good question. I mean, it's kind of fundamental to why we are a company. I'd say that the growing demands of the consumer for transparency, that trend is now very well defined. And people ask more about their food, you know, my children do all the time. And, you know, the habits of, you know, brand preference, you know, look, you know, this is a statement that we make, it's in the majority, it's always very accurate. My purchasing decisions as a young adult, mimic the brands that my parents bought from, that mimic the brands that their parents bought from, right, it's kind of passed down in generations. And, and now my children challenge the norm of wanting to now align with brands that meet their own, you know, buying preferences, you know, sustainability driven, nutrition driven, etc. And so now, the demands of that consumer are greater. And the data is in the supply chain, the intelligence is in the supply chain, they just had to be tools that extract and organize that and present that to a consumer in a manner which they can understand. If you get too scientific, it's going to go over their head. But if you could find a way of telling the story of your food, aligning with the dimensions that they are interested in, then I think you have that kind of, you know, lightning in a bottle. And we're seeing brands that are now doing that. That's only a smaller part of the industry. It's not the industry, it's the wrong way to say it. But it's a kind of smaller part of the movement. What we're seeing, which is now an incredibly strong tail wind is that we're seeing from the US regulator, FDA, Frankie Arness is a former Disney and Walmart employee. That was one of the first kind of champions of realizing that blockchain is a pretty powerful weapon in this traceability, kind of requirement of the industry. And he's now at the FDA. And over the last couple of years, we've seen the introduction of this FDA smarter era of food safety movement, that now requires brands and actors in the supply chain to have more insights more readily on activities with their food. So things that might have taken a few days now have to be presented within 24 hours. And so that kind of pull from the consumer and the push from the regulator is creating this perfect storm, that now things are finally moving definitely slower than we would like. But things are finally kind of coming together. And we and other actors in the category are now obviously providing solutions into the marketplace to address these kind of changing dynamics.

Kevin Benedict, TCS:

Oh, yeah. And over a history, I can think of multiple times when there was a crisis in the food industry, in particular with cattle and livestock from, you know, the sheep to the hoof and mouth and all these kinds of issues. And now, matter of fact, this morning in reading the paper, the New York Times paper it was just talking about that white tailed deer are being found to have a reservoir of COVID-19 inside their meat, now that something is going to be a persistent challenge for humans going forward, isn't it?

Philip Harris, Ripe.io:

Yeah, the whole food safety and recall portion of the requirement of work within the food supply chain, that is a whole area. We're less involved in, let's say, kind of recalls, we’re more mapping out the activity. But yes, there's always, you know, I'm on the USDA and FDA kind of alert list. And every other day, there is some breakout of ecoli, salmonella, or some, you know, third party contaminant into the supply chain. And so, you know, when that happens, the need to isolate origin at the smallest, smallest measurement of location. So, you know, in the older days, you know, 20, some some years ago, you would say this spinach came from Arizona, we can no longer buy spinach from Arizona, there could have been one farm, a small farm in Arizona that basically impacted and you know, that spinach is one of the industries that got hit, you know, many, many years ago. So I think it's this, again, more efficiency, the granularity around traceability to isolate where the problem is, and then deal with that kind of problem and not affect the totality of the industry. But without question, yes, in larger production food systems, the risk of third party contaminants, and food safety issues getting into that supply chain continues to be a problem.

Kevin Benedict, TCS:

Without question. That’s just such an interesting area. So Phil, as I was doing research on your company, and just thinking of my own experience within agriculture over the years, it occurred to me that you guys at Ripe.io are kind of taking on not just the startup challenges, but the challenge of also the movement, the supply chain, the ecosystem. So for you guys to really accelerate and grow giant and scale, it’s not just about what you guys do, is it?

Philip Harris, Ripe.io:

Yeah, that that is the that is the largest friction point to any startup in any category of industry. How do you scout and you know, we found very quickly that going one farm to the next farm to the next farm, isn't really going to get you anywhere. And so what we searched for are one of two things going we kind of categorize them as category kings, or centers of gravity. So a category king would be a large buyer or a dominant actor in an ingredient. So as they're buying lots of that product from the industry, they can ask their suppliers, farmers, downstream participants, or they can tell and demand them, again, subtlety in the approach, these are the ways that I now need to work with you to be able to make sure that what's on the label, and what I'm telling my buyers is an accurate statement, right? So they reach in, and either it's done, you know, nicely or not so nicely. And then a center of gravity would be an Industry Association, or a government or a consortia that are all thinking the same, they all want to basically achieve the same outcome, they all experience similar problems. And so that you can do either one of those at scale. And we've been fortunate enough in our work to find both where now we go to one of our clients that goes and gets us we work in, as one example we work in Belize in sugarcane. And, you know, we haven't got enough time to kind of list the laundry items that we're tackling. But you know, things like traceability things like monitoring, fair trade certification, making sure the cane is you know, harvested correctly planted correctly, there's a whole list of things, that ecosystem is 5200 farms. And so my client gives me access to a much larger, wider ecosystem, I would never have been able to go one by one by one by one. And so also in that instance, when you establish credibility with that one center of gravity, then you can sit on their shoulders, you know, and and kind of find your way in the middle of their relationship. So we've, again, you know, that's nothing new but in food, especially given its fragmentation and the need to operate at scale. We found those kind of engagements to be, you know, highly scalable.

Kevin Benedict, TCS:

So talk to us about the role of blockchain, you know, from a technological standpoint. A lot of track and trace could be done on a database. But blockchain offers something unique, I imagine. So talk to us about that.

Philip Harris, Ripe.io:

Yeah, I mean, I'd say, you know, blockchain can be utilized in many different forms within any, you know, digitization transformation strategy. We've chosen to use blockchain stroke, the distributed ledger, let's just use the word blockchain for simplification. It's really the recording layer, where all the datas sits. So, you know, in any food value chain, there are lots of things going on. There are lots of people, right, and a very simple farmer, distributor grocery store. There are three actors, they need to see different types of information, they need to see quality, they need to see certification, they need to see sustainability records, traceability records, on and on and on and on. And so the role of blockchain as we've chosen to use it, is the data is collected from all parties. We aggregate that up. And we're able to aggregate it without forcing the source to change the format of the way they're published, the data. Because we've got intelligence in let's say, the middle where that says, Oh, I know that you call tomato XYZ, and the other guy calls ABC fine, and overall talking tomatoes. And so there's a there's a capture, collection, aggregation. And the real role of the ledger or blockchain now is to strike permissions and sharing models that say, ‘Well, I farmer, don't want my distributor to see this record, but I'm happy for the grocery store to see that record.’ And so they they know that they can manage all of those kinds of permissions and sharings within one record, one platform that is shared across all of the actors. It is as simple as that, because you've got in some, you know, some of our client deployments, you've got 10,12, 14 people, you've got 1000s and 1000s of data points. And trying to kind of manage that in the spreadsheet in the cloud is just a nightmare. Because there's sensitivity to the data. In some instances, where you work through, you know, third parties, you know, again, the food system is very, very complicated. Sometimes it's vertically integrated, where the brand owns the farm, the distributor, the seed company, and everything. And others, it's a patchwork of all different actors, harmonizing those, you know, data sharing, and then providing insights which are not readily available, if my spreadsheet or my, you know, notebook, it's stuck on my desk. But there’s data three or four steps down the supply chain, that that insight would help them do their job much better but it's not leaving my spreadsheet, it's not leaving my notebook. And so that when you get this end to end sequential record, but the views can go backwards and forwards, right, so the buyer can talk to the farmer, the farmer can talk to the buyer, you get so much good out of this, that there's always a whole host of KPIs and ROIs that are found that weren't immediately available, because you've never looked at the record in this way before.

Kevin Benedict, TCS:

So it sounds like the the data collection component in the ability to analyze that maybe even through machine learning and other things will give you guys insight that just wasn't there before because it was so fragmented.

Philip Harris, Ripe.io:

Correct. So you know, there are assumptions. So you know, we've worked with a whole variety of people so that you find these nuggets quite often, you know, there was a brand who, you know, was selling a product, who were selling a food item in their end product. And they didn't realize, you know, let's say the time between the harvest and the delivery and the sale. And if they waited two or three more days, there was an increase in let's say, the product quality. So they change their kind of logistics to wait to actually put that thing in their menu, because they amplified certain traits in the quality markers they were looking for. But there was no record to say it sat in a warehouse for one day or three days. And you know, there's just tons and tons and tons of insights. Now, the trick, or the problem is having an elegant method to actually take that data and get it into the system so that you can actually start recording it and believe me when you go on a farm no matter what they're growing There are no API's very, very, very rarely. And so you've got to make that first mile onboarding. as painless as possible to ensure that you get the data. You don't need all the data, we might ask for 78 things and get 54 of them. But that's okay, the 54 things, as long as they solve the problem that we're trying to do further down the value chain, we're good to go. Right. So that that's kind of been the pull and the push, why should I give you this data? Well, the person 10 rows down in the supply chain needs it, there's some benefit to you, because now data is going to come back. And that kind of shared value in the construct of shared goals and similar friction points, then the ecosystem finds harmony, and they're all willing to work together.

Kevin Benedict, TCS:

In doing research through your website, Phil, there's there's reference to brand integrity, in the value that food brands can get out of this process if they do know the origin, the journey, the quality, and maybe 50 other components, right? So they can take all that information, and they can start to differentiate their brand from other brands. Talk to us about that.

Philip Harris, Ripe.io:

Well, you you mentioned dairy as part of your kind of career history. So let's use the dairy as an example. If I'm buying milk, now, I'm not referring to almond milk or oat milk, I'm talking about milk that came from a cow. And I'm buying, you know, milk that was only procured from grass fed cows, or milk that is antibiotic free, as an example. You know, that claim by the brand to me the consumer - how do I know that to be true? It's just words on a label. And now inside of that supply chain, there are third party certification bodies that are actually going on site to that dairy farm to actually look, you know, what is the medical plan of that particular dairy farm? If an animal gets sick? What is the feed composition of that dairy cow diet? Is it grass? Or is it feed. And so the activities occur on farm, but they don't leave the farm and that data isn't moved up through the supply chain. And so we've, you know, kind of found many opportunities where now, those certification records can be attached to the batch in the invoice and the shipment of milk through the dairy system. So that now I as a consumer, can have some record or insight to actually prove that yes, this animal's diet is grass. And secondly, yes, there are third party certification bodies that have gone to the farm and understand that yes, you know, there are, you know, let's see medical plans in place or medical processes in place to ensure that if the dairy cow gets sick, that it's moved out of the the kind of the main part of the farm, and you know, you're not drawing milk. And then there's, there's another layer, which is more scientific on the food safety side, because milk is always tested, as you know, when it comes from the milking parlour it goes into the tank before it goes off to the dairy processing facility there are tests done, and I'm gonna use words now like aflatoxins, which, or antibiotic residues, right, which is you can actually test the milk to see is there any, you know, antibiotics in the milk because obviously, it would pass through the animal aflatoxins kind of more bacteria that would build up now, if you put that on a label to a consumer, this milk is, you know, comes from a cow, which is grass fed, and then no aflatoxins everyone's going to be googling aflatoxins. And that's not where we want to go. You just want to make sure that when the brand makes the statement to the consumer, there is actual or record and evidence that that activity is true. And so this is where now the blockchain plays a role, that the record for that certification of let's say, antibiotic free or grass fed can actually be collected from the source, from the certification body, registered on the ledger and attached to this particular milk so that came in from a third party within an immutable framework that cannot be tampered with. That just adds confidence and trust to the buyer that ‘oh, it's no longer now the brand is telling me, I have third party data, which is immutable from the source’, adding to the strength of that record. Now, again, very simplified version of you know where this is all heading. But that's kind of where we think that the industry is moving.

Kevin Benedict, TCS:

That's fascinating. So when I was a milker, I was milking cows on a dairy farm, three of the four years that I was the kind of lead milker, on that farm, we won an award, it was called the Three County Milk Can Award from Dairy Gold, for having the highest quality milk. So back then we didn't have data, we just had this milk can trophy, and I had three of them on the shelf. So I was very excited about that.

Philip Harris, Ripe.io:

Yeah, I mean, it's, you know, the, the today, the milk industry is under attack from a whole host of actors, you've got challenges to the category itself, we've just talked about almond, and oat milk as an example. But also, you know, the, you know, the methane emitting animal, in the greenhouse gas category also, is being seen as you know, a pollutant to Mother Earth. And, you know, as we, as we start to think about, you know, trying to, you know, look into industries to be a better actor, and in more harmony with, let's say, the earth and not to be a greenhouse gas emitter, or bad actor, we're now starting to see in our portfolio of clients feed out of this, that are basically going to change the, the chemistry of the cow's stomach, again, I don't want to go down the rabbit hole of science, I'm not a scientist. So that basically it belches you know, a belch can come out of either end of the cow, right. And, and so if you change kind of the, you know, the the chemistry of the stomach, you can actually reduce the belching and therefore, reduce the methane emission of the animal so that it reduces the carbon footprint, ie on the greenhouse gas emissions. And so these are other fascinating projects that we're being exposed to, that you need a ton of data to be able to kind of measure that on the baseline. Well, what did the cow emit without this feed additive and what is the change when it does, and, you know, there's loads of incentives that are coming in from government credits and other incentives now for dairy farmers to start introducing these feed additives, because, you know, they will be rewarded for basically taking, you know, taking a position to help reduce pollutants into the atmosphere. So again, it’s fascinating, some of the stuff.

Kevin Benedict, TCS:

Oh yeah, Phil, I'm just thinking about the audience's listening to this right now. And in those that haven't been exposed to farm, farming, and all this, they don't understand how much science and technology can play a role in all of these very traditional kinds of businesses. It's just fascinating. I'm gonna, you know, in another area of your website that I was researching prior to today, you mentioned on the website, predictive consumer analytics, and it says we aggregated real time data into one dashboard for predictive consumer analytics. So talk to us about that predictive consumer analytics, what's the value and who uses that?

Philip Harris, Ripe.io:

Yeah, so this is a really interesting, you know, part of our work, and we've been fortunate enough to work with brands that are really on the, on the cutting edge of this whole, you know, let's say kind of food movement. And so the work that, you know, kind of would fall into that category is around really getting to understand the consumer and their preferences. And so, we worked with a salad chain, really forward thinking salad chain many, many years ago, this is going back, and the the idea really was you know, there are certain food items that, you know, people love or they hate, right, it's a very binary decision. I would use, you know, goat cheese and I would use beets as you know, two things that you either like or you dislike, right, it's, it's just the way it works. And what we were doing with them is that we were getting into the real chemistry of these food items, I'll use beets, you know, for the sake of time as my example. So, in in beets, there's a very earthy taste, right? If I'm not mistaken, that chemical compound is kind of called Geosmin, I think I think I'm right when I say that, it gives you that very earthy bitterness. Now, what we were trying to figure out is, how do you dial up and dial down that particular trait in the food? Now again, my colleague, Ricardo is our resident food scientist and so you know, he would probably do a much better job of explaining this than I, but we would look at the microclimate on the farm, humidity, water, sun, heat, etc. And then we would actually look at the properties of the soil. How soddy is it, how humid is the soil, and there are different chemical properties in the soil. And we did this over a number of farms across the US. And we found that to elevate or amplify that particular trait in beets, you know, that earthiness and bitterness, it correlated with a specific, let's say, soil type, and like sun and weather and humidity characteristics, that if you had this as an input, you could elevate that trait as an output. And so when they were kind of growing beets in, you know, the middle of America, the West Coast and the East Coast, as they're trying to formulate, you know, uniformity in their flavor, because this ingredient sits alongside other ingredients in a salad; what are the right properties of the farm, not just, you know, topography or, you know, it's like now actually what's going on in the actual soil and the environment to match and get that flavor right every time? And so like, I mean, it's incredible, isn't it? Right? So and so we help them understand that. And then the end goal was then actually sitting with the consumer, and talking to them, to tell them about, well, you know, ‘do you like that taste? Or do you not like that taste’, so that now we could give them a backstory about what is the thing in that particular growing environment that then amplifies that taste, and then you start to build a library of their preferences. So if they like the taste of this thing, the same way now and we're kind of getting into the future of where the food system is going, but the same way that Amazon or Netflix would say, you like that book, you like that movie, you may not like this thing, you might like this green pepper that we've now got on our menu, you know, and so this kind of analytics that if the consumer is willing to kind of have a dialogue with now the food actor, you get into some really interesting and this is at the cutting edge of where the industry is, this isn't for a few years out, I think, before we get to this part of the conversation, or this part of the change in the system. But that was early work, basically understanding inputs and outputs, and how that would correlate to traits and texture and smell and flavor, not just productivity and yield, which for us was incredibly fascinating experience.

Kevin Benedict, TCS:

Yeah, man, how fun to just hear and kind of the future of food and on that topic - when I had the opportunity to lead startups, I remember on my kind of product management list, I was always out there, I had a list of wish list going out there five to 10 years of things and places I wanted to take my product. Talk to us about what the food industry and your company Ripe.io, how are things going to change in the next five years? What's your prediction?

Philip Harris, Ripe.io:

Yeah. I'd say a couple of things are definitely going to change and a couple of things I think are going to become table stakes. So as an example, as regulations become stronger, and the consumer demand for transparency just continues on this trend. traceability and transparency around the origin, quality of the food is going to be table stakes, you know you’ll gravitate to the brands that offer that and you'll stop buying from the brands that don’t. It’s as simple as that and that's, you know, one of the, you know, let's say changing dynamics of why companies will invest in this, I think the two areas that are probably the most exciting, and, you know, we work in both. One is this whole personalization of food. And I think that, you know, we're gonna help other people assemble the data, and they'll interpret the data based upon, you know, nutritional needs. And so like, we don't actually do this today. But some of the clients that we work with are thinking this way, I would upload my ‘23andme’ profile to a food company, and they would understand what food is appropriate for my genetic profile. Because I react to different foods, because I'm a unique human being with a unique set of DNA. Now, my food companies are the brands that I buy food from, can speak to me about the foods that are actually better for my own unique body over the next meeting, my unique nutritional profiles. Now that's mind blowing to think about. But I see that maybe beyond five years, I don't want to put a timeframe on it, because I think it's very, very difficult. But the second piece is around the carbon footprint of the food, I think this is probably be be closer than five years, so that now you're starting to see brands get smarter, about locally sourcing ingredients, and formulating the food more locally. So that you know, you don't, you know, harvest food in one location, move it 3000 miles to be processed, and then bring it back to the origin to then sell it, it's just a waste on the system. But this kind of the way that the system was built to function that way. Now, I think we're seeing more awareness that that can be done more efficiently. And I think this, you know, kind of insight of telling the consumer, the carbon footprint, the food miles of that item, is now going to be another kind of buying decision that when a consumer acquires a product on the grocery shelf, you know, they might gravitate to foods that are more friendly for the environment. And so that could be you know, as a replacement for an animal protein. Right, it was exciting to see cultivated meat or different plant proteins within the animal protein value chain. You know, I don't think that we're going to see a complete eradication of beef, and pork and chicken, in the same way that we've seen, you know, complementary milks enter the category like oat and almond. So I think customers are going to have choice. But the decisions that they make, are going to now have more inputs, right. So it's more about nutrition for me, what's good for the environment. And I think those drivers will keep the industry busy for the next 50 years. But in the near term, yeah, I'd say, you know, kind of the sustainability driven insights for consumers are now gravitating up to the top of the list. And those are going to influence buying decisions in our opinion, and kind of what we see.

Kevin Benedict, TCS:

Phil, I want to thank you so much for joining us this morning on the program and sharing just all this technological innovation in the progress in the future of the food supply chain. Thank you so much. This is Phil Harris from Ripe.io.

Yeah, thank you, Kevin.

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