Crisp, a startup which leverages AI and big data to cut down on food waste, launched today from stealth mode with $14.5 million dollars in funding (h/t VentureBeat). The funding was led by FirstMark Capital with $10 million from the cofounders themselves.

Crisp was cofounded in 2016 by Arie Traasdahl, who previously cofounded digital entertainment service Thumbplay (now iHeartMedia) and marketing tech company Tapad. The New York City-based startup gathers data from past consumer purchases, promotions, POS systems and even weather to help suppliers, distributors, and retailers forecast demand for their fresh food inventory, so they can more accurately decide how much of each item to buy. Crisp’s SaaS platform integrates directly into existing retail inventory and PoS systems such as Salesforce and Quickbooks. So far, the company has done one alpha test phase of their technology with 25 retailers and wholesalers, including Scandinavian food supplier/retailer Rema Foods.

Photo: Crisp dashboard

Crisp isn’t totally alone in trying to optimize fresh food ordering in the retail sector. Zest Fresh and Walmart both have monitoring systems that help suppliers figure out where to send produce so it can be consumed as quickly as possible. Most similar to Crisp is Afresh, a company which uses machine learning to analyze consumer data and project demand of fresh foods (produce, fish, etc.) for grocery stores. Crisp is trying to differentiate itself from its competitors with its user-friendliness; its website states that it can be up and running in only 15 minutes.

I’m always a bit skeptical when we hear companies throwing around tech buzzwords like “AI” and “big data” as catchall solutions to entrenched system-wide issues, such as food waste. But it’s still encouraging to see companies tackling food waste in a preventative way. If Crisp can find a way to optimize food ordering and cut down on retail surplus (which, admittedly, is a major task), it would sync up well with services like Karma and Wasteless, which sell soon-to-expire food for discounted prices in grocery stores. Together, these companies could help reduce the roughly 1.3 billion tons of food we waste each year — roughly one-third of all the food produced globally.

Crisp’s platform will launch in beta on October 1.

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