Unless you see one parked outside your grocery store, you probably don’t think too much about the freight trucks that are so vital to getting food onto store shelves. Today, trucking freight, especially produce and fresh foods, from the farm to the store is a pretty complicated and manual process. And HWY Haul wants to change that process with automation and artificial intelligence.
As Syed Aman, cofounder and CEO of HWY Haul explained to me by phone this week, current methods for scheduling shipments require a lot of phone calls and paperwork. Farms need to call brokers to get a trucker, multiple calls must be made to track a load en route, drivers need to stop for temperature checks to make sure produce is kept cold, and once that produce arrives at the store, it can take weeks for a trucker to get paid.
HWY Haul promises to automate this process with what it calls a “managed marketplace.” The company’s cloud-based platform allows farms (or stores or other suppliers) to schedule a vetted driver, determine the cost for each trip, monitor their route in real-time, and keep constant temperature checks (to ensure the food stays cold). Once delivery is made, HWY Haul processes the payment automatically.
In addition to potentially bringing more efficiency to the business of trucking fresh food across the country, Aman said HWY Haul can also help reduce food waste by reducing load rejections. When a load is rejected by the store, that food can wind up in a dumpster. By helping bring loads in on time and always at the correct temperature, Aman said that using HWY Haul can result in fewer of these wasteful rejections.
HWY Haul is actually among a crop of startups working at different points along the supply chain to bring more automation and precision while fighting food waste. AgShift uses computer vision to help establish objective prices for food. Varcode creates blockchain-based thermal stickers to ensure food is kept at the right temperature throughout the cold chain. And Silo automates operations around buying and selling food as well as forecasting supply and demand.
Based in Santa Clara, Calif., HWY Haul has raised an undisclosed Seed round of funding. The company makes its money by charging the shipper a fee per route booked.