When we talk about artificial intelligence (AI), we often speak in giant, world-shifting terms about revolutionizing a certain industry. But AI can also benefit a single person at a time. In the case of Intello Labs, its AI can be used to help prevent a poor farmer from getting screwed.
Food inspection is often still done manually. One person’s perfect tomato may be another’s piece of trash, and these basic biases can lead to an imbalance of power. A poor, rural, farmer may not be educated on price points or what “fresh” produce means to a buyer. As a result, they may want to sell tomatoes at a dollar per tomato, but buyers may scoff, refuting the quality of those tomatoes, and only offer fifty cents. How are they to know how much the literal fruits of their labor are actually worth?
Intello Labs is working to help balance these scales through a combination of computer vision and artificial intelligence. Using their mobile phone app, the tomato farmer could take a picture of a bushel of tomatoes and upload it into Intello’s system. The company’s algorithms would examine the photo of the tomatoes and gives it a rating based on a set of government (i.e. USDA) or other criteria. With this objective, algorithmic rating in place, each party in the negotiation now knows the quality of the tomatoes being sold — and they can be priced accordingly.
The company started with commodities like tomatoes and potatoes, but according to Sreevidya Ghantasala, Intello Labs Head of U.S. Operations, the company’s core technology can be customized for almost any food. It could be used to rate products like seafood and chicken, or even as a tool for plant disease identification. “We have a pest and disease application for six or seven different crops,” said Ghantasala, “Our system is highly customizeable. If there’s something we don’t see on our library, we can update it in 2 to 3 months.”
Intello, which is headquartered in Bengaluru, India, has already gone live elsewhere in that country at the farmer’s market in Rajasthan to work with 10,000 farmers there for wheat and grain analysis. The company has also worked with the Reliance Foundation in India to help 100,000 farmers with pest and disease detection for crops.
Pricing for Intello’s software is subscription based, and Ghantasala wouldn’t provide specific numbers. She said that cost was dependent on what was being analyzed, and what users want to use it to detect. The company was founded in May 2016, and has raised money through friends, families and various different accelerator programs. It now has 30 employees across offices in Bengaluru, Stockholm, Sweden and Plano, Texas.
Intello isn’t the only one using computer vision and AI to generate objective food ratings. Here in the U.S., AgShift is using a similar mobile phone app to provide better data for food buyers in the supply chain to help reduce food waste. And grocery giant Walmart has implemented its own machine learning-based Eden technology to assess food freshness.
But according to Ghantasala, Intello’s ambitions go beyond food altogether. The company is working with gas and oil companies in Sweden to apply its computer vision to parts identification, and they want to expand its vision into hyperspectral imaging for more in-depth analysis.
Intello, it seems, wants to use its AI to change the world. But for now, it’s changing the world for one farmer at a time.