As the economy is barraged daily by some kind of pandemic-related bad news, many businesses remain closed (or serving far fewer customers), job losses continue to pile up and people all over are being more cautious about how much they spend.
The food supply chain is not immune from this belt-tightenting. Looking to save some money, food buyers may haggle more vigorously over what they pay per pound for something like almonds, costing the growers and processors money. This problem, Raf Peeters told me, is where QCify can help.
Peeters is the CEO of QCify (pronounced kew-sih-fye), which uses a combination of computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI) to perform quality control on food items at processing plants. Right now QCify inspects almonds and pistachios by running samples through a special machine that uses six cameras to capture a 3D image of each almond. The company’s AI then analyzes the image and grades the almonds based on USDA (or other) criteria such as size, color, insect damage, imperfections, etc.
All that data collected by the inspection machines are sent back to to QCify HQ, where it is incorporated into the company’s algorithms. Twice a year QCify then sends out updates to all of its installed machines, which means that even if a customer bought a QCify system a couple years ago, it will run the newest AI. “Customers feel like they have the latest and greatest,” Peeters told me by phone this week.
The result of all this computer vision and machine learning is that nut processors can set a fair price for their wares, based on objective criteria (like the USDA grading). Right now, QCify works with almonds and pistachios, and has customers in both the U.S. and Australia. A buyer can’t argue over the quality of the almonds (and thereby demand a lower price) because the processor not only has the grade from the QCify system, but it can also produce the sample images to show exactly what quality the almonds or pistachios are in.
QCify isn’t the only company looking to remove biases from the food supply chain using computer vision and AI. AgShift and Intello Labs do much the same thing. Peeters said that QCify is different from the competition because its six-camera setup captures 3D images of the nuts, instead of just scanning the top an bottom of the food, which Peeters claims is what his competition does.
QCify was founded in 2015 and Peeters said they company has only raised an unspecified amount of angel investment money. The company sells the machines themselves and charges a monthly/annual subscription fee for updates and calibration. While he wouldn’t reveal pricing, Peeters said that customers can earn their money back within a year.
In these cash-strapped times, a faster ROI isn’t just peanuts, which, coincidentally is one of the next nut categories QCify is expanding into.