Afresh raises $13 million for AI that optimizes grocery supply chains

Venture BeatThis post was originally published by Kyle Wiggers at Venture Beat

Grocery stores are responsible for an estimated 10% of all U.S. food waste, which amounts to 43 billion pounds annually. According to the Guardian, the food supply chain wastes 45% of all produce, 35% of seafood, 30% of cereals, and 20% of meat and dairy products every year. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that food containers and packaging make up 23% of landfill waste.

Afresh, whose customers include Fresh Thyme Market, WinCo Foods, and Heinen’s, aims to combat this with solutions that optimize merchandising, ordering, and operations for fresh food departments in supermarkets. The platform’s AI-based engine helps with decision-making by detecting issues and finding areas that can be automated while engaging associates when necessary.

Afresh analyzes customer purchase data and forecasts product demand, taking into account headwinds like pandemic-related runs on pork and beef products. Retail managers can then use the platform to order the exact amount of fresh food they will need.

Afresh says it trains its machine learning models, some of which have been peer-reviewed in academic journals, on hundreds of millions of data points and thousands of features. The models attempt to predict the distribution of events along a probability spectrum, generalizing to rare events (like the pandemic) even with limited historical data.

“Our algorithms optimize customer objectives through a probabilistic, data-driven model of the future. Our flagship product enables grocers to optimize the amount of perishables they carry at any given time in any given store,” Afresh explains on its website. “We combine human-centric AI, intentionally designed workflows, and holistic systems designed to address the complexities of the fresh food supply chain that past systems simply can’t handle.”

Afresh claims that stores using its suite reduce food waste by 25% or more and see 2% to 4% top-line revenue growth and a 40% increase in produce operating margin. The company also says each produce team member who uses Afresh saves 1-2 hours per week or more.

Afresh has a competitor in Crisp, which uses data and AI to offer a similar service to grocery store customers. Online grocer Farmstead is also built around algorithms that help it predict and better manage its inventory.

But Afresh says its backers are enthusiastic about the future. Alongside Food Retail Ventures, today’s series A saw participation from returning investors Innovation Endeavors, Maersk Growth, and Baseline Ventures.

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This post was originally published by Kyle Wiggers at Venture Beat

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