Blockchain is a much-talked about technology and many industries are trying to figure out how to best use it. When it comes to blockchain in agriculture, we think our 2018 company Ripe.io is creating a great solution to a big problem!
Tell me about Ripe.io. How does your technology work?
Ripe provides an innovative blockchain service to help companies address key problems in the food supply chain. These often include food safety, authenticity, fraud management, and meeting sustainability goals.
Food suppliers can leverage the Ripe network to share their data so that you, the consumer, can know things like harvest date, pickup date, and much more. Ripe.io is creating a shared record system that enables participants or customers of the blockchain of food to connect their data and activities to create a single record of truth. The result is lower cost and less spoilage — so it’s good for your health, your pocket, and the environment.
How did Ripe.io come about?
My co-founder Phil Harris and I both come from the financial trading world. I had worked with several large banks (Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America), and Phil came from Nasdaq on the exchange and fin-tech side.
We got involved in evaluating blockchain technologies four years ago while we were both still working our full time jobs. As we progressed in our fields, we began to look around and see that we had made plenty of money for our employers, and that this new blockchain software could have an impact on industries other than financial.
That’s when Phil and I set out to evaluate the industries where blockchain would be most effective. After evaluating many fields (including healthcare, ), we settled on food. We partnered with a company called Analog Devices, which was employing sensors out in fields in a project called “the Internet of Tomatoes.”
Following that project, we ran a couple of pilots last year in which we used blockchain to figure out what makes a better tomato. We utilized sensors and mathematical info, working with a company called SweetGreen to share data and learn how blockchain can improve the taste and quality of food. Our team has also worked with another accelerator called Terra out of San Francisco. We gained our first customer from this experience and have been working with them to figure out how to grow fresh apples and pears. We’re proud to have won a couple of distinctions in the past year: Forbes named us one of Top 25 Innovative Agricultural Companies, and AgFunder (a venture fund and content site) named us best in category for pre series A technology.
From a personal perspective, our work fulfills both professional and personal goals:
We’re right on the brink of an exciting new application of blockchain that allows us to reduce spoilage and make the world a better place for people and the environment. We can look our kids in the eye and say we’re doing something good in the world!
What were some of your goals in coming to the Sprint Accelerator?
A friend of mine who is the managing director at Balance Point invited me to speak at Tech Week last year. That’s where I met managing director Doug Dresslaer, learned about the Corporate Accelerator, and found out that DFA was backing it. Our fit with this program came on so many different levels. For one, it’s an amazing opportunity for us to be able to work on providing blockchain for a dairy organization like DFA. I hounded Doug for months to get in!
The Kansas City area is also great — being in the midland and establishing a presence is a perfect opportunity. And Sprint was another huge factor: we knew they had a lot of experience in using IoT to gather information, and we’ve been delighted to learn more about their overarching technological architecture and their experience with sensors.
What has been your biggest takeaway or benefit from the program so far?
So far, our most significant work has been on constructing a program with DFA. We’ve spent a lot of time with them sorting out what a pilot would look like and the implications of implementing something over the long run. DFA has been incredibly generous with their time. One day, they spent six hours with us, with something like twelve people!
In addition, the collaborative sessions here at the Accelerator have been invaluable in reminding us of what you have to do to progress your company. We’ve found the access to capital and conversations around it very helpful at this stage.
Do you have any advice or thoughts you’d want to share with our readers?
Our team comes from all sorts of backgrounds, from farmers to supply chain technicians to people in technology to phd students. As we work together, we’re all creating new roles from scratch, which is a challenge! But new economic opportunities require new skill sets, and we’re creating a training ground for a new type of practice around data and intelligence and truthful verifications. That’s a cool part about what we do: it effects real people!