Katherine Sizov listens to kiwis, pears, apples, and bananas as they talk to each other, and through their conversations she can tell you when they are ripe and when they are about to rot. .
Sizov is CEO and co-founder of Strella Biotechnology, a Seattle-based agricultural technology company that works to reduce food waste by deploying equipment that detects ethylene, a chemical released by fruits as they are ripe. .
“The food supply chain doesn’t treat food as a living organism,” Sizov said. But the fruit communicates with other fruits through the language of ethylene. “Why don’t we listen to what these organizations are telling us? »
Venture capitalists get the message out. Strella announced $ 8 million in new funding on Tuesday, bringing its total funding to date to $ 11.5 million. Its supporters include Google Ventures, which has been rebranded as GV and the VC arm of Alphabet, and billionaire Mark Cuban.
The startup launched in 2017 in Philadelphia, and most team members moved to Seattle this winter to be closer to apple and pear growers in Washington. It has 15 employees and hopes to add ten more next year. It also aims to switch to other types of crops such as avocado, peach and mango.
Strella has developed IoT devices that monitor harvested product conditions, such as temperature and humidity, as well as the amount of ethylene emitted. They can be deployed in post-harvest warehouses, in shipping containers around the world, and at retail sites where food is sold.
The start-up has algorithms to make sense of ethylene levels and other data to let companies know which product needs to be moved when and how close it is to being super ripe. The company said it monitors more than 70% of the U.S. apple and pear market.
“We’re the gatekeepers watching the products as they travel,” Sizov said.
Sizov was a budding neurologist when he was concerned about the size and environmental impact of food waste. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 30% of food is wasted. Jay Jordan is the co-founder and COO of the startup.
Despite today’s turbulent economy, Sizov said he needs to grow his team and hopes there will continue to be demand for Strella’s technology. “Food is one of the necessary industries,” he says, “in which we still need to eat and eat healthy, tasty food.»
Series A was led by Millennium New Horizons with participation from Google Ventures and Rich Products Ventures. He was joined by current investors Mark Cuban, Yamaha Motor Ventures, Catapult Ventures and Union Labs.
There are various companies in the Pacific Northwest that address similar issues.
Based on Bainbridge Island, Washington RipeLocker sells patented “low atmosphere” containers designed to prevent crop rot by preserving flowers and freshly harvested produce. The startup raised $ 12 million last year.
Other ag-tech companies that have recently received funding include greenhouse tech startups iUNU and Koidra; smoothie maker The 2050 Company; IoT irrigation startup CODA Farm Technologies; and weed and rock robotics companies Aigen, Carbon Robotics and TerraClear.
There is also Seattle-based startup Shelf Engine, which aims to reduce food waste through platform technology used by grocers to manage food orders for their delis, bakery, cut goods, meat and fruit. of the sea.