It is now common knowledge that our current food production is not sufficient to keep up with the growing population that is expected to come in the next three decades, which is why alternative meat products are being developed.
But at a time when some food industry startups are trying to remove animals from the food chain, a company tackling the traditional meat industry is a rarity.
lumachain strives to become the industry standard for how beef, chicken and pork products are produced worldwide.
“The global industry is worth $1.5 trillion a year and it helps feed the world,” company founder and CEO Jamila Gordon told gotechbusiness.com. “Each factory is a huge undertaking in itself. It can have from 500 employees to thousands of employees per shift. What we haven’t done is build a computer vision technology and AI that help transform the industry.”
That is Lumchain’s goal: to help the global meat industry innovate and solve some of the key challenges it faces, including staff shortages, the impact of inflation and high operational costs, supply chain disruptions and that meat factories continue to operate in the same way. work like 50 years ago.
Supply chain disruptions were exacerbated during the pandemic, and because meat is a perishable product it has a short shelf life, and if it’s stuck somewhere and out of sight it could mean hundreds of thousands of pounds of meat being thrown away, Gordon explained.
Born in Somalia who went to Australia as a displaced person during the Somali Civil War, Gordon’s first job outside of university was cooking at a Japanese restaurant where the chef took her under his wing to learn the trade. Even though she had a degree in computer science and later worked for companies like IBM and as chief information officer for Qantas Airways, her passion remained with the food industry.
The innovation Gordon has seen in the food industry is more “incremental rather than transformational”. That is why she believes that AI should help employees to get the best out of themselves. She even did a TED Talk about it.
Lumachain was founded in 2018 to use computer vision-based artificial intelligence to transform meat factory operations. It has five products in the categories of safety, yield, quality, efficiency and traceability.
The company installs cameras around the factory to identify potential safety risks and provides training and coaching opportunities for factory supervisors, who often employ 50 employees. The AI sends real-time alerts to the supervisor so they can focus on those who need extra help rather than having to monitor each employee individually.
In addition, during COVID, customers knew where their containers were at any given time, and if there was a chance of spoilage, they could reroute the products to other endpoints so there would be no losses.
“Since we talked about not enough employees, you want your employees to be the best they can be and provide real-time coaching and training,” Gordon said. “Traceability creates that transparency that helps our customers track food from farm to fork and know where their product is at any given time.”
Since its inception four years ago, Lumachain’s approach has resonated with meat production companies. It currently operates in eight countries, and its technology takes up just under 50% of the U.S. meat supply, Gordon said.
Today, the Sydney-based and now Denver-based company announced $19.5 million in Series A funding to continue to accelerate its AI platform globally and scale its team in the United States. Next year, the company expects to expand its team here to about 30 people. The global team is now over 100.
The financing was led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation from existing investor Main Sequence. Lumachain raised a $2.5 million seed round in July 2019 to give it $22 million in total funding to date.
“We’re not going after other new customers, but are expanding with our existing customers instead,” Gordon said. “The next steps are expansion and becoming the global industry standard.”