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FreshTEC Exhibitor Spotlight:

Oct 01, 2017
Q&A with CEO Raja Ramachandran
1. How did you discover blockchain technology?
We discovered Bitcoin and blockchain over four years ago. My business partner Phil Harris was working at Nasdaq at the time and I joined a major financial distributed ledger/blockchain consortium called R3CEV. We were deeply involved in strategic implementations of blockchain at our respective companies. After a while we felt there were better, more meaningful applications of the blockchain to other industries. Also, we had personal epiphanies. We needed more meaning and justifications in our lives on a personal level. We had made plenty of money for our financial institutions’ employers but felt empty professionally. After studying many verticals – insurance, health care, law, music, transportation, real estate, etc., we “stumbled” into food as we were introduced to our co-founding team of food science and blockchain technology. Through understanding some of the issues in the food supply chain, we were invigorated and ultimately, we think of ourselves as “reforming” ex-Wall Streeters! 

We started working with Analog Devices and their “Internet of Tomatoes” project and analyzed the food supply chain and its sets of issues and problems from farmer/grower to the table and beyond. We then formed the company, engaged in a couple of pilots where we tracked all static and live conditions of growing tomatoes, placed the information on the blockchain and helped provide visibility of the data and analytics to all on the chain. We are now working with restaurants, food suppliers/brands, cold chain, ripeness management companies, fisheries, and growers. 

2. What challenges is it solving?
The food supply chain struggles to have trusted transparency about its information, transactions and assertions. Consumers demand it. Our customers initially include buyers such as restaurants, dining services, and food suppliers. Each is looking to increase brand value by backing up assertions about their better food, sourcing, safety, histories, and pricing to their customers. There is a seismic shift in knowledge and trust demand by consumers. This is causing major companies grief with their existing methodologies and operations. Our solution is an engine that allows their ecosystem to self-certify any of these outcomes.  This provides a record of truth – like Carfax – that their customers can bank on.

3. Where do you see this technology headed?
It will become invisible. Just like no one really thinks about asking what is HTML and HTTP behind the browser, users of all types simply want to get to a site. And just like cell phones when you travel all over the world, you can always make phone calls, get email, and watch the web seamlessly. The complexity of telecom infrastructure is hidden to you as they have figured out interoperability. The same will happen with blockchain. Companies and people will no longer ask about blockchain rather they will be using it to personalize food to their health, stamp out food disease, reduce water waste in spoilage, improve quality food delivery by the UN to Nigeria, improve farmer payments to real time based on qualified fulfillment of contracts without any human intervention to verify terms and conditions, precise and more targeted pesticide use based on the sustainability goals of buyers, distributors, deployment of new applications on web, mobile, social and other media connecting the trusted data of the blockchain network to fulfill on ripeness, waste, food science, automation of cold chain to shelf live and so on. In other words, it is left then to needs and imagination of all walks of life in the food chain to simply use our platform of data, workflow information and certifications to enable their business ideas and use cases. You won’t even know it’s a blockchain behind it, rather a trusted knowledge network to leverage.
4. What progress have you made since exhibiting at FreshTEC Expo in June 2017?
We finished three pilots over the summer and each of those is now in commercial agreement form. We have successfully graduated the Terra Accelerator program at RocketSpace in August. We are now working with a wide variety of potential customers ranging from large consumer product goods companies, food brands and suppliers, grocery (fixed and home delivery), restaurants, food safety organizations, certifications agencies, enterprise software entities, cold chain storage and distribution companies, growers, other trade associations, technology companies. We also were just noted in Forbes and also were in a partnership with Analog Devices (Internet of Tomatoes), Bluestream as part of the Cornucopia Project in New Hampshire. 
5. What has been your experience with United Fresh?
While at the Mixing Bowl Hub/Forbes conference in New York, we learned about FreshTEC and were convinced that it would be a perfect vehicle for us to meet companies in the fresh food space, learn about the needs, and showcase our tech with other startups. As a result [of participating], our network has exploded. We have had access to many potential customers and real exposure. Great experience.

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