Published: 28th May 2020
This Bengaluru start-up is using machine learning and IoT to detect the freshness of your fruits and veggies
QZense has developed two devices that use sense of smell and sight to determine the quality of fresh produce
While India is one of the largest producers of food crops in the world, a lot of this - 16 per cent to be exact - is wasted every year due to inadequate infrastructure and supply chain management. The cold storages aren't equipped to reduce food wastage even when a large number of India's population goes hungry and the country continues to slip lower in the Global Hunger Index. The need of the hour is some disruptive technology that can address this problem. That is where QZense comes in. Founded by Rubal Chib and Srishti Batra, this Bengaluru-based start-up has developed a device, using machine learning and IoT, to detect the shelf life and ripeness of agricultural produce.
The start-up has developed two devices, which use the sense of smell and sight to detect the quality of produce. "The devices will study their internal composition and biochemical processes to assess the health of fresh food," says Rubal. The two devices include a handheld scanner and a data logger. "The scanner, called QScan, is portable and can be used to grade and sort the fresh produce. For example, it can tell the retailer about the level of sweetness in fruits. The loggers can be installed in cold storages or in the vehicles transporting produce. It has in-built sensors to detect the gases and compounds produced by the fruits and vegetables. It will alert the user when the rate of degradation is increasing so that the food can be distributed sooner," adds Rubal.
QZense will be accelerated by the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad's Atal Innovation Centre under their ESTAC programme, which works with and mentors start-ups in the field of agriculture. They will pilot their project with the Government of Punjab, which is set to begin next month. "Under the programme, ISB will mentor agricultural start-ups like us and help improve our model over the next three to four months," says Rubal. Srishti and Rubal first pitched their start-up idea in a Shark Tank-like scenario and received initial funding from Entrepreneur First, a UK-based international talent investor.
Rubal hopes that technology will help improve the supply chain and more produce will reach the consumers. "We lose around 14 billion dollars in food waste every year. If storage and grading are made more efficient, this will have a greater economic and social impact," she feels, "A lot of high-grade fruits and vegetables in the supermarkets have been imported since India doesn't have technology and infrastructure to store or grade fresh produce. Technology can improve exports and quality of food supplied in the Indian markets." The duo eventually wants to develop devices for farmers as well for them to understand the right time to harvest their crops.
But this isn't Rubal's first brush with handling a start-up. "I have worked in product development for a multinational company and also with several start-ups in their IoT teams," says Rubal. Her co-founder Srishti has a PhD in computational biology (a field of study that uses machine learning on biological data) and has specifically researched the sense of smell.