MYTHRONICS: ‘AI CAN HELP MINIMIZE FOOD LOSS IN THE VALUE CHAIN’

About a third of all food produced goes to waste, and more than 30% of that one third is lost before it reaches the supermarkets. This data may seem shocking, but what’s worse is that it’s real. The reason for this is that quality control with the products is often done by people and problems are not detected in time.

This doesn’t have to be the case, though. With their solution, the team of Mythronics makes it possible for vegetables and fruits to be graded and sorted autonomously, thus minimizing error and maximizing efficiency.

FROM A SIMPLE IDEA

For founder Soheil Jahanshahi, starting a business for the agricultural industry was not a hard decision. “When I was a kid, my father and my uncle had an apple farm back home in Iran, so agriculture has always been close to my heart,” he says. “In a time when people are moving more towards consumption of high quality fresh products, it is crucial that more and more fruits and vegetables (among others) reach the supermarkets in a good condition.”

The key to making that happen is by sorting and grading the product at the right time. Yet, in this specific industry segment, there has been – and still is – a shortage of qualified labor, Soheil says. Technology can fill this gap.

“From speaking to many (potential) clients, we found out that there are simply not enough people to do the job,” he explains. “Quite often, companies have to hire people from abroad and invest in training them, only to see them leave in a year. We want to avoid that.”

With a background in software engineering, Soheil knew that he could tackle this challenge and help decrease food waste in the value chain. With Mythronics, he and his team of three are developing solutions based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics that can: (1) detect when plants are ready for harvesting, (2) detect defects and other attributes in the product and (3) help with sorting it.

A simple idea that they have taken to the market in under two years.

THROUGH YES!DELFT

Soheil and his team are certainly up to something, with their ultimate goal to make AI more understandable and accessible to businesses in the agricultural industry. Naming the company Mythronics was also not a coincidence. “For many people, AI is still a myth and we want to change that,” Soheil says.

Supporting them along the way has been YES!Delft and their network of experts and mentors. Soheil joined the AI/Robotics Validation Lab in May 2018 and quickly learned about how to match his business proposition to the right target market.

“I met with a lot of potential clients, which helped me validate my idea and better understand the market I was aiming for,” says Soheil. “I also got exposure to a wide range of investors.” Only months later, Mythronics was accepted into YES!Delft’s Accelerator program.

TO A GROWING COMPANY

Today, the startup is already testing their product on several commercial solutions. The team is targeting two different market segments – greenhouse owners and growers on the one hand, and companies on the packaging and logistics side on the other.

For greenhouses, they have developed a mobile assistant that can autonomously detect problems with the crops. It can also tell them when certain crops are ready for harvesting, eliminating the need to train people for it.

On the logistics side, Mythronics has focused on developing an AI-driven solution that can help eliminate subjective quality inspections and ensure that all products are in the high quality sought after by supermarkets.

“We are building this product together with our customer, ABC Logistics,” says Soheil. “In essence, we’ve created a sorting box with sensors and an integrated technology that grades fruits. So you can put up to 60 different types of fruits on a conveyor belt, run them through the box, and it will identify each of them individually. As they go through the box, a robotic arm helps sort those fruits.”

In the relationship between the two companies, ABC Logistics has been providing a lot of the knowledge and a test site, while Soheil and his team have been bringing the technical expertise.

With two solutions already out for customers to work with, the team of Mythronics is well on their way to fulfilling their goal of reducing food waste, even if only on a local scale for now.

MILESTONES

2018

  • Company established
  • Accelerator Alumni at YES!Delft and RoboValley

2019

  • Team grows to three people
  • Received funding from Horizon 2020; pilot tests with first client

2020

  • Development of Robotic Sorting machine
  • Joined Startlife program from Wageningen

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