With export grain being analysed up to 14 times before it hits the customer’s dock, it’s no surprise that industry supply chain quality controls are under the spotlight.
And with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) improving agricultural systems, new technologies are emerging to provide quicker and more accurate testing services for agricultural commodities.
Enter ZoomAgri, a global agtech company bringing AI and machine learning (ML) to varietal recognition and quality testing to the Australian market.
GrainCorp is co-leading a $9 million investment round into ZoomAgri, alongside GrainInnovate, the VC fund partnership between Grains Research Development Corporation (GRDC) and Artesian, with further participation from existing investors SP Ventures.
Already a player in the barley testing market in Australia, ZoomAgri launched the Series A investment round to upscale and broaden commodity coverage.
GrainCorp CEO Robert Spurway says the agtech company has a strong track record.
“We’ve been trialling two ZoomAgri units at our receival sites on the east coast of Australia for the past few years, to detect sieving and quality defects in barley.
“They have developed advanced prototypes during the last three years for variety testing and physical quality determination, and our investment will support more product development into new commodities, such as wheat.”Robert Spurway, CEO GrainCorp
ZoomAgri believes its technology could solve other industry challenges, such as labour shortages and the accuracy and wait time associated with receiving results.
“By investing in ZoomAgri through GrainCorp Ventures, we’re backing solutions that will add value to the grower’s business and drive a consistency of standard testing-outcome tolerances on site,” Mr Spurway says.
ZoomAgri co-founder Jaap Rommelaar says the idea for the technology was founded in grains and oilseeds trading.
“We would purchase the commodities locally from farmers and get them into the silos, but when we asked the silo manager about the quality, they didn’t know,” he explains.
“On top of that, we’d export vessels of soybeans and only receive a report about a quality issue two days later, when it was too late to change anything.
“We eventually found a way to conduct one scan using artificial intelligence, where we could analyse the quality and see the variety of a certain grain kernel.
“We now work with clients in 25 countries and have combined technology, agronomy and commercial industry experience to grow into the company we are now.
ZoomAgri was recently approved as an official method of use by Mitteleuropäische Brautechnische Analysenkommission e.V. (MEBAK), the Central European Commission for Brewing Analysis, for use of the technology to analyse varietal purity of malting barley throughout supply chains.
“It’s an exciting step forward and the objective in Australia now is to grow our team and continue developing solutions to add value to the whole Australian supply chain, from growers and handlers to processors and exporters,” Jaap adds.
GRDC’s Head of Business Development Fernando Felquer says AI technology is an important area of investment for the research corporation.
“Development of new technology that can complement or eventually even replace current quality assessment methods to make transactions faster and more accurate is an important area of investment that will enhance efficiency across the entire supply chain,” he says.
“This is why GRDC, through GrainInnovate is pleased to continue the support the company’s technology development program and roll out in Australia.”