Seebo scores $24M for AI-powered food waste reduction tech


Dive Brief:

  • Israeli startup Seebo increased its Series B financing to top out at $24 million. The additional funding for the round was led by Vertex Ventures with participation from 10D, The Phoenix and Leumi Partners.
  • Seebo will use the new capital to expand its AI-powered technologies aimed at helping food producers identify and address process-driven inefficiencies. The company says it will save clients money by revealing hidden production losses that are tricky to spot. Current users include PepsiCo, Nestle, General Mills, Modelez, and Barilla.
  • Investment in food waste technology has steadily increased in recent years as the issue gains attention among consumers, food manufacturers, and policymakers. In 2018 alone, food waste startups captured $125 million in venture funding.

Dive Insight:

Seebo’s new technology offers food companies a way to pinpoint pesky production losses that aren’t readily apparent to the human eye. Shaving off a few production losses here and there may sound trivial, but considering the volume that some of its existing clients like General Mills and Mondelez are churning out each day, the efficiency gains and loss prevention can really add up. That also translates to dollars back in the food company’s pockets, providing them a lucrative incentive to test out new innovations.

Seebo’s tool is also attractive to food manufacturers because it does not require a user to rapidly alter existing practices through new production lines and facilities, according to the startup. Other solutions requiring more invasive or dramatic adjustments could result in additional downstream costs to consumers.

Simple integration and ease of use have been common objectives for food waste startups for that very reason. They’ve formed to help all kinds of businesses in the food space control waste. For restaurants, Winnow developed a smart scale attached to a tablet that weighs and codes food waste to hone in on the best levels of ingredient ordering and menu offerings. LeanPath offers something similar, but with a camera to store images of food waste.

So far, the food supply chain seems eager to test out food waste fighting innovations. Nearly 200 companies have committed to halving food waste by 2030 as part of their sustainability objectives, including Mondelez, Nestlé, and PepsiCo. Unilever recently moved up its pledge to chop food waste in half by 2025. General Mills adopted a “zero-waste-to-landfill” ethos, which means nothing goes to a landfill. It also uses heat from incinerated items to power other manufacturing processes.

As a testament to companies’ desire to address food waste, Seebo reported 400% year-over-year growth. The company attributes the boost to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put serious pressure on food manufacturers to lower production costs, increase efficiency and keep up with shifting consumer demand. Some manufacturers are also taking a second look at their offerings and reconsidering production volume to adjust to fewer workers and sluggish supply chains. 

Others are tapping into the emerging upcycled food trend, turning other processing byproducts into new food products. The market could be worth as much as $46.7 billion, according to analysts. Dieffenbach’s Potato Chips launched a line of potato chips called Uglies Kettle Chips made from surplus potatoes that have flaws while ReGrained is turning spent brewers’ grains into superfood snack bars and other products.

Tamping down food waste at the manufacturing level may help move the needle, but the bulk of food waste happens further down the supply chain. According to nonprofit ReFED, 80% of food waste is attributable to grocery stores, restaurants and consumers. These new innovations can help get the ball rolling for manufacturers, who might be able to put the money they save into initiatives like Unilever’s new marketing campaign through its Hellmann’s brand that shows consumers ways to reduce wasting food in their refrigerators.