Rao Mandava was born into a farming family in India and grew up learning how to harvest rice, tobacco and various vegetables from his father. After years of exploring different careers and countries, Mandava came back to his original farming roots through Inteligistics.
Inteligistics was launched by Mandava more than 10 years ago to provide the fresh produce industry with a solution to ensure quality and freshness using temperature monitoring, humidity visibility and product tracking. “Our technology assures that perishable produce is safe, fresh, edible and saleable for longer periods of time,” said Mandava.
When going to the grocery store, it can be unclear how long a head of lettuce or a package of grapes may stay fresh. Produce can last between a few days or as long as two weeks, Mandava remarked. “Quality is uncertain so customer satisfaction is inconsistent. Our monitors deliver quality certainty which is important to the consumer and the success of the growers, shippers and retail stores.”
Inteligistics’ solutions provide pulp temperature monitoring for fresh produce. A sensor actually touches the product being monitored, starting from the field through to the cooling and shipping process, and even to the retail store shelves. “No other competitor has end-to-end technology visibility,” said Mandava. “Other companies either measure temperature as the produce is transported or in specific locations in the field. Our technology starts from the field and monitors the same box or pallet of produce all the way to when the consumer buys it. We automate this process and provide full traceability throughout the distribution chain.”
Live temperature visibility from field to store gives growers, shippers and retailers insight on how to best prioritize the cooling of produce. Increased cooling efficiency and an unbroken cold chain leads to higher quality products, longer-lasting produce, more accurate inventory management, greater supply chain confidence, decreased food waste/spoilage and stronger customer relationships.
The technology is part of the Internet of Things and uses wireless sensors and direct communication between devices to provide users with insightful and actionable information to help improve cool chain and supply chain performance. For example, the “InteliTemp” solution automatically identifies the current product temperature and sends updates to the user’s laptop or smartphone using cloud-based technology.
The foundation of Inteligistics formed when Mandava was working for Westinghouse Electric Company, serving as the vice president of its automation division. There, he played a key role in developing technology that would later provide the U.S. Navy with the ability to identify and assess the condition of equipment located in 600,000 containers around the world.
“We created a truly agile platform and it was great. After that, I knew I wanted to take this technology to assist other industries in solving their problems,” said Mandava. And that is what he has done with the help of the Inteligistics’ team of engineers, innovators and business experts.
In addition to enhancing food safety and assisting customers in becoming compliant with the new food safety standards (FDA Food Safety Modernization Act), reducing food waste is a top priority for the company. With 40 percent of food being thrown away annually in the United States, Inteligistics aids companies in significantly increasing the shelf life of products and in minimizing respiration-related shrink. Customers are able to sell more of what they produce, thus enhancing their revenue and profits.
“Our population is growing and we are running out of resources to produce enough food for everyone. If we can reduce 15 to 20 percent of the waste, we’ll be able to feed about 10 percent more of the U.S. population that is in need of proper nourishment,” said Mandava. “Our solutions help identify which products are still fresh and maximizes how long produce is kept on the shelves.”
The company currently offers five product solutions and is looking to expand their offerings by tapping into the resources of the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology. As one of the inaugural residents of the Center, Inteligistics immediately started building relationships with potential customers and enhancing their products with the help of WG.
“Being connected with Western Growers is an honor for us,” said Mandava. “We know that by being in the Center, we will gain first-hand knowledge of industry’s changing needs which will enable us to gear up tech to solve those issues.” The company was the first to place a full-time professional employee at the Center.
Inteligistics has already had the opportunity to speak to and build relationships with nearly 40 WG member companies about their solution in March during the first of the Center’s Tech Talk Series. Additionally, with the help of Hank Giclas, WG senior vice president of strategic planning, science and technology, Inteligistics is in the midst of conducting an industry-wide pilot to analyze and estimate shelf life of produce, using technology developed by UC Davis. To learn more about the pilot or the solutions Inteligistics offers, visit http://www.inteligistics.com/.