Using AI to revolutionize grain transport and storage

TeleSense, whose website proclaims it “the future of post-harvest grain management,” says it is poised to revolutionize grain storage and secure the food supply chain. Based in Sunnyvale, California, TeleSense lists almost all the international grain trading “majors” as its clients.

On Oct. 22, it  announced the close of a $10.2 million Series B round of financing led by existing investor Finistere Ventures, an ag and food investment pioneer. The company also announced that it has added Soren Wolck Schroder, former CEO of Bunge, and Mark Palmquist, CEO of United Malt and former CEO of GrainCorp, to its board of directors.

TeleSense is digitizing the post-harvest grain supply chain. Utilizing advanced internet real-time environmental monitoring, and cloud-based AI technology, TeleSense provides grain managers with actionable insights about their stored grain, so that they can make storage decisions easily, quickly and accurately. The company’s easy-to-use sensors and app work together to continuously monitor grain and automatically send issue alerts to users, mitigating spoilage, infestation and grain quality degradation. TeleSense also retrofits traditional temperature cable systems to integrate them with its fully wireless software ecosystem.

“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the inefficiencies of our global food supply chain and accelerated the digitizing of it,” said Spencer Maughan, co-founder and partner of Finistere Ventures. “Having led both the Series A and Series B investments, we believe strongly that TeleSense is a prime visionary in redefining how grain is stored, handled and traded. Ultimately, TeleSense is creating a digital global grain supply chain that uses data to combat grain spoilage–making the supply chain more sustainable and saving companies billions of dollars in lost grain along the way.”

Investor mix

A mix of new investors and industry leaders with global reach, including Fulcrum Global Capital, Artesian and Mindset Ventures, and existing investors such as Rabobank’s Food & Agri Innovation Fund also joined the round. Schroder and Palmquist will now actively support the company’s aggressive growth plans by sharing their extensive expertise and making connections throughout their global grain networks.

“A grain monitoring pioneer, TeleSense brings the advances of artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to the grain industry and provides the data-driven actionable insights needed to improve post-harvest grain management decisions that can have tremendous impact on supply chain economics,” said Palmquist. “The grain industry is striving to use data to drive decision automation, but it can be a costly and time-intensive endeavor. TeleSense offers an approach that is practical, useful and delivers immediate value–making the promise of data-driven decisions readily available for the grain industry at large.”

With its suite of grain monitoring products, including the novel CellularSpear, already helping major grain players to mitigate spoilage, reduce quality degradation, reduce energy costs and increase worker safety, TeleSense will use the funding to scale to meet surging demand for its solutions. Having recently established offices in Australia and Europe, the company will now focus on strengthening its global sales channel, speeding production and further building out its data science team to maintain its position as the primary artificial intelligence leader in the grain industry.

Schroder added, “Having spent more than 30 years in the grain industry, I am very impressed by TeleSense’s use of smart analytics and prescriptive actions to not only preserve quality, but also to optimize merchandising decisions for maximum profitability. Like with any business, success in the grain industry is all about what you know, when you know it, and how to take action on that knowledge. TeleSense enables higher quality decision making at a very competitive price.”

Accurate view

TeleSense provides internet monitoring solutions that deliver an accurate view of the current and future condition of stored grain, while automating the detection and mitigation of potential issues. Meeting the differing accessibility and scalability demands of both developed and developing economies, TeleSense helps manage key risks in the world’s perishable commodities supply chain. Its machine-learning algorithms provide users with the smart alerts they need to effectively manage and predict grain quality, eliminate human error, ensure safety, improve operational efficiency and increase profitability.

“Rabobank has supported TeleSense since 2018. The original mission to digitize the grain supply chain is being realized. The technology is more widely adopted and there is a growing consensus in the sector on the value proposition and the market need,” said Richard O’Gorman, managing director of the Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund. “Bringing accelerated and sustainable efficiency to the food supply chain is a central theme in the investments we make. TeleSense continues to be a great illustration of this theme, and we look forward to scaling the company together with an expert board and strong group of investors.”

“The complexities of the food supply chain continue to evolve, and the grain industry needs to keep pace. The ability to know real-time storage conditions, accurately predict future grain quality and optimize merchandising timing delivers higher profits,” said TeleSense Co-Founder and CEO Naeem Zafar. “We are dedicated to bringing the power of data to the grain industry and helping grain growers and handlers improve their financial outcomes. We’re excited to work with our investors to build on our successes with grain majors and make TeleSense products the standard for the global grain industry.”

Data integrity and security

Given today’s concerns about data and what happens to it, Zafar stresses, “The data we collect belongs to the customer—we look at that data to train our algorithms and create models—the insights are shared with the customers and overall our algorithms improve and serve the whole industry.” Specific insights can be shared with other users, such as insurance and banking, to help TeleSense’s customers receive beneficial services. “Data privacy and security is a top priority for TeleSense. Ultimately, any data should and will be used for the customers’ benefit.”

Currently, the company’s data is on a secure network, only accessible by TeleSense. None of the company’s devices accept in-bound connections. They only initiate connection to its infrastructure using industry standard protocols. TeleSense uses encryption between sensors data to the cloud (AES 256 bit).

“We align with CIA Triad (Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability) best practices using SHA (One-way Hashing function for data production),” said Zafar. “Since our founding in 2014, we are proud to report that no customer has ever experienced a cybersecurity issue due to their TeleSense system. We want each of our customers to feel comfortable and confident with how we handle their data. We invest considerable time and effort into sourcing and testing components and services from suppliers who have the same high standards for cyber security as we do. No other company comes close to matching TeleSense’s cutting-edge research and data-analytics capabilities.”

David Murray can be reached at [email protected].

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