With a background deeply rooted in molecular biology, Katherine embarked on a mission to tackle the challenges that plague food supply chains worldwide. Her story is one of passion, innovation, and the power of collaboration. Katherine's journey into the world of food supply solutions began during her time at college, where she met a kindred spirit, Jay Jordan, at a serendipitous networking event. Little did she know that this chance encounter would lead to the creation of Strella, a company at the cutting edge of agricultural technology. Armed with their shared vision and complementary skill sets, Katherine and Jay founded Strella Biotechnology to address the critical issues of food waste and quality control. Through her extensive knowledge of molecular biology, Katherine recognized the need for a data-driven approach to monitor and optimize food supply chains. Strella's mission became clear: harness the power of data and biology to create resilient solutions for an industry vital to the sustenance of billions. In this exclusive Delivery Rank’s interview, we dive deep into Katherine Sizo's extraordinary journey, exploring the roots of her passion for molecular biology, her pivotal meeting with Jay Jordan, and the groundbreaking work being carried out at Strella Biotechnology.
I started the company while I was still in college. I had applied for Graduate School, but for some reason, I just did not want to pursue neuroscience. Then, I came across the statistic that 40% of food is wasted before it's consumed. This prompted me to start learning more and conducting some research, which eventually led to me founding the company. About a year later, I met Jay at a networking event. He comes from an agricultural background, so when I was discussing what my startup was working on, he had a lot of contacts and knowledge on the topic. We decided to collaborate and work together.
Yes, I believe the core idea is that food is a biological organism, but we often fail to treat it as such when moving it through the supply chain. As a biologist myself, this concept seemed quite apparent to me. Consequently, I was keen to explore whether there were specific indicators or inputs that could provide insights. In essence, can food communicate information about its condition that might help us address issues like waste reduction and increased efficiency?
Traditionally, we've primarily worked with apples and bananas. However, we are now expanding our scope to include avocados, for example. When you visit a grocery store, you may notice that avocados are often either excessively hard or overly mushy. We are actively addressing this issue.
Furthermore, another aspect that greatly excites us and has been a long-standing thesis for our company is the idea of connecting the entire supply chain. Currently, every entity in the supply chain operates relatively independently. You have grocery stores advocating for their interests, suppliers doing the same, and so forth. We are now reaching a stage where we possess enough product offerings and knowledge about how items move through the supply chain to facilitate the connection of individual data silos and participants. This integration allows us to represent the entire system as a cohesive whole. I'm particularly enthusiastic about this development because I believe it represents the direction the next generation of supply chains will take – interconnected through data as products transition from one party to another.
An apple in a grocery store can be over a year old. Currently, determining which apples can be stored for a year and which ones will spoil is somewhat of a guessing game. That's why we've developed sensor technology that can predict the ripeness of apples. We leverage this technology to assist suppliers in making informed decisions about what to store for extended periods and what should be sent to the grocery store. As a result, we've successfully prevented over £20 million worth of apples from going to waste
In the food chain, you will encounter many incredibly experienced and knowledgeable individuals. However, often their decisions are rooted in their personal experience and expertise rather than relying on specific data. This situation can lead to various challenges, such as having to work excessively long hours, particularly during the harvest season.
Data serves as a means for us to alleviate the workload for many people who possess industry expertise and knowledge. It also facilitates the seamless transfer of information from one individual to another, reducing the reliance on a single pivotal figure within the chain.
I enjoy beginning in STEM and then transitioning into other disciplines. I believe it's a powerful combination, I would say. My general advice is not to be afraid to do it. You know, I often mention this from my own childhood. When people asked me, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" My answer was always something like an astronaut or president, something really exciting like that. I encourage people to pursue their dreams. Life is short.
People. I hold a deep appreciation for people, as they are what matter most to me. I consider myself incredibly fortunate and grateful to be surrounded by exceptionally intelligent, talented, and kind individuals. Ultimately, having such people around is of utmost importance, even when pursuing a mission like addressing food waste, which we are all passionate about.
I'd like to add that we are currently quite enthusiastic about our work with bananas. Essentially, we are automating the ripening process of bananas. This ensures that when consumers visit a grocery store, they find bananas in that perfect, appealing yellow color consistently. This not only enhances sales but also maintains consistency and reduces waste, both at the grocery store and in consumers' homes. It's a significant project for us, and we're integrating AI and machine learning into it. So, yes, this is a major project that we're very excited about.
If you would like to find out more about Strella Biotechnology, visit https://www.strellabiotech.com/