Everyone eats, but very few of us are eating the freshest produce, meat and dairy from farms that are closest to where we live.
Silo is the logistics startup working to change that. For Silo’s co-founder Ashton Braun, this has been a roughly decade-long passion. He spent a year and a half in Southeast Asia working with coffee growers on their supply chain issues only to find that what Western consumers see as “Fair Trade” is more often than not, just an untraceable, retail brand. He later returned to his native Boston determined to reduce the time and complexity sitting between consumers from their food.
His first attempt at this problem was an app for local fishermen that used SMS to update buyers back onshore with data on inventory as they were catching it. Although this particular implementation didn’t pan out, it was the right idea; today, a company called GFresh is now the marketplace for freshly caught fish that all the fishermen use.
Dusting himself off, Ashton came out to California to join the founding team at Kite, a pair programming service that relies heavily on natural language processing. During those four years, he never lost sight of the goal of building a company to solve the complicated problems that plague food supply chains. Then in 2018, armed with the experience of building high functioning product teams, Ashton left Kite to start Silo.
With him on the founding team are two Kite veterans, chief technology officer and MIT computer science Ph.D Jackie Lee, and Antonio Bustamante, who leads product and design.
Wholesale produce in the United States is a $165 billion market. Yet about 50 percent of fruits and vegetables in this country are wasted every year; about 7 percent of the produce grown domestically is left on fields each year. Then through high consumer demands for aesthetic perfection, processing and distribution and expiration dates, those losses compound through other steps in a fragmented supply chain. On top of that, production is unpredictable. When weather is favorable and surprises a farmer with a banner crop, they often ironically cannot find a buyer for the surplus.
Silo is building software to help growers thrive under these unpredictable conditions. The company has built an order and supply chain management system that uses natural language processing and machine learning to automatically ingest unstructured communication between suppliers and buyers. They structure this information and use it to tell market participants what is in demand and what is for sale.
With their inventory in Silo, growers can on-board new buyer relationships that Silo helps them identify. This gives growers and shippers more control; if a long-time buyer is over-supplied and rejects a shipment, Silo can provide other options for where to sell. All this helps reduce loss and moves produce onto the shelves earlier when it is fresher. Finally, Silo can use the real-time data it collects on of hundreds of SKUs (or stock-keeping units) to inform growers about what to grow next.
Wholesale buyers of produce, meat and dairy also benefit. When they join Silo, they can maintain existing relationships in one place and then automate purchase orders. They can find new relationships, source products, negotiate prices, resolve disputes, maintain quality control and arrange transportation, all without leaving their desks or picking up the phone. This helps save time spent on procurement and brings their end customers better products, at lower prices.
Given the mission of the company and the strength of the founding team, we’re proud to back them in their journey to help this country waste less food and get healthier produce to people faster.