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A Cargill logo is pictured on the Provimi Kliba and Protector animal nutrition factory in Lucens, Switzerland. Photo: Reuters

Cargill invests in Singapore start-up ProfilePrint whose AI tech grades food ingredients quickly and cheaply

  • ProfilePrint’s platform provides a ‘digital fingerprint’ that shows the quality and profile of food ingredients, such as coffee beans, cocoa and rice, in a matter of seconds
  • Cargill has completed pilot programmes with ProfilePrint to validate the application of the technology across its portfolio

US food major Cargill has invested in Singapore start-up ProfilePrint, which grades food ingredients using artificial intelligence (AI) technology, increasing efficiency and reducing wastage along the supply chain.

ProfilePrint’s patented technology provides a “digital fingerprint” that shows the quality and profile of food ingredients, such as coffee beans, cocoa and rice, in a matter of seconds, according to its CEO and founder Alan Lai.

The foodtech firm’s grading process for food ingredients is at least 10 times faster and five times cheaper than conventional testing, which is made possible through the use of its portable analysers and cloud-based platform, Lai said in an interview.

“Typically what big companies will do is they will collect the beans, send it to a lab, and it takes weeks for them to assess whether they are good enough,” he said. “By the time you go through your lab test, ProfilePrint has already made the assessment on the spot.”

ProfilePrint CEO and founder Alan Lai. Photo: Handout

Apart from the latest funding round from Minnesota-based Cargill, the five-year-old start-up has received millions of dollars in investment from strategic investors including Netherland-based Louis Dreyfus Company, Singapore-headquartered Olam International, Swiss coffee merchant Sucafina and Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas.

Over the past six months, Cargill has completed pilots with ProfilePrint to validate the application of the technology across its portfolio of ingredients such as cocoa and chocolate.

“ProfilePrint’s digital food fingerprinting technology holds the potential to transform the global food ingredient supply chain, strengthening the sensory innovation capabilities of our ingredient portfolio without compromising on taste and quality,” said Francesca Kleemans, managing director for Cargill’s cocoa and chocolate business in Asia-Pacific, in a statement on Thursday.

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“This can help Cargill deliver against our high standards for food quality and enable faster and more precise product development for our customers,” said Kleemans.

ProfilePrint’s Lai said the start-up will use the funding from Cargill to strengthen their technology and establish it “as the industry’s digital standard for food ingredients globally”.

The company said that its technology also helps to reduce the wastage of food ingredients and hence their carbon footprint, through reducing the frequency as well as the amount of samples sent out for grading along multiple stages of the supply chain.

ProfilePrint has developed a technology that combines metabolomics, AI, and sensor technologies into a single platform that predicts the quality profile of a food sample within seconds. Photo: Handout

For coffee bean samples sent directly from farmers, ProfilePrint requires 50 grams, while traditional grading procedures would require around half a kilogram, which meant a near tenfold reduction in carbon footprint using their platform, said Lai.

A report by the WWF in June 2021 showed that 1.2 billion tonnes of food, or around 15.3 per cent of food produced globally, is lost at the farm level.

Food waste accounts for around 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Driven to Waste report by the WWF-UK and British retailer Tesco.

“Market practices frequently maintain asymmetric power balances which favour markets over farmers,” according to the report.

“In many supply chains, this weakens farmers’ abilities to negotiate and suppresses their incomes, making it more difficult to break cycles of poverty and invest in training and technology to reduce food waste.”