French Startup Ida Uses AI to Revolutionize Fresh Food Orders
In a bid to streamline the fresh food ordering process, French startup Ida is harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI). With a recent seed funding round raising $2.9 million (€2.7 million), Ida aims to work with supermarkets and grocery stores to optimize the ordering of perishable products such as fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish.
The current method of relying on error-prone order sheets with numerous columns has led to both food waste and shortages, causing supermarkets to lose money or miss out on potential revenue. Ida’s co-founder and CEO, Mateo Beacco, explained the flawed process: “The person in charge of vegetables will take these sheets of paper and a pen. They’ll then go through the stock line by line, reference by reference. Then they’ll do some guesswork and say: ‘Ok, right now, I’ve got a good feeling about eggplants. The weather’s pretty nice today, so let’s go for four crates of two kilograms of eggplants.'”
Ida wants to change this outdated process by providing grocers with the right tools. Their solution is a tablet app connected to a sales forecasting algorithm that guides humans when it’s time to reorder fresh products. While Ida is starting with vegetables and fruits, it has plans to expand to other perishable goods like meat and fish.
Unlike traditional methods that rely on sales data at the points of sale, Ida uses a probabilistic inventory that takes into account real-life scenarios. For example, organic cucumber sales are mixed with non-organic cucumber sales because cashiers count them as the same. This allows Ida to provide a more accurate estimate of inventory levels. The system also considers over a hundred different parameters, including weather conditions, seasonality, prices, and competition from other grocery stores, to forecast demand.
Ida then uses this forecasting data to generate orders, taking into account mathematical optimization under constraints. For example, if eggplants are ordered in 2-kilogram crates and the shelf contains 5 kilograms, Ida will calculate the optimal number of crates needed to minimize waste and shortages.
While Ida doesn’t process orders automatically, staff members can review and make manual changes. Currently, the startup estimates that 70 to 75% of Ida’s suggestions are accurate and don’t require manual adjustment by grocers. Once orders are finalized, Ida generates order forms for both the central purchasing office and potentially local producers, as the tablet app can mix and match suppliers.
In the ever-evolving world of grocery retail, Ida’s AI-powered solution offers a promising opportunity for supermarkets to improve their bottom line and reduce their environmental impact. With other startups like Guac in the US also tackling this space, it will be interesting to see if the industry embraces software solutions to manage fresh products at scale.