LØRN Case #C0760
AI for better food
In this episode of #LØRN, Silvija speaks to entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Völur, Adrian Diaz. Adrian believes that artificial intelligence can be used in many new and innovative ways within the meat industry to ensure a better and more sustainable industry. In this episode, you learn all about the whole food chain, from what goes on on the farm right up until the meat is on store shelves, and how we can use AI to improve this process.

Adrian Diaz

Co-Founder

Volur

"You must demonstrate it is feasible to apply AI to their specific problems by showing the numbers. It is through this process of building trust that they can understand how the industry can become more sustainable and benefit all the players within through applying AI"

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En LØRN CASE er en kort og praktisk, lett og morsom, innovasjonshistorie. Den er fortalt på 30 minutter, er samtalebasert, og virker like bra som podkast, video eller tekst. Lytt og lær der det passer deg best! Vi dekker 15 tematiske områder om teknologi, innovasjon og ledelse, og 10 perspektiver som gründer, forsker etc. På denne siden kan du lytte, se eller lese gratis, men vi anbefaler deg å registrere deg, slik at vi kan lage personaliserte læringsstier for nettopp deg. Vi vil gjerne hjelpe deg komme i gang og fortsette å drive med livslang læring.

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What does your organization sell, and why do people buy from you?

Völur provides a SaaS powered by AI. The goal is to enable a more sustainable and optimized meat industry. We work really close to the customer to define all their business rules, the know-hows, to understand their data, how everything is connected with everything else, and to feel their pains.

What exactly motivates you in this assignment?

As you might already know, we work with an industry that has a huge impact in the total CO2 footprint globally, around 14.5% every year. We have given the opportunity to apply AI into our customers’ value chain and make a contribution to bring those numbers down.

Are there any interesting dilemmas?

We have found out that to do so you need to communicate and transmit your passion and your vision properly. You must demonstrate it is feasible to apply AI to their specific problems by showing the numbers. It is through this process of building trust that they can understand how the industry can become more sustainable and benefit all the players within through applying AI.


Your 3 best growth tips for other similar companies?

1. The team is your biggest asset

2. Your customer is your boss

3. We, entrepreneurs, we are passionate. Solidify your vision


Your own most important job projects in the last year?

Since starting up, we built a prototype for one of the biggest players in the meat industry in Norway. We worked really close with key personnel and decision makers to get a proper representation of their value chain and their problem, what their pain was.

What does your organization sell, and why do people buy from you?

Völur provides a SaaS powered by AI. The goal is to enable a more sustainable and optimized meat industry. We work really close to the customer to define all their business rules, the know-hows, to understand their data, how everything is connected with everything else, and to feel their pains.

What exactly motivates you in this assignment?

As you might already know, we work with an industry that has a huge impact in the total CO2 footprint globally, around 14.5% every year. We have given the opportunity to apply AI into our customers’ value chain and make a contribution to bring those numbers down.

Are there any interesting dilemmas?

We have found out that to do so you need to communicate and transmit your passion and your vision properly. You must demonstrate it is feasible to apply AI to their specific problems by showing the numbers. It is through this process of building trust that they can understand how the industry can become more sustainable and benefit all the players within through applying AI.


Your 3 best growth tips for other similar companies?

1. The team is your biggest asset

2. Your customer is your boss

3. We, entrepreneurs, we are passionate. Solidify your vision


Your own most important job projects in the last year?

Since starting up, we built a prototype for one of the biggest players in the meat industry in Norway. We worked really close with key personnel and decision makers to get a proper representation of their value chain and their problem, what their pain was.

Vis mer
Tema: AI- og datadrevne plattformer
Organisasjon: Volur
Perspektiv: Mindre bedrift
Dato: 200813
Sted: VIKEN
Vert: SS

Dette er hva du vil lære:


How can AI be used in the food industri? Innovation Sastainable food production Start ups

Litteratur:I would recommend two classic books• Edwin Lefèvre. Reminiscences of a Stock Operator. The actual story of this really skilled broker who also had a tremendous impact in the industry. It mentions his achievements and failures from following data-driven decisions more than 100 years ago. This can be applied to startups, where you have ups and downs, but you must never give up.<br• Sun Tzu, The Art of War. This is a classic, with analogies to the startup world. This is war, so you have to know your competition, which in some cases might be yourself. You need to be prepared and be strategic in all aspects even with limited resources. Find ways to motivate your team and seek victory.

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Velkommen til Lørn.tech -en læringsdugnad om teknologi og samfunn med Silvija Seres, og venner


SS: Hello and welcome to Lørn in collaboration with Smart Innovation from Halden. My name is Silvija Seres, and my guest today is Adrian Diaz. The co-founder and chief product officer at Völur. Welcome, Adrian.

AD: Thanks, Silvija, thanks for having me here today. Really excited about the chat.

SS: Me too! I heard that you won the “Pangstart” award at the cluster accelerator competition.

AD: Yes, in the fall last year we joined the accelerator Smart Innovation down in Halden. We won the competition “Pangstart”, and we got really good traction going through the process. We were exposed to all the things we need to be doing and need to be in place. We got exposed to board members and a different network that has been really beneficial for us.

SS: Very good. We’ll go back to why you won the Pangstart award. Before we do that, I hope you can tell us a little bit more about yourself and Völur.

AD: Absolutely. Like you already said I’m the cofounder and chief product officer at Völur. I’m an entrepreneur and software engineer who has a master in robotics. It was during my education where I got my baptism into artificial intelligence. After I got my diploma in 2013, I moved to Norway to work in startup. I was working in the aviation industry and bringing innovation, some artificial intelligence was applied there. We were working with the big players such as Easyjet, Airbus and so on. An opportunity was presented to me 2 years ago to execute this idea to establish Völur. So as of today, I am a part of a team of an extremely ambitious startup. That is committed to enable this digital transformation for the meat industry, through applying artificial intelligence.

SS: Very interesting. You came from Spain, why did you choose to move to Norway and why did you choose to stay in Halden?

AD: I’m from Spain, yes. I went to Denmark to study in 2010 and after I was done, I saw this opportunity to come to Norway to try and use my competence in work positions. I got this job as an engineer at this start up. I stayed here because I fulfilled myself. I’m more Scandinavian than Spanish in a way since I have spent all my adulthood in Scandinavia. I’m based in Oslo, but we are part of Smart Innovation which is in Halden. We chose Halden because we scouted some incubators and Smart Innovation was really attractive to us.

SS: I think very interesting things are happening around this cluster. It’s how they combine big data and A.I with energy systems and industrial production. We’ll go back to that. I think Norway has huge opportunities there because we have very good data sets. We can also connect value chains, perhaps more easily than in some larger countries. Why did you get interested in A.I and robotics?

AD: Well, my dad is an entrepreneur and in a completely different industry, the building industry. Since I was a kid, I always experienced his passion towards his work. I didn’t really understand why we couldn’t go on holidays for a long time, but I understand now. I was always interested in electronics, how to optimize processes and to make things more efficient. This led me into robotics which led me into artificial intelligence which led into what today is Völur. Which is optimizing processes, value chains, and creating value for this industry.

SS: So, if we go to Völur, optimizing value chains in the meat industry. What are the main opportunities for improvement and why is that your chosen industry?

AD: Well, one of the cofounders had been working in this industry for a while. He was the one who gathered the team to execute this idea. I believe in this industry you have people working for tens of years who have always had these ideas on the problems they experience every single day. There has just been no means to execute those ideas because they are not aware of the state of technology for instance. So, the opportunities here are being able to transfer innovation from more advanced industries into this industry. Which is rather traditional, and this is what got me into this. As a matter of fact, the second meeting with our pilot customers, I already quit my job then because the opportunity was massive. From a technical point of view, for me and the other cofounder it was a matter of time to execute this idea.

SS: So basically, when we talk about this industry, you’re talking about the whole value chain. From the farms where the animals are living and growing, to the processing parts of the chain, to the shops and to the consumers. One of the problems related to this industry is that there is a lot of waste, and perhaps a lot of unnecessary slaughtering. How do we make sure that that doesn’t happen? Where does A.I come into the picture?

AD: A.I comes from the ability to harness the complexity of the value chains. To connect everything within, from animals, different cuttings of animals, from inventories to manufacturing of our products and so on. The ability to transfer all these know-hows and all these business rules within the organization into actual code. Where you have all these different constraints on all these processes. A.I comes from the ability to offer flexibility on positions that a person might not be able to handle. Because you have a gazillion of parameters to take into consideration. We are able to harness this complexity and offer this flexibility, so that they can actually make all these simulations and scenarios to mitigate those risks. Like you said, food waste, non-optimal processes, highly automated processes and so on. This is where artificial intelligence has the edge on the industry.

SS: It’s a very traditional industry so maybe it’s not very easy to get the first customers? How do you go about getting adoption around your product?

AD: Yes, it’s true it’s a really traditional industry where the human factor is crucial. You have dimensions such as political, social, and environmental dimensions that you have to take into consideration. However, we have experienced that there is a true willingness from the players within this industry to join this digital transformation to enable all these data driven decisions. We know what technology can be applied and how and this is how things move forward.

SS: I’d like to talk a little bit about building startups. Could you tell us a little bit about the size of Völur now and where you were a year ago and where you want to be a year from today?

AD: One year ago, we were not established yet. We were established in February 2019, back then we were the three founders. Today we have some interns, and we are scaling up. We have already agreed on hiring in some data scientists and so on. The size now is 4 we expect to be 6 by the end of the year, all really competent people. From one year today we expect to not only scale up in personnel but also scale up in customers. We want to go international so, our next customer will be not in Norway. Since we already have a pilot customer that is one of the biggest players in Norway. We are aiming globally, like I said we are really ambitious, the limit is the sky.

SS: Very good. How do you find investors?

AD: It takes time, we have one of the cofounders Robert the CEO, he is the business guy. He has been doing a lot of work scouting for investors which might share our interest on sustainability. Who might share some synergies with us. We are going through a round at the end of the year, to be able to scale up and get some loans from Innovation Norway for instance. It’s just about getting into a network-which Smart Innovation really helped us on-explore and get exposure. Make some noise.

SS: What are your most important tips and recommendations to other companies trying to grow like you?

AD: Well, I think many of the people listening will agree on me is that one, the team is the biggest asset. So, you need to assemble a team that has the broadest spectrum of competences that fits your business case. That becomes your edge. That’s number one, number two, is for any bit to be or bit to see your customer is your boss. You need to work really closely with the customer. Especially with the end users who will give you feedback on the product or service. You need to find this internal champion, build trust, establish a strong relationship, because at the end of the day you must embrace their adoption of your technology. You need the person who will push the technology within the organization. My last tip, as entrepreneurs we are passionate, we have a strong vision and need to solidify it, and since we believe in it, we have to fight for it. There is no plan B and no giving up, move forward!

SS: Who is your inspiration in what you’re doing? Who do you look up to?

AD: Well, you always have the Elon Musk and Steve Jobs, that’s the classics. I really like to look up to those who don’t seek the spotlight. I will give you an example, his name is Bill Benter. He’s an American professional gambler who actually changed the whole horse betting industry. The way he did it was a really inspiring process, he designed and applied data driven strategies to beat the system. He managed to accomplish that, so I can translate this to what we do today because he iterated it into the representation of the problem. You have all these parameters related to the horses, jockeys, tracks, to the weather and so on. Through this iteration he was able to improve his algorithms, bring more accuracy into the insights he was getting for the races, increase his chances of succeeding at obviously his profits. It was a really inspiring process that he went through.

SS: What do you think is relevant knowledge for the future?

AD: Well, this is kind of the topic for the podcast which is artificial intelligence. I have no doubt that is knowledge on artificial intelligence. For instance, people always have problems, they know what needs to be fixed but they don’t know how. They have no means to execute those ideas. It’s clear to me is that we need to keep up with this continuous state of the development of technology. To understand what can be applied and fixed. Even if we are talking about problems in completely different settings and industries. You have all these researcher and developers coming up with all kinds of tools and techniques which are applied to really niche problems. I think one of the pillars of the digital transformation is knowing what can be applied to what problem. This is what we have been doing at Völur in a sense. Bring in innovation from the same industry from other industries into a traditional industry.

SS: I’d like to ask you also, since you have this outside-in view at Norway. What advantages do you see for Norway that we are not enough aware of?

AD: I already said that I’ve been living here for a while. One of the things I’ve noticed a lot is the passion people in Norway put to follow their own dreams and not someone else’s dreams. This is really empowering, and I think this is what actually made me become an entrepreneur. This passion translates into people being really motivated at what they do. Bringing in expertise related to what they love doing. This builds trust when it comes to providing any kind of service or build any kind of product. To Norway this enables creating value together variously.

SS: People think on their own, not just pursuing their dreams. If there are projects or goals, it’s really nice to see that in Norway people will challenge their boss. They will challenge the whole strategy if they believe there is something that could be done better. I think there is a huge opportunity in that. I guess multiply someone else’s mistakes.

AD: I agree with you because here is more like a flat organization. Every boss will take into consideration any employees point of view, since you have to leverage this competence and expertise which are bigger than your own. It comes back to trust and again creating value together for the whole organization.

SS: Is there something you can recommend to our listeners as reading or viewing?

AD: I like reading old books in a sense. I would recommend two books, which we can extract analogies for the start up world. The first one is “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator”, which is the actual story of a really skilled broker who had a tremendous impact in the stock market. In the book we go through his achievements and failures from following that driven decision more than 100 years ago. Like I said it’s going to be applied for start ups. You have ups and downs and so on, but you must keep going, never give up. The other book I would recommend is the “Art of War”, it’s a classic. The start up world is a war, a constant war. You have your competition, you need to be prepared to be strategic in all aspects. Even when you have very limited resources you have to find ways to motivate your team and seek victory. I think I would recommend these two books.

SS: Very good. What is your most positive surprise from the current corona crisis?

AD: The most positive surprise from a Völur point of view, is that we actually signed the first implementation agreement through this period when everything started up in April. Which was actually really exciting for us. We noticed that for hours at the industry we work with has been really challenging for us. You get significant changes in the man and supply which were out of the trends and out of the forecast models. Then you have different constraints in the factories, for example limited manpower. So, the question here is, how do we ensure that we can supply what is demanded when we have these crazy circumstances? We have to account for those uncertainties. For any other business I believe this has been a death on tenacity, kind of an opportunity to become more efficient at what we do. Even when we are working from home and we have kids running and screaming around 24 hours a day. We have to become more efficient and finetune the focus and keep going. Focus on creating value and growth so it’s an opportunity kind of.

SS: Very cool. You have learned a lot about leadership through this. I think start ups are like baptism by fire when you have to figure out leadership in war as you said. What are your best insights there? What are your top three priorities when it comes to getting somewhere as a leader?

AD: Number one, you have to embrace uncertainties because either you like it or not things might and will go wrong. You have to account for that, be flexible and be able to adapt to those circumstances. Another tip would be again, focus, have tunnel vision into bringing value into your customer and to your company. You have to focus on what really matters, apply this 80/20 rule. My last management tip would be that knowledge is profit. I really want to focus on this one because we live in a world where we can get data from anything and everything. We can extract information from that, and we can extract knowledge from connecting the dots. Everyone said once that knowledge is power, but when it comes to data the more you know about your market the more you know about your competition or customer. The more chances you have to become profitable so ergo knowledge is profit. Those are my three management tips.

SS: Knowledge is profit if you use it, the same with data. It’s the applied side of it that I think is really interesting in your cluster. I think Smart Innovation has been really good at applying A.I in a very industrial setting. I think we have all a lot to learn from that. How do you think about sustainability related to what you do?

AD: Sustainability is the main drive for Völur because we are working with an industry that has a tremendous impact on the carbon footprint globally. We are talking about 14.5 percent of all carbon emissions every year. So, sustainability is a really important dimension for us. In this industry people have had the ideas on improving, innovating, reducing food waste like you said, making things more sustainable from the farmer to the retailer. There’s this willingness towards this digitalization in our industry 4.0, from a technical point of view the time is now the technology is read and there are competences available. I feel that we have the responsibility, people within the industry, people with the competence to execute those ideas, to collaborate and bring innovation. The outcome will be benefits, which will be reducing carbon footprint for instance, reducing food waste, making the industry more sustainable.

SS: I think it’s a very important part of the circular economy. I mean optimizing value chains is all at the bottom of that. Also, it would be nice to know how do we spread the learnings from your project to other kinds of industries?

AD: Like I said earlier if you have a proper presentation of the problem. Which comes from harnessing all the business rules and know-hows. If you put this product through this process what happens? What way is it incinerated? and so on. The knowledge that we are building is the framework that can be applied to any value chain. We focus on the meat industry, because like I said the impact is meaningful and because we have access to it through our network and our CEO. That’s our edge on this industry.

SS: Very cool. At the very end I’d like to ask you if you have some sort of life quote, something that you need to remind yourself of when things get tough.

AD: Well, there is this Spanish philosopher who once said that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Even though I’m not superstitious I believe you need to work your way into increasing your chances of becoming lucky. This, from my point of view can only be achieved through preparation. So, prepare yourself and when opportunities come you are ready, no?

SS: Said in other words, I think it’s really important. Opportunity favors the prepared mind. When you’re looking for good things even though they might not happen exactly where you expect them to happen, they will turn up in a slightly different form somewhere nearby. Then you need to recognize them.

AD: I mean, this happened to me two years ago. I was having a beer with my friend who is now a cofounder together with me. We talked about this and then I realized this is exactly what I do, this opportunity came at a right time when we were prepared to take it.

SS: Very very good. Adrian Diaz, thank you for inspiring us about the future of A.I smart industries.

AD: Thank you very much! Thanks for having me here, if any of the listeners want to reach out, they will know where to find us.

SS: That is Völur.com.

AD: Völur.no, yes.

SS: Thank you for listening!

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Quiz for Case #C0760

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C0760 FOODTECH AI for better food - med Adrian Diaz

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Adrian bor i Oslo, men hvor har egentlig selskapet hans Völur base?

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Hva er den viktigste ingrediensen i Völur sitt arbeid om å innovere matindustrien?

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Hva mener Adrian er Norges største styrke?

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