- Riana Lynn, founder of supply chain logistics software company Journey Foods, predicts an increased use of software to quell winter supply chain issue.
- The inefficiencies and fragility of the U.S. supply chain was exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but use of data may usurp future issues.
The height of the pandemic exposed the fragility of the national food supply chain in the U.S. Despite grocery store sales being through the roof, disrupting a stagnant growth rate over the last four years, several shelves laid bare as household staples like toilet paper, soup, beans, and frozen goods emptied and customers hoarded supplies preparing for the unforeseen duration of the Covid-19 shutdowns.
Farmers managed labor issues, unsure of when or how to safely return workers to the fields, and shortages mounted amid national weather-related disasters in the southeast. Even beloved chicken wings took a hit, impacting national chains like Wingstop, in which rapper and franchise owner Rick Ross temporarily rebranded the moment for the business as “Thighstop”.
What may have seemed a temporary inconvenience, exposed disruptions and challenges within the existing food supply framework that companies are scrambling to solve ahead of future catastrophes.
“We’re going through another winter in the pandemic, and companies across the supply chain are trying to figure out ports and logistics—as well as the impact of packaging,” Riana Lynn, CEO of Journey Foods, told The Plug.
Armed with an 18-person team of researchers, scientists, and engineers, Journey Foods is one of few Black woman-led foodtech data companies leading ingredient sourcing and food development process for global suppliers within the industry of food.
“Right now, there’s a bottle neck of suppliers in the middle of the supply chain, and our work is to help identify new product opportunities and provide the data to not only create more nutritious products, but also help companies understand their costs,” Lynn said.
Lynn predicts that the South and Southeast, will see a big jump in manufacturing and logistics. This will create bullish opportunities for the manufacturing sector. ” Lynn said.
Investors poured $8.9 billion into the global food tech market in Q2 ’21 (down from $13.5 billion the prior quarter) companies sprung up to address weaknesses in what has traditionally been a labor-intensive industry. While Lynn was able to pick up a little over $1.6 million for Journey Foods’ seed round last quarter, she has no plans on quickly going after a Series A.
The six-year-old company has clients like Kroger, SAP, Google, Microsoft and others who utilize software solutions to run much of their national and international supply chains. The company’s JourneyAI tool leverages machine learning to assist in research and development by analyzing millions of ingredients and their nutrients.This is paired with supply chain insights within one dashboard to help find the perfect ingredients for existing or new product offerings.
According to Lynn, the company has managed to land several national grant opportunities to the tune of $2 million with organizations like NASA. The resources will be poured into partnering with the agricultural and food science departments at elite universities, and will integrate students onto the platform.
Lynn says, they’ll also begin working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to arm agriculture students with data skills to help them launch into the 21st Century needs of food, ingredients and manufacturing.
“In 5 years we want to help thousands of companies reformulate food products to feed 9 billion people better. With so many supply chain issues today, we can't just be a one off data company, when we need to be able to help companies determine what are their next steps,” said Lynn.